Kittens have varying nutritional needs through the first year of their life. In their first six months, kitten nutrition needs change particularly fast. Knowing what to feed your kitten and when can help you make sure they grow strong and healthy.
How to Feed Kittens During the First Six Months of their Life
After kittens are born, they begin to nurse from their mother. The mother’s rich milk helps the kittens double in weight by the time they are 14 days old. When the kittens are about four weeks old, their mother will start to wean them from her milk. It is around this time that you should start training your kitten to eat solid food.
How to Introduce Your Kitten to Solid Food
Start With Wet Cat Food
Wet cat food is a great way to introduce your kitten to solid food. Start by mixing a small amount of wet cat food – specially formulated for kittens, of course – into their water dish. Over time, increase the amount of wet food while decreasing the amount of water until your kitten is eating only the canned cat food.
Weaning your kitten from mother’s milk to canned cat food can take two to three weeks. As you gradually introduce them to solid food, monitor their food intake. If necessary, supplement their diet with formula if they don’t take to solid food right away. This will make sure they are getting enough calories for healthy growth.
Try Mixing Kibble With Water
If your kitten is comfortable eating wet food, and you plan to feed them kibble, you can mix dry kitten food in water to form a slush. Gradually reduce the amount of water until your kitten is able to eat just dry food. Every kitten is different, but the amount of time it takes to wean kittens from mother’s milk to dry cat food is about the same as it is for wet cat food – about two to three weeks.
Tip: Keep in mind that kittens have smaller mouths, teeth and stomachs than adult cats. It’s easier for them to eat three or four smaller meals throughout the day rather than one or two larger meals.
How to Feed Kittens From Six to 12 Months Old
Once your kitten reaches six months of age, their nutrition needs change again. Their growth rate will start to slow and they will begin to look like an adult cat. Despite their grown looks, they still need to be fed kitten food. During this time, you can begin to feed your kitten less often and larger portions while still being careful not to overfeed.
Should I feed my kitten wet or dry food?
Although cats can be finicky about what they eat, they do not get bored of their food. Boredom with food is a human trait. As long as you are feeding your kitten a nutrient-dense food that meets their body’s needs, your cat will likely be content and satisfied with their meals. It’s not necessary to switch cat food recipes or even flavors every so often. Likewise, you don’t need to switch between dry and wet food to keep your feline friend happy.
However, you can mix up the type of food you feed your kitten for special occasions. For example, you can treat your kitten to wet cat food if they usually eat kibble. Keep in mind, however, that cats have short digestive systems and a constantly changing diet can cause gastrointestinal upset.
What nutrients does my kitten need?
When shopping for kitten food, check the ingredients label for the following essential nutrients. The wet or dry cat food you choose should be specially formulated for kittens and contain animal-based proteins, plus other essential nutrients.
Omega Fatty Acids
An optimal kitten nutrition formula will feature a balanced blend of essential nutrients that will help them both look and feel their best. One type of essential nutrient that does just that is omega fatty acids. Omega fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, help nourish healthy skin and a soft, shiny coat, and also support healthy cell growth.
Critical for healthy heart muscle function, vision, digestion and reproduction, taurine should be part of your kitten’s cat food formula. Most mammals produce taurine, which is an amino acid, in their body tissues; however, kittens cannot produce enough of it and must receive the amount they lack from their food.
Tip: Your veterinarian is also your kitten’s nutrition specialist. Consult him or her if you’re not sure what to feed your kitten or how much.
What to Do if Your Kitten Is a Finicky Eater
Although cats don’t get bored with their food, they can be picky eaters. If your feline friend isn’t cleaning their bowl or turns their nose up at dinnertime, consider what and how you’re feeding them: Are you abruptly or constantly changing their diet? Changing your cat’s food too quickly or too often can be hard on their digestive system. That’s why it’s best to feed your kitten consistently.
Also consider your kitten’s mealtime environment: Do they have enough space, or are there other animals around encroaching on them while they eat? If your kitten is under stress, they may not eat well. Additionally, you do not want to put your kitten’s litter box close to where they eat.
If you notice any unusual changes in your kitten’s eating behavior, or if you’re concerned they’re not getting the nutrition they need, consult your veterinarian. Your kitten’s first year is one of the most important phases of your cat’s growth and development. Ensuring they get proper nutrition early on can help lay the foundation for a long, happy and healthy life.