Early studies of the cat’s nutrient requirements showed that the cat has a protein requirement that is substantially higher than that of other mammals, including the dog. A cat’s protein requirement is defined as the minimum intake of dietary protein that promotes optimal performance. Adult animals require dietary protein to replace protein losses in skin, hair, digestive enzymes, and mucosal cells. Protein also replaces amino acid losses from normal cellular protein catabolism. Young animals have these same maintenance requirements plus an added requirement for the growth of new tissue. Young kittens consumer higher amounts of energy and thus higher quantities of food than adult animals, the total amount of protein that they consume is naturally higher.
Nutrient and energy needs during growth exceed those of any other stage of life, with the exception of lactation. Kittens should be fed a diet that has been formulated for growth. Growth represents a period of rapid tissue accretion and development that is reflected primarily by increased needs for energy and essential nutrients. It is important to realize that the additional nutrient needs for growth are readily supplied through the increased quantity of food that the animal consumes to meet its higher energy requirement.