In strict carnivorous domestic cats, a metabolic competition arises between the need to use amino acids for gluconeogenesis and for protein synthesis both in health and disease. The present study investigated the amino acid-sparing potential of propionic acid in cats using dietary propionylated starch (HAMSP) supplementation. A total of thirty cats were fed a homemade diet, supplemented with either HAMSP, acetylated starch (HAMSA) or celite (Control) for three adaptation weeks. Propionylated starch was hypothesised to provide propionic acid as an alternative gluconeogenic substrate to amino acids, whereas acetic acid from HAMSA would not provide any gluconeogenic benefit. Post-adaptation, a 5-d total faecal collection was carried out to calculate apparent protein digestibility coefficients. Fresh faecal and blood samples were collected to analyse fermentation endproducts and metabolites. The apparent protein digestibility coefficients did not differ between supplements (P = 0·372) and were not affected by the protein intake level (P = 0·808). Faecal propionic acid concentrations were higher in HAMSP than in HAMSA (P = 0·018) and Control (P = 0·003) groups, whereas concentrations of ammonia (P = 0·007) were higher in HAMSA than in HAMSP cats. Tendencies for or higher propionylcarnitine concentrations were observed in HAMSP compared with HAMSA (P = 0·090) and Control (P = 0·037) groups, and for tiglyl- + 3-methylcrotonylcarnitine concentrations in HAMSP as compared with Control (P = 0·028) cats. Methylmalonylcarnitine concentrations did not differ between groups (P = 0·740), but were negatively correlated with the protein intake level (r –0·459, P = 0·016). These results suggest that HAMSP cats showed more saccharolytic fermentation patterns than those supplemented with HAMSA, as well as signs of sparing of valine in cats with a sufficient protein intake.