If you’re thinking of adopting a kitten, whether three weeks old or six months old, he’s going to require proper nutrition and care. Feeding grown cats can seem like a simpler task, but knowing how much to feed a kitten can be a bit more complex.
We all know that good nutrition is vital to our cats’ health and wellbeing throughout their lives, but determining what to feed kittens is especially important.
Growing from a 4-ounce newborn to a full-grown adult takes energy, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and more—all in just the right amounts and proportions to avoid potentially dangerous nutritional deficiencies and excesses.
What To Feed Newborn Kittens From Birth to 4 Weeks of Age
The best food for kittens from birth up to around 3 or 4 weeks of age is their mother’s milk. You simply can’t beat nature! This is especially true during the first day of life.
The milk that mothers initially produce is called colostrum. It is extremely nutrient dense and even contains antibodies (disease fighting proteins) that help protect kittens against infectious diseases. After kittens are 1 or at most 2 days old, they can no longer absorb antibodies through their intestinal tract.
Thankfully, most queens (the official—and perfect—name for female cats) are excellent mothers and will provide their newborn kittens with all the care they need. The best way to check that kittens are getting adequate nutrition during this time is to weigh them daily. In general, kittens should gain approximately ½ to ¾ of an ounce (15-20 grams) each day. Momma cats should have 24/7 access to fresh water and a cat food labeled for growth and reproduction or all life stages so they can produce enough milk for their litters.
What To Feed Kittens 4 To 6 Weeks of Age — Weaning Begins
Weaning is the gradual transition from a diet of only mother’s milk or an appropriate milk replacer to solid foods. For kittens, this generally begins around 3 to 4 weeks of age.
Start by offering a gruel made from high-quality canned kitten food mixed with warm water several times a day. Also put out a small bowl of water. For large litters, set up several feeding stations to ensure that everyone has access to what they need.
Bottle-fed kittens will let you know that they are ready to try solid food when they start chewing on the nipples while they nurse. Initially, continue to offer a bottle every 6 to 8 hours while food is freely available, but once the kittens are eating canned food well and drinking water from a bowl, you can stop the bottle feedings.
By 5 to 6 weeks of age, kittens should be able to eat canned food without added water because their baby teeth are more fully erupted
What To Feed Kittens 6 To 10 Weeks of Age — Weaning Comes To an End
Mom cats usually start to drastically limit their kitten’s access to milk at around 6 weeks of age. When they are 8 to 10 weeks old, most kittens are fully weaned and eating only solid food and drinking water. Bottle-fed kittens can be transitioned a little quicker—full weaning by 6-8 weeks is reasonable.
What to feed cats at this time: Your cat’s food should, again, contain adequate protein as it highly digestible to cats. Also, look for taurine and arginine — these are essential amino acids.
Most vets recommend against a vegetarian diet as cats are strict carnivores. As a grown cat, he has several choices for food:
1.Dry food: There are many brands on the market. There are also special foods for specific problems such as hairballs and urinary tract infections.
2.Wet food: Some cat owners feel this is best because it is lower in carbs than dry food. They also feel cats have less of a chance of obesity with wet food. But it has been found there’s no real difference between a dry or wet food diet.
3.Raw food diet: Proponents feel this best approximates a cat’s diet in the wild. You can either make your own or buy a raw food diet. The key is to make certain your cat gets all the required nutrients. Some people add probiotics (which help maintain intestinal health) and supplements (check with your vet).
4.Frequency: Twice a day.
Whenever possible, kittens should remain with their mother and littermates until they are at least 8 weeks old. These first two months are vital from both a nutritional and a behavioral standpoint.
When To Switch From Kitten Food To Adult Cat Food
Kittens should be switched to an adult cat food when they have reached their full adult height, even if they still have some filling out to do. For most cats, this occurs around 10 months of age. Especially large-framed cats tend to stop growing later and may need to eat kitten food until they are a bit older. Petite cats or kittens who are gaining too much weight on kitten food may need to make the switch a little earlier.