Quick Jump to Contents
- 1 Deciding what to feed your kitten is an important decision. Here is everything you need to know to ensure your kitten has a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet.
- 2 Taking Care of a Kitten | 8 to 12 Weeks
- 3 Welcome Home Kitty
- 4 Kitten’s first vet visit
- 5 Kitten Feeding
- 6 Kitten Care
- 7 Kitten Socialization
- 8 Tips for Feeding Your Kitten a Healthy Diet
- 9 When can a kitten eat cat food: The definitive guide to switching kitten food
- 10 What’s the difference between kitten food and cat food
- 11 The early months: feeding amounts
- 12 When can a kitten eat cat food
- 13 Switching kitten food to cat food
- 14 What’s the best food for kittens to switch to
- 15 Tips, tricks & fluffy tails
Deciding what to feed your kitten is an important decision. Here is everything you need to know to ensure your kitten has a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet.
Kittens develop rapidly, both physically and mentally. Your pet requires a great deal of sustenance during their first year of life. You need a food to support this growth and help strengthen their immune system to give your kitten the best possible start.
The First Few Weeks
In the first six weeks, your kitten should obtain its nutrition exclusively from their mother’s milk, as it contains the major nutrients needed in that early stage of life. After about the seventh week though, it’s time to wean your kitten off its mother’s milk and start introducing kitten food.
How to Choose the Best Kitten Food
- Check the range available and select a food marked as a “kitten” diet. These diets are specifically formulated to meet the needs of cats less than 12 months old. However, the quality of the range will vary. In most instances, you will pay more for food that contains the best quality vitamin and mineral ingredients.
- Choose a food that contains real meat such as chicken as the first ingredient. As a rule, kittens should get about 30% of their energy from protein, so provide a diet that contains a quality source of protein.
- Check the label and look for a balance of real proteins, fats and oils, minerals, vitamins, and carbohydrates. Labels that list wholegrain cereals, or cereal/meat by-products, as the first ingredient contain less quality protein compared to a kitten diet with ‘chicken’ as the first ingredient.
- Do not feed food meant for adult cats, as kittens have very different dietary needs than their adult counterparts.
Dry Kibble Versus Canned Food
It’s common for owners to provide their kitten with a combination of kibble and canned food. You should follow the above guidelines when choosing the best dry or wet kitten food. If you decide to feed a mixture, ensure you convert the feeding requirements so you don’t overfeed your pet.
Foods to Avoid
Pets are often fed leftover human food that we consider dietary staples. However, some of these foods can actually be poisonous to your kitten. You should avoid giving your kitten foods including onions, garlic, coffee and tea, grapes and raisins, chocolate and dairy products – even milk may cause problems such as diarrhea for kittens recently weaned off their mother’s milk.
Some people choose to feed their kitten a home-made diet. While many pet owners feel they are providing the right nutrients, the diet is often based largely on protein and can be extremely unbalanced and unable to meet the needs of a growing pet. The best kitten food available at Petbarn is scientifically proven to provide a balanced diet to benefit your pet.
What Should Your Cat Drink?
Your kitten needs access to fresh water at all times. It’s best to provide more than one water bowl to encourage more fluid intake. We’re all familiar with commercials and TV shows depicting cats and their love for milk. While that may be true, it’s something you have to be careful with. Avoid giving human milk to kittens as it can cause stomach upsets for your pet.
A Regular Feeding Schedule
Kittens grow at an amazing pace during those first six months and during that time you should be feeding your pet four regular meals per day. It’s in their nature to snack, and that’s okay, because they’re burning large amounts of energy as they play. After those first six months their growth rate will begin to slow down and at that point it’s normally best to reduce their meals to twice per day. Follow the feeding guide on your kitten food label.
Read the Label
There are two different types of labels you should be paying attention to on your kitten or cat food: government or veterinary approval labels and lifecycle labels. The reason you want to look for kitten or cat food that’s endorsed by government departments and veterinary associations is because these organisations have a lot of expert knowledge and they’ve tested the food to ensure it’s healthy for your kitten or cat. Lifecycle labels indicate the stage of your cat’s lifecycle a particular food is meant for, so that you can make sure you’re buying the right food for your kitten, cat, or senior cat.
