Kittens get adopted at about six to eight weeks old. Typically, they are already weaned from their mothers and eating solid food. It’s important to feed kittens nutritionally complete diets that contain high-quality minerals, vitamins, and nutrients.
Kitten’s Dietary Requirements
A kitten’s dietary requirements are different from an adult cat’s. Their food requires more calories per cup, higher protein levels, and higher amounts of certain nutrients like calcium. Young cats require growth, which includes increased proportions of animal-based protein and more phosphorus and calcium.
Since new kittens likely have tons of energy and play a lot, their food must support their body while they burn calories by exercising and growing.
Dry vs. Wet Kitten Food
Dry and wet cat food are available in kitten formulas, but there are pros and cons to feeding each. Talk with your veterinarian to get their recommendation when deciding which option best suits your kitten’s needs.
Wet cat food is high in moisture so it is beneficial in keeping kittens hydrated, helping kidneys stay healthy, and flushing out the urinary tract. However, wet food will stick to the teeth more, which is associated with dental disease and cavity problems, which are painful for cats.
Dry cat food is easy to feed in homes where there are more than one cat, and dry food helps scrape tartar off the cat’s teeth. However, some cats overeat with dry food and gain weight, which is associated with heart problems, blood pressure problems, arthritis, respiratory problems, or diabetes.
It takes time to determine which food is right for your kitten, but by dedicating your time, you will be rewarded with a happy, healthy, beautiful kitten. The best way to find the healthiest food for your kitten is to compare them, choose options, and then talk with your veterinarian about what is best for your kitten. Pick a diet that does not contain a lot of fillers and consider the source of protein in the food.
Kitten’s Rapid Growth
Kittens grow rapidly at a young age and eat lots of food compared to adult cats. We need to provide their bodies with everything necessary for growing, but also want to encourage healthy eating habits. What you feed your cat depends upon each kitten. Usually, reading directions on the bag or can of food is a good place to start, and then you can go from there. Veterinarians use metabolic formulas to calculate calories required per day based on the weight of the kitten.
You want kittens to be hungry for their food, but you don’t want them so hungry that they eat too quickly. Young kittens eat a quarter to half a cup of food at a time. If your kitten is getting fat, you need to cut back.
Kittens generally gain about one pound per month. They do most of their growing the first year and then stabilize from there. Their bone growth plates close at about 1 year old. After this time, you can switch your kitten to an adult diet.
Free Feeding vs. Portion Meal Feeding
Kittens can be fed in two main ways – free feeding and portion meal feeding. There are pros and cons to both feeding methods, so talk to your veterinarian about their recommendations.
Free feeding kittens is done with dry food, leaving food bowls out all the time so the cat can graze. This is convenient for owners, especially if they have busy schedules. Benefits to this type of feeding are that your kitten can eat what they want and self-regulate what they need.
A disadvantage to this type of feeding is that some kittens will eat too much, thus gaining too much weight. Another disadvantage is that in a household with many cats, the older cats may be eating the kitten food.
Ideally, with this method, you can use a microchip-activated feeder that scans your kitten’s microchip and only opens when it is nearby.
Portion meal feeding is another option for feeding and works well with wet food that cannot be left out all day. If you feed the cat specific portions at certain times, you’ll know exactly what they’re eating.
Younger kittens must be fed several meals a day, if you are not free feeding. And since they are burning calories and growing, they need their bodies supplied with energy every 6 to 8 hours.
Since there are many options for feeding kittens, use your best judgment and talk to your veterinarian when figuring out what is best for your specific kitten, so it can grow into a healthy cat!