Since cats are carnivores, they need a lot of protein in their daily diet. Prior to being domesticated, wild felines used to hunt and get all essential nutrients from prey: rodents, birds, fish, and so on. Today, care about their nutrition is our responsibility. Turns out, it’s not enough to serve the first product coming to hand – things are more complicated.
Many pet owners make a serious mistake by ignoring the nutritional norms of their furry friends. Meanwhile, it’s crucial to serve enough protein to cats – this is the major building block in their body. It helps to grow, develop, and sustain lean muscle mass at any age.
So, how many grams of protein does a cat need per day? Let’s check out what veterinarians and leading world organizations say.
Protein requirement for cats according to AAFCO
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the leading voluntary membership organization in the sphere of pet nutrition in the USA. It partners with local, state, and federal agencies and provides authoritative guidelines for pet food manufacturers (which are not obligatory, but compliance with them is often considered by consumers).
According to AAFCO, adult cats need 26% of protein in dry matter for weight maintenance, while nursing cats and kittens need 30% of protein in dry matter.
Daily recommended protein allowance for cats according to NRC
The National Research Council (NRC) was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 for the purpose of performing scientific research and providing services for the governmental, public, and the scientific communities.
So, what does science say? According to NRC, daily protein intake norms for cats are as follows:
- 1.8 lb kitten – 10g;
- Adult 9lb cat – 12.5 g;
- Nursing 9lb cat – 41g.
How much protein does a cat require per 1kg of weight?
When it comes to the norms of protein intake per kilogram of weight, the opinions of AAFCO and NRC are different.
For example, AAFCO states that an adult cat should consume a minimum 3.5-4.5g of protein per kg of cat’s weight. Meanwhile, NRC’s recommendation is 3 grams of protein per kg of weight. Difference is not dramatic.
So, our recommendation is to serve your adult cat 3-4.5 grams of protein per kg of its weight. You may consult a vet and set this percent according to the cat’s breed and activity level.
|Cat’s bodyweight, kg||Recommended proteins|
|2||6 – 9 grams per day|
|3||9 – 13.5 grams per day|
|4||12 – 18 grams per day|
|5||15 – 22.5 grams per day|
|6||18 – 27 grams per day|
|7||21 – 31.5 grams per day|
|8||24 – 36 grams per day|
|9||27 – 40.5 grams per day|
|10||30 – 45 grams per day|
How much protein should be in cat food when it’s nursing? AAFCO recommends a minimum 4.2 – 5.5 g of protein per kg of cat’s weight, while NRC recommends 10 g.
So we recommend your nursing cat to digest 4.2-10 grams of protein per kg of its weight. This gap seems to be serious. Which guideline is more appropriate? Once again, you need to consult a vet – individual approach is a must.
|Nursing cat’s bodyweight, kg||Recommended proteins|
|2||8.4 – 20 grams per day|
|3||12.6 – 30 grams per day|
|4||16.8 – 40 grams per day|
|5||21 – 50 grams per day|
|6||25.2 – 60 grams per day|
|7||29.4 – 70 grams per day|
|8||33.6 – 80 grams per day|
|9||37.8 – 90 grams per day|
|10||42 – 100 grams per day|
For kittens, NRC recommends 12.25 g of protein per kg of its weight – our opinion is the same.
|Kittens bodyweight, kg||Recommended proteins|
How to calculate my cat’s protein intake?
Follow these simple steps to define how much crude protein should be consumed by your cat.
1. Weigh your cat
The amount of protein depends on its body weight.
2. Define the grams of food served
It’s easy to do with any type of food:
- One ounce of canned food weighs about 30 grams, so a 5.5-ounce can contains about 160 grams of food.
- Dry food portion is not easy to define since manufacturers use volume (cups). Better try kitchen scale. As a rule, one cup of dry cat food contains about 80-120 grams. Alternatively, you can visit the brand website and check how many grams of protein is contained in a cup. Don’t hesitate to contact their customer support, if necessary.
3. Define protein content
You should know the minimum protein percent of the diet – it’s stated on the label or on the company’s website.
4. Final calculation
Multiply the grams of food served by the percent of protein in the food.
- If the label of a 3 oz (90 gram) can says that food contains 8% protein, you should multiply 90 grams by .08. You get 7.2 grams of protein. Say, your 10-pound cat eats two cans of food. It means the cat gets 7.2 * 2 / 10 = 1.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That’s not enough for a 10-pound cat.
- If the label on the dry food says it contains 36% of protein, and your cat eats 70 grams of food per day, it gets 25.2 grams of protein daily, which means 2.52 grams of protein per one pound. That’s more than enough for indoor cats.
Note that feeding high-protein vs medium-protein food might not always makes a difference – it depends on the size of portions served.
Shifting from quantity to quality
When deciding upon the diet of your beloved pet, take care not only of the quantity of protein, but also its quality. Thinking that protein sourced from soy vs raw meat is the same thing would be a big mistake.Claudine Sievert, DVM
What are quality protein products for cats? Animal-sourced food contains all essential amino acids and includes:
- Meat (deboned chicken, beef, pork, fish, rabbit, duck, and so on). The type of meat should always be specified on the label!
- Dried eggs;
- Liver and heart in moderate amounts.
Low-quality sources of protein include soy, corn meal, by-products in large quantities, and fish meal. Ideally, it should not be included in a recipe at all. If you find any, it should not be placed first in the list.
Always check the contents list and avoid recipes based on by-products and soy only. You can choose formulas with a lower amount of protein, but when it’s sourced from meat, it will be way more useful.
What are the best sources of protein in cat food?
The best source of protein is lean (deboned) meat: rabbit, duck, chicken, white fish or salmon, beef, pork, and so on. Some by-products and dried eggs can also be included in a cat’s diet.
What is crude protein in cat food?
The word ‘crude’ does not provide any additional meaning – it denotes the amount of protein in food based on a laboratory analysis of its chemical composition.
How much protein should be in cat food?
We have answered this question in the guidelines above – it depends on the cat’s nutritional needs. The best wet foods have about 7-10% of protein, the best dry foods – 34-40% of protein.
At the end of the day
Being the most important building material for a cat’s body, protein should be provided in sufficient quantities. Now you know how to calculate the proper amount of protein required for your cat’s daily diet.
But before picking the first high-protein food you see, you should research the contents. You need to select the best quality/quantity protein ratio. Ideally, it should be sourced only from deboned meat. Liver, eggs, a bit of peas, and meal are also okay. Avoid the recipes containing soy, too many pea products, and by-products together with vague formulations like ‘meat, fish, animal by-products’. A formula with 40% of protein sourced from soy is worse than 35% protein food made of meat.
Pay attention to both quality and quantity, and follow the above-mentioned recommendations to make sure enough protein is served every day. That will make your cat healthy & happy.