From 12 Months on…
After the first year, it’s time to switch your kitten over to adult food as it will have reached full size at that point. Your pet will need to continue with a balanced diet, but its overall nutritional needs will be different. Choose an adult cat food that is specifically formulated for your pet’s life stage, breed or desired health benefit.
Choosing the right food for your kitten is vital at this stage of development. Provide your pet with high quality proteins, vitamins and minerals so they can continue to grow into a healthy cat.
Taking Care of a Kitten | 8 to 12 Weeks
Welcome Home Kitty
What’s new pussycat? Unless you’ve had a kitten before, everything. Don’t worry, the satisfaction and fun you’ll get from your new family member will be well worth any growing pains.
Here’s what to expect year one.
Kitten’s first vet visit
Ask your veterinarian to recommend a high-quality natural kitten food during your first visit; they can tell you the type and amount of food to feed, and help you set a schedule so your kitten knows when to expect her meals.
Besides discussing basic questions and concerns, it’s vaccination time. Check with your veterinarian for their guidance regarding initial vaccines.
Kittens usually will get a combination (or “3-in-1”) vaccine to protect against feline distemper, calicivirus and rhinotracheitis in a series several weeks apart. After that, the vaccine is updated annually.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends giving all kittens a feline leukemia vaccine in two doses, three to four weeks apart. If your kitten’s allowed to satisfy her wanderlust outdoors, she’ll get an annual leukemia booster. If she’s a homebody, she won’t need the annual leukemia protection.
Your kitten should also get her first rabies shot once she is 12 weeks old.
Plus, even though there isn’t a vaccine to protect against Feline Immune Deficiency Virus (FIV), all cats should be tested because they can carry the fatal virus for months, even years, without any symptoms; that’s why you shouldn’t take untested strays in and expose family felines to them, at least until blood tests prove the stray cat is virus-free.
Fleas, ticks and worms, oh my
At your first vet visit it’s wise to:
- Discuss safe options for controlling internal and external parasites. A de-wormer that gets rid of roundworms won’t eliminate tapeworms; your veterinarian will determine the cause and prescribe the correct medication.
- Learn about possible signs of illness to watch for during these first few months of your kitty’s life.
- Your vet will also check your kitten’s ears for mites, tiny parasites that are commonly transferred from cat to cat. If your feline’s constantly scratching her ears or shaking her head, she may have pesky mites. Your vet will clean her ears thoroughly before giving any medication.
Fun fact: All kittens are born with blue eyes that fade to green or gold by the time they’re 12 to 13 weeks old. Except for Siamese or other Asian breeds who keep those baby blues.
Your kitten most likely weaned off her mother’s milk and started eating solid food at about 8 weeks old. By the time you bring her home, she should be eating solid canned food or kibble – about 4 times a day.
Growing kittens need as much as 3 times more calories and nutrients than adult cats, so
a high-quality kitten formulation like BLUE Life Protection Formula® is optimal for proper nourishment during these rapid growth spurts. Remember, your veterinarian can recommend the right food for your kitten’s diet.
And don’t forget proper hydration: keep Kitty’s water bowl filled with fresh, clean water.
Hello litter box
As soon as you bring your kitten home, introduce her to her litter box. Scratch your fingers in the clean litter to get her attention and she’ll investigate.
Since cats are born scratchers, it’s best to start early with the scratching post. The more your kitten feels comfortable with her post, the more she’ll mark it with her scent and continue to scratch it, rather than you or your upholstery.
A good scratching post or multi-level cat tree should be tall enough so your kitten gets a good stretch; it also needs to have a sturdy, balanced base so it won’t topple.
Two months old is the perfect time to slowly introduce your kitten to other furry friends and humans. Gently play with your kitten at least once a day so she’ll bond with you.
Don’t take it personally, but after your kitten’s around 12 weeks old, she may not be that interested in playing with you. That’s when kittens usually become interested in playing with objects even more than other cats.
