You’ve welcomed (or are soon to welcome) your new kitten home forever. Congratulations! This is an exciting time for you, but we also know it can be a little overwhelming. There’s a lot to prepare and a bucket load of knowledge to digest. Food is an important one.
Nutrition and making sure your kitten is well fed are important for kitten care. The world of kitten food is daunting with so many options to choose from and opinions to filter through.
So, if you’re wondering what the best approach to kitten food is, what type of food they need and answers to your kitten feeding questions, keep reading.
What should I feed my kitten?
Before you first bring your kitten to their new home, ask the breeder or re-homing shelter what food they use. It’s best to keep your kitten on the same food while they settle before moving on to new food. Bear in mind that changing their food too quickly can cause them to have an upset stomach.
If you have decided to look for new kitten food, you may have already seen that there are a lot of options out there. It’s important that your kitten is getting the right nutrients from their food. Kittens are active and energetic creatures. They need more nutrients than adult cats to support their growth and their immune system. Food that is 100% complete, balanced, and made for kittens is highly recommended.
Whether you feed your kitten wet or dry food is a personal preference. Check if the food you have chosen is complete and balanced by looking at the label or contacting your vet.
Benefits of dry food
- Dry food can be cheaper and has a longer ‘shelf-life’ once opened compared with wet food
- It is easy to measure out to make sure your kitten is getting the right amount each day
- You can leave it in their bowl if your kitten eats slowly as it will not spoil over a day
- Dry food doesn’t stick to their teeth as wet food does
- Many dry foods can have a little water added on top to aid hydration.
Benefits of wet food
- Wet food can be a good source for extra hydration as it contains more water than dry food
- Wet food tends to have a stronger smell, which can make it more appealing if your kitten is unwell. Like humans, being ill can affect sense of smell and appetite (link to cat illnesses guide?)
- Wet food can come in single-serve pouches that are easy to serve the right amount.
Important nutrients that your kitten needs
Kittens need food that has the right nutrients to support healthy growth and development. Some of these important nutrients are:
- Protein and fat: kittens need more protein and fat than adult cats to help their growth
- Vitamins and minerals: vitamins, such as Vitamin E and selenium, are antioxidants that support your kitten’s immune system
- Omega fatty acid DHA: this will support brain and vision development
- Calcium: much like children, kittens need calcium for the development of their bones
- Amino acids: these support muscle and cell growth, and healthy skin, hair, and claws.
A complete and balanced diet for your kitten will mean that your kitten won’t need any supplementary food. They should be getting all their nutrients from their main meals.
Giving your pet a treat seems like a natural thing to do. It’s always nice to reward good behaviour, but kittens shouldn’t need extra treats.
If you are keen to give your kitten a treat or two, you should avoid human food and always check the label of cat treats. Human food is rich, high in calories, and low in the nutrients your kitten needs. Not only that, but some human foods are toxic to cats, such as onions which are often found in processed food. Cat treats are often not made for kittens and contain too many calories for a little kitten. They can harm your kitten and give them an upset stomach.
If you do like to give your kitten treats, make sure they don't take up more than 10% of their daily calorie needs. This will help them maintain a healthy weight.
How much should my kitten eat?
Follow the instructions on the packaging and always weigh the food. We recommend a measuring scoop and make sure your household knows how much to feed the kitten and when.
How to feed kittens
Getting into a mealtime routine with your kitten is important. Feed them in the same place and at the same time each day. Make sure that the place is as quiet as possible and somewhere they can enjoy their meal in peace. Find a surface that can be easily cleaned, such as kitchen tiles, or on a feeding mat. They are creatures of habit and will appreciate your consistency.
For bowls, stainless steel bowls are good for food, as they are sturdy and easy to clean. Ceramic is also a good choice, but make sure it doesn't have a lead-free glaze. Some kittens may even prefer to eat from a flat bowl or dish.
Serving and storing kitten food
Wet food is best served at room temperature, as it will smell its best to your kitten and makes it easier to digest. Take it out of your fridge about an hour before feeding.
Once you open wet food, it can go stale quickly. It's best to avoid leaving it out and don’t store it for more than 24 hours once opened.
For dry food, store in a clean and dry airtight container. This will keep its tastiness and nice smell. If your kitten doesn’t finish their dry food, you can leave it down for them until they’re hungry again and it won’t spoil.
How often should I feed my kitten?
Your kitten may seem like they have a huge appetite, but it’s important you feed them the right amount. Don't give in to those begging purrs. By following these tips, you can rest assured that you’re not over or underfeeding them:
- After weaning, 4 small meals a day is ideal for your kitten
- As they get older, you can reduce this to 3 meals a day or leave their meals as they are until your kitten is 6 months old
- At 6 months, 2 meals a day will be fine for your kitten to enjoy.
What if my kitten is a fussy eater?
Kittens can be fussy eaters. If your kitten is turning its nose up at the food you’ve selected for them, remember that this is quite common.
Like humans, kittens have favourite textures and flavours of food and there are circumstances that can make them go off their food.
To make their food appealing, you can try:
- Feeding them somewhere new; they may need a more peaceful environment to enjoy their meal in
- Choosing a different flavour of the food they used to enjoy, whether that is wet or dry
- Checking the food is in date and if it is dry food, making sure it hasn’t gone stale
- Cleaning their bowl as the smell and taste of old food may be turning their stomachs a little
- Finding out whether they’re getting fed elsewhere. Kittens and cats are clever creatures and may have found another family to feed them. If they have, pop a tag on their collar that tells other people that your kitten is owned and not to be fed elsewhere.
If their hunger strike persists, contact your vet as this may be a sign of an underlying issue.
Fresh water is important for kittens
As with all pets, access to fresh drinking water is extremely important for kittens. Especially if you decide to feed your kitten dry food, as it isn’t as hydrating as wet food.
Here are some practical tips to ensure your kitten stays hydrated:
- Place their water bowl in an easily accessible place that is away from their litter tray
- When buying a bowl, consider the material and size. Make sure it is low enough for your kitten to reach and big enough that their whiskers don’t touch the sides
- Do not give your kitten milk as a substitute for water. They are often intolerant to the sugars found in cows’ milk and even in specially made kitten milk.
When can I start to feed my kitten adult food?
We recommend your kitten eats kitten food until they are between 6-12 months old. At this age, they are still growing, and they need the extra support of kitten food for healthy growth.
Before you transition onto adult food, contact your vet and ask for their advice on how to do this. Gradually is the preferred approach when you want to change your kitten’s food to avoid an upset stomach.
Signs you may need to contact your vet
To stay healthy, your kitten should be eating and drinking regularly. If there are any changes, it could signify an underlying health problem. You should contact your vet if your kitten:
- Suddenly loses their appetite
- Gains a ravenous appetite out of nowhere
- Is eating differently, like only using one side of their mouth to eat or you can hear a grinding noise
- Is losing weight without intending to
- Is frequently being sick or develops diarrhoea.
MORE THAN pet insurance customers have access to vetfone who can help here too. With vetfone, you will have access to expert veterinary advice 24/7, any day of the year. They can answer your questions and give advice on your concerns.
Covering your kitten
Kittens can find themselves in all kinds of mischief and, like all pets, can be unwell from time to time. Cat and kitten insurance is there for you and your furry family when you need it most.
Rest easy knowing that our Basic, Classic, and Premier pet insurance can cover your new kitten should they need it.