High-protein, low-carbohydrate (HPLC) diets are common in cats, but their effect on the gut microbiome has been ignored. The present study was conducted to test the effects of dietary protein:carbohydrate ratio on the gut microbiota of growing kittens. Male domestic shorthair kittens were raised by mothers fed moderate-protein, moderate-carbohydrate (MPMC; n 7) or HPLC (n 7) diets, and then weaned at 8 weeks onto the same diet. Fresh faeces were collected at 8, 12 and 16 weeks; DNA was extracted, followed by amplification of the V4–V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene using 454 pyrosequencing. A total of 384 588 sequences (average of 9374 per sample) were generated. Dual hierarchical clustering indicated distinct clustering based on the protein:carbohydrate ratio regardless of age. The protein:carbohydrate ratio affected faecal bacteria. Faecal Actinobacteria were greater (P< 0·05) and Fusobacteria were lower (P< 0·05) in MPMC-fed kittens. Faecal Clostridium, Faecalibacterium, Ruminococcus, Blautia and Eubacterium were greater (P< 0·05) in HPLC-fed kittens, while Dialister, Acidaminococcus, Bifidobacterium, Megasphaera and Mitsuokella were greater (P< 0·05) in MPMC-fed kittens. Principal component analysis of faecal bacteria and blood metabolites and hormones resulted in distinct clusters. Of particular interest was the clustering of blood TAG with faecal Clostridiaceae, Eubacteriaceae, Ruminococcaceae, Fusobacteriaceae and Lachnospiraceae; blood ghrelin with faecal Coriobacteriaceae, Bifidobacteriaceae and Veillonellaceae; and blood glucose, cholesterol and leptin with faecal Lactobacillaceae. The present results demonstrate that the protein:carbohydrate ratio affects the faecal microbiome, and highlight the associations between faecal microbes and circulating hormones and metabolites that may be important in terms of satiety and host metabolism.