Keep stimulating cat toys around so she can enjoy this normal predatory play and exercise at the same time. It’s important your kitten learns that it’s okay for her to bite toys, not people and other living creatures.
Choose kitten-safe toys without string or small pieces that your kitten could swallow. Treat puzzle toys are great for teaching your kitten problem solving. Always stow the toys safely away so your kitten doesn’t play with them when you’re not watching.
The earlier you introduce your kitten to circumstances she’ll likely encounter throughout her lifetime, the better — whether it’s meeting children, dogs and other felines — to being transported in her carrier and having her nails trimmed.
Use healthy, natural food and treats from your positive-reinforcement arsenal to teach and reward good behavior. Most of all, give her plenty of time to adjust to new situations.
Tips for Feeding Your Kitten a Healthy Diet
Feeding a kitten is simple, right? You just open the bag and scoop some kibble into a bowl. Oh, and change out the water once in a while. Well, yes, those are the basics, but in order to really understand how to feed your kitten a healthy diet, you need to look a little bit deeper.
The first thing you need to know is that cats are obligate carnivores. Because they evolved to be carnivores, they lack certain enzymes needed to convert vegetable proteins into the amino acids they need. Your kitten cannot live on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Not now, not ever. She must eat meat in some form or another, or she will get sick and likely die.
Adult cats’ diets need to have at least 26% protein and at least 9% fat. Kittens, because they’re growing so rapidly, need much higher amounts of energy in their food. By the time your kitten is six months old, she still needs about 25 percent more nutrition than adult cats. This is why you should feed your kitten a food specifically designed for kittens’ nutritional needs, and you should continue feeding kitten food until your baby is about a year old.
The label on your cat food contains feeding instructions. These guidelines are very general recommendations, and it’s possible that your kitten may need more or less food than the label suggests. Talk to your vet to be sure you’re feeding your kitten the right amount and type of food.
Cats’ food preferences are generally established by the time they’re six months old, so you need to get her used to eating a nutritionally complete diet at an early age. In order to avoid the “tuna addict” phenomenon, choose two or three different products, in different flavors, in both dry and canned formulas, and feed them interchangeably.
Feed your kitten three times a day until she’s at least seven months old. Kittens’ stomachs are very small and they need to fill up regularly. Free feeding with kibble may be acceptable if you can’t be around all day to feed them. Do keep in mind, however, that spaying or neutering decreases your kitten’s energy requirements by 25 percent, so standard feeding recommendations may not work as well for cats that were fixed before 6 months of age. Check with your vet to see how you can give her the nutrition she needs without overfeeding her.
You shouldn’t need vitamin or mineral supplements as long as you’re feeding your kitten a nutritionally balanced diet. In fact, overdoses of certain vitamins can actually do harm. If you’re concerned that your cat isn’t eating enough to get proper nutrition, discuss this with your vet and get his or her opinion before giving supplements.
Cat foods are made with cats’ nutritional needs in mind and are fortified with amino acids like taurine in order to keep your cat healthy. However, dry food has a lot more carbohydrates than a cat needs. When assessing your options, note that canned foods have a higher percentage of meat.
Feed your kitten the highest-quality food you can afford. Good food is health insurance, and it’s worth the extra cost to buy products that have better-quality meats and few if any chemical additives. Some people recommend a raw-food diet, but don’t go for it unless you really know what you’re doing in terms of nutrition and food safety. If you do eventually choose to use a raw diet, work closely with your veterinarian and get your recipes from established authorities on the subject.
When can a kitten eat cat food: The definitive guide to switching kitten food
How long should cats eat kitten food? And what exactly is the best food to feed cats whilst they’re still young? Parcelpet has got all the answers you need so sit back with a brew, whilst we take you through switching kitten food to cat food!
What’s the difference between kitten food and cat food
Just as babies aren’t simply miniature humans, kittens are not simply pint-sized cats; they have different dietary requirements. In fact, kittens need to ‘catch up’ and therefore require a diet higher in protein, which promotes healthy growth and development. For this reason, selecting a kitten food is just as important (if not more) than selecting their food when they are an adult.
