Every cat parent wants to feed their feline companion the best possible nutrition. But did you know that your cat’s nutrition needs change as they grow? For example, feeding your kitten a cat food meant for older cats won’t provide the nutrients they need for growth and play. To help your cat maintain their best health and a happy life, it’s important to feed the right food in the right amounts.
This article will help explain what food to feed your cat and how to know when it’s time to switch your cat’s food.
Nutrition for Kittens
Kittens develop rapidly during the first few months of their life. Most kittens will double their birth weight by the time they are two weeks old. At around four weeks, mothers begin weaning their kittens from milk. This is the time to introduce kitty to their new food. The following steps can help you transition your kitten from their mother’s milk to wet or dry kitten food.
- Step 1 – Start by placing a dish of water in with the kittens. At first, they’ll likely play in the water, but, within four to five days, they should begin drinking from the bowl.
- Step 2 – Next, mix a small amount of wet food in with the water. Also provide a separate bowl of plain drinking water.
- Step 3 – Gradually increase the amount of wet food and decrease the amount of water mixed in until the kittens are eating only wet food.
- Step 4 – Once they’re used to wet food, start mixing in a small amount of dry food formulated specifically for kittens.
- Step 5 – In the same way, gradually increase the amount of dry food and decrease the amount of wet food until the kittens are eating all dry food. The entire transition process should take around three weeks.
- Step 6 – Continue to feed kitten food until your cat is 12-months old. Around the age of six months your cat will enter adolescence and begin to look like an adult, but they still need the nutrients found in kitten food. Do not change your kitten’s food during this time, unless instructed by your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian can help you choose wet and dry cat food formulas that are best for your kitten. As a general rule, however, you will want to select a nutrient-dense food with highly digestible animal-based proteins. Kittens have twice the energy needs per pound than adult cats, so every bite of food they take needs to contain valuable nutrients.
Additionally, because kittens have such small mouths, teeth and stomachs, the amount of food they can consume and digest at one time is limited. It’s beneficial to divide your kitten’s food into several smaller meals throughout the day.
Transitioning From Kitten Food to Adult Cat Food
When Is the Right Time to Switch From Kitten Food to Adult Cat Food?
Around the time your cat is one-year old is the right time to begin transitioning your kitten to an adult cat food. Most cats can eat a regular maintenance formula cat food, but talk to your veterinarian if you think your cat may need a special formula, such as a weight management or hairball control cat food. If you think your cat might need a specialty formula, talk to your veterinarian about your cat’s health concerns.
How to Transition Your Cat’s Food
The key to successfully transitioning your cat to a new food is gradual change. Just like introducing kittens to cat food, you’ll need to mix the old and new food in varying ratios over a period of several days. Introducing a new food “cold turkey,” or rushing through the transition, can cause stomach upset in cats or simply cause them to reject the new food altogether.
- Step 1 – Feed a mix of 75% old food (in this case kitten food) and 25% new adult cat food for the first couple days.
- Step 2 – If your cat is eating and digesting normally, feed a 50/50 mix of old and new food for the next couple days.
- Step 3 – Next, transition to a mix of 25% old food and 75% new food. Feed this ratio for a couple of days.
- Step 4 – After about seven days, if your cat has acclimated to the transition, you should be able to feed 100% of the new food.
When to Transition Your Adult Cat to Senior Cat Food
The age at which a cat becomes a senior or mature adult depends on breed, size and other factors. Usually, most cats enter their golden years around age seven. Past this, you should switch from feeding an adult cat food to a senior cat formula designed to support the changing needs of your older cat.
When you are ready to transition your cat from an adult cat food formula to a mature cat recipe, follow the same instructions from switching from a kitten food to an adult cat food.
What to Look for in a Senior Cat Food
Just like people, your cat’s metabolism slows as they age. That’s why it’s important to find a calorie-efficient recipe to prevent weight gain. Senior cats also require more fiber and water in their diet to keep their digestive tract healthy.
Signs of a Healthy Cat
Cats that are getting the proper nutrients will often look healthy in appearance and have plenty of energy for play. Signs your cat is healthy can include:
- Smooth, supple skin and a shiny, lustrous coat
- Good muscle tone
- Clear, bright eyes and clean teeth
- Small, firm stools
Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if your adult cat isn’t looking or feeling their best. This could be due to an underlying medical condition or environmental factor. Proper nutrition can help you and your cat enjoy more time together and help them maintain a high quality of life.