Amino Acids in the Nutrition, Metabolism, and Health of Domestic Cats Academic Article uri icon


  • Domestic cats (carnivores) require high amounts of dietary amino acids (AAs) for normal growth, development, and reproduction. Amino acids had been traditionally categorised as nutritionally essential (EAAs) or nonessential (NEAAs), depending on whether they are synthesized de novo in the body. This review will focus on AA nutrition and metabolism in cats. Like other mammals, cats do not synthesize the carbon skeletons of twelve proteinogenic AAs: Arg, Cys, His, Ile, Leu, Lys, Met, Phe, Thr, Trp, Tyr, and Val. Like other feline carnivores but unlike many mammals, cats do not synthesize citrulline and have a very limited ability to produce taurine from Cys. Except for Leu and Lys that are strictly ketogenic AAs, most EAAs are both glucogenic and ketogenic AAs. All the EAAs (including taurine) must be provided in diets for cats. These animals are sensitive to dietary deficiencies of Arg and taurine, which rapidly result in life-threatening hyperammonemia and retinal damage, respectively. Although the National Research Council (NCR, Nutrient requirements of dogs and cats. National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2006) does not recommend dietary requirements of cats for NEAAs, much attention should be directed to this critical issue of nutrition. Cats can synthesize de novo eight proteinogenic AAs: Ala, Asn, Asp, Gln, Glu, Gly, Pro, and Ser, as well as some nonproteinogenic AAs, such as γ-aminobutyrate, ornithine, and β-alanine with important physiological functions. Some of these AAs (e.g., Gln, Glu, Pro, and Gly) are crucial for intestinal integrity and health. Except for Gln, AAs in the arterial blood of cats may not be available to the mucosa of the small intestine. Plant-source foodstuffs lack taurine and generally contain inadequate Met and Cys and, therefore, should not be fed to cats in any age group. Besides meat, animal-source foodstuffs (including ruminant meat & bone meal, poultry by-product meal, porcine mucosal protein, and chicken visceral digest) are good sources of proteinogenic AAs and taurine for cats. Meeting dietary requirements for both EAAs and NEAAs in proper amounts and balances is crucial for improving the health, wellbeing, longevity, and reproduction of cats.

published proceedings

  • Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Che, D., Nyingwa, P. S., Ralinala, K. M., Maswanganye, G., & Wu, G.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Che, D||Nyingwa, PS||Ralinala, KM||Maswanganye, GMT||Wu, G

editor list (cited editors)

  • Wu, G.

publication date

  • January 2021