Best kitten food
Whether you choose dry or wet, kitten food needs to include ingredients which promote healthy growth and development. Food that is high in protein and packed with essential nutrients provide your kitten with the best start in life. Moreover, selecting a hypoallergenic kitten food can be an important pre-emptive step in avoiding the development of allergies caused by common allergens.
Moreover, it is a common misconception that milk is ok for cats. Of course, a kitten should be fed milk from their mother whilst they are still young, but once they are weaned off it then you shouldn’t reintroduce milk into their diet. The milk that we drink is actually very difficult for cats stomachs to digest, which can result in an upset tummy.
Other human foods to look out for include:
Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in cats so steer clear of this one.
Chocolate and caffeine – that’s right it isn’t just dogs! Read up on toxicity of Theobromine here.
Alcohol (…even a teaspoon can be highly toxic to your cat).
Best cat food
Now don’t worry, you can still select a hypoallergenic cat food which contains all the good stuff above (and more!) however, the main difference is that this will be in much smaller quantities. That’s not to say that your cat won’t be getting those all-important ingredients in their food which promotes good health. Instead, they will be receiving just the right amount that their bodies require to remain fit and healthy.
Why feeding kittens cat food is a bad idea
As discussed above, cat food and kitten food are formulated to contain different quantities and different ingredients to best suit their nutritional requirements based on their age. For this reason, we do not recommend feeding a kitten cat food. Why? If you feed a kitten cat food, this may slow their development. Likewise, if you feed a cat kitten food, your cat may become overweight or face other health implications.
The early months: feeding amounts
For the first 12 months, your kitten will go through 4 different stages:
1 – 3 months: weaning process (read more here).
3 – 6 months: 3 times per day.
6 – 12 months: 2 times per day.
12+ months: 2 times per day (however, some owners may choose to reduce feeding to once a day).
When can a kitten eat cat food
As you would expect, a kitten is expected to be eating adult cat food when they reach maturity. This usually occurs at 12 months however this may be increased to 18 months for larger breeds such as the Maine Coon.
Switching kitten food to cat food
It’s time to switch… Yay! But, whilst it is perfectly acceptable for you to mix puppy food with dog food, you should never mix kitten food with cat food. Why? Due to the particularly fickle nature of cats (and kittens in particular), doing this might not only put your cat off of their new food, but also put them off of their old food.
Instead, we recommend providing two bowls with the new food in one, and the old food in another. By gradually decreasing the amount of old food in one bowl and increasing the amount of new food in one bowl, your cat will naturally begin to select the new food.
Knowing how much to feed a cat following their early years can be tricky and varies between different food brands. We recommend always reading the label on the back of the packet or bag. By doing this, and knowing what weight your cat is (and more importantly should be) you will have a clear indication as to how much food you should be feeding them per meal.
What’s the best food for kittens to switch to
As discussed above, we’re all about hypoallergenic pet food, which is why it won’t surprise you that we only recommend this type of food for your adult cat too. Hypoallergenic food is not only allergen free (i.e. no diary, corn gluten meal and seafood etc) but it also doesn’t contain any artificial preservatives. Rather than including ingredients that may cause your cat an upset stomach, we only source the best ingredients that provide a wealth of benefits to your cat!
Tips, tricks & fluffy tails
Kitten refusing to eat new food
If your kitten is refusing to eat their new food and you’ve already tried out our transitioning tips above, then have no fear, there’s still a couple of things you can do:
Stimulate their appetite: to get their tummy rumbling, engage in activities which require them to burn calories. This can be anything from a game of cat and mouse to scratching at their scratching post!
Regulate feeding: make sure that you are feeding them at regular time intervals. This will encourage them to eat when you give them their food (which coincidentally is when their food is most appetising!)
Wonderful water: provide lots of fresh water throughout the day and particularly at feeding times.
Switching from wet food to dry food? Try adding a little warm water to the kibble to make it more palatable.
Is it an environment you would want to eat in? Keep the toilet (litterbox) well away from where your kitten eats. Create a calm environment so they can take their time to enjoy their new adult food.