Just like puppies, kittens have specific nutrition needs in order to support healthy growth and development. Breed, age and temperament can all play a part in establishing these requirements – for example, boisterous, adventurous kittens will naturally require more energy than sleepyheads! Although it may look cute, you should take care that your kitten is not carrying any “puppy fat”, as the ribs should always be easy to feel through the fur and a waistline visible to ensure a healthy weight. Choosing the right kitten diet is essential in providing your young cat with all the energy and nutrients it needs to support it through its early rapid growth stages.
The Right Food for your Kitten
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When should I wean my kitten onto specialised food?
As soon as the mother cat’s milk production begins to slow down, which will be around three to four weeks after birth, you should gradually introduce your kitten to a specialised kitten food. From the third month of life, this should be the only nutrition your young cat receives, as it should be fully weaned from its mother’s milk. To get your kitten used to eating solid food, you should start with small portions, adding a little bit of its mother’s milk to it at first if your kitten initially struggles to accept solids. The amount of milk should be reduced fairly rapidly, to ensure your kitten is not taking on too much energy with its food.
How should I feed my kitten at various growth phases?
The first few weeks are the imprinting stage for your kitten and its new diet. For this reason, you need to include various different kinds of food so that your cat gets used to the idea of both wet and dry food, as well as home-cooked meals. This should make it easier to carry out feed changes if they are necessary at any point throughout your cat’s life. Keep in mind that growing kittens have an increased requirement for vitamins and minerals, so be sure to choose a high-quality kitten food to meet this vital need.
Up to 4 months
During this stage, you will need to adapt the method of feeding due to your kitten’s changing anatomy. Its digestive system will not yet be fully developed, but kittens of this age tend to be exceptionally hungry – after all, lots of energy is needed for exploring! You should offer your cat lots of smaller meals throughout the day, at regular intervals and feeding times that your cat is used to. A cat’s natural eating habits involve eating up to 20 small meals throughout the day, including at night. It can, therefore, be a good idea to put out some food just before going to bed, so that your kitten can help itself to a nutritious midnight snack.
Between 4-6 months
From the fourth month of feeding, you can start to change your kitten’s diet to more closely resemble that of a typical adult cat. As cats tend to be more active at twilight and night, these may be the times they choose to eat and, even as adults, cats like to have numerous small meals throughout the day – sometimes as many as 10-20 meals! The trick is to feed your kitten as often as possible without overfeeding. You should be sure to offer three main meals per day, including one late at night. If you are leaving out dry food for your cat to snack on between its bigger meals, you need to take care that your kitten’s daily energy requirements are not exceeded; this can be tricky, as dry food is significantly more calorie-dense than wet food.
From the 7th month
From this age onward, you can start feeding a mix of wet and dry food, spread across two main meals. One of these meals should be in the morning, and the other later on in the evening. In order to meet your cat’s instinct to eat small meals throughout the day, you can leave dry food out as a snack, as long as you pay attention to the overall energy levels your cat is taking in throughout the day to prevent excessive weight gain.
Kitten nutrition: fluid levels
By feeding your kitten a wet food, you are already providing it with certain levels of moisture. However, you should always be sure that fresh, clean drinking water is available for your kitten to drink whenever it needs throughout the day.
Although milk is initially tolerated by kittens, many cats find that they react to the high sugar content in milk, often suffering with unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhoea. As a dietary supplement to complete your cat’s diet, you can offer a specially-developed lactose-reduced cat milk.
Take a look at our Kitten Shop and read our magazine articles about how to prepare for raising your new kitten!