Choosing the right foods for kittens is essential for promoting healthy growth and development. Kittens should have a different diet from adult and senior cats because they have specific nutritional requirements. Providing a nutritious, tailored diet for your kitten will maximize the chances of them developing into a healthy, active adult.
What do Kittens Need to Eat?
Once kittens are weaned off milk by their mothers, they start to enjoy a more varied diet. If you’re wondering what to feed kittens or what kittens eat, it’s wise to search for products that are specially formulated for young cats and to opt for high-quality foods that are packed with essential nutrients. Kittens need a balanced diet rich in protein for growth and development and increasing energy levels, calcium to develop healthy, strong teeth and bones and DHA to promote brain development and vision.
A Kitten-Inspired Feeding Chart Timeline
If you have a kitten, or you’re looking forward to welcoming a new feline friend to your family, here is a timeline to help you decide what to feed your kitten as they grow:
- 0-4 weeks: mothers usually take charge of feeding their kittens up to the age of 4-6 weeks. If you have a newborn kitten, which is not being fed by its mother due to illness or rejection, you can give your kittens newborn milk replacement formula. Newborn kittens need to feed frequently and they usually feed every 2-4 hours up to the age of 4 weeks.
- 4-5 weeks: at this stage, most kittens are ready to start supplementing milk with solid foods. It’s a good idea to combine kitten food with milk formula during the transition period. Some kittens are more eager to switch to solids than others. If your kitten is reluctant, keep them topped up with formula to ensure they keep gaining weight and growing. Eventually, they will make the change when they are ready.
- 6-8 weeks: at this point, your kitten should be fully weaned, and they should be more comfortable with solid foods. Choose wet and dry food that has been specially formulated for kittens, and always ensure there is a clean, fresh bowl of water available. Most kittens will eat 3-4 times per day at this age.
- 8 weeks and beyond: keep feeding your kitten up to 4 times per day, opting for high-quality kitten food until your kitten reaches the age of 6 months old. You can reduce feeding to two meals per day when they are 6 months old.
8 Foods to Feed Your Kitten in Her First Year
Her Primary Kitten Food
Your kitten should be eating a good quality kitten food or a food labeled for all feline life stages. Even as you introduce her to other foods, this should be her primary food as too many changes can cause digestive upsets. Feel free to change flavors of food but remain within the same brand to maintain some consistency.
Canned Cat Foods
The variety of ingredients available in canned cat foods make them a great way to introduce your kitten to different foods and tastes. She can try shrimp, fish, various types of poultry and more. In addition, some have other ingredients (such as vegetables) while others are only meats. A spoonful can be added to her primary diet or offered as a treat. Many cat owners use canned foods as training treats when teaching their cat.
When you make yourself scrambled eggs on a Sunday morning, complete with melted cheese, offer your kitten a little spoonful. It’s good nutrition and your kitten will love it. Please, though, give it to your kitten before adding salt and pepper or salsa.
Fresh and Salt Water Fish
Your kitten will be happy if you share your cooked fish with her. A tiny bit of trout, catfish, salmon or tuna will each be appreciated although, really, any cooked fish is fine. Again, give her just a tiny bit (a teaspoon) is plenty even if she’s begging for more. You can also try Honest Kitchen’s Mmmixers, a tasty meal topper made with salmon and pollock.
Feel free to offer your kitten bits of cooked beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, venison, or other lean meats. Avoid fatty meats, greasy fried meats, or those with salts, nitrates or preservatives. Don’t give your kitten hot dogs, bacon, or sausage as these will upset her digestive system; potentially causing diarrhea. When you give her some meat, dice or shred it into tiny pieces. Some kittens get greedy and may choke on large pieces. Another alternative is The Honest Kitchen's chicken and duck meal topper for cats.
Although cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they are carnivores that must eat meat, adding some vegetables to your kitten’s diet will add fiber and some vitamins and minerals. A few broccoli florets or some finely diced lettuce or other salad greens can be offered. A pinch at a time is plenty.
Squash and Pumpkin
If you will be cooking squash or pumpkin for your family, set aside a bit for your kitten. Grate a small piece of the squash or pumpkin and place it on a paper towel. Cover it with a damp paper towel. Microwave for just a few seconds; just until it’s cooked. Wait until it cools and then offer your kitten a pinch of it. Refrigerate the rest for another day.
Pet stores and sometimes even grocery stores will carry growing cat grass or cat grass kits for you to grow at home. The grass is usually wheat or oat grass although sometimes it’s a mixture of grasses. The grasses can provide fiber, vitamins and minerals for your kitten but they primarily offer your kitten something new to experience. In fact, many kittens have more fun uprooting the grass than eating it.
When offering your kitten any of these different foods, keep the 10% rule in mind. Anything you add to your kitten’s daily diet should not account for more than 10% of the total daily calories. Any more than 10% could upset the nutritional balance of her food. In addition, offer one new item at a time. Give her a chance to taste and get to know that food before offering anything else. With those thoughts in mind, have fun. Enjoy your kitten’s food explorations!
Recommended Reading: Grain Free and Cats: Is Grain Free Food Bad for Cats?
Frequently Asked Questions About Kitten Nutrition
Can kittens have milk?
Kittens can have replacement milk formulas but they shouldn’t need milk after they are fully weaned. Cow’s milk does not provide the necessary nutrients for kittens.
When is it safe for kittens to eat dry or wet foods?
Once kittens start to wean, you can introduce small quantities of wet and dry solid foods. This usually begins at around 4-5 weeks old.
How much will your kitten eat?
Kitten feeding charts vary according to the foods you buy but typically, you can expect kittens aged up to 6 months to feed 3-4 times per day. Once they reach the 6-month milestone, they can eat two larger meals. Follow portion guidelines. Standard instructions recommend ¼ to ? of a cup of dry food per day for kittens aged 6 weeks, ? to 1 cup for kittens aged 7 weeks to 5 months and ? to 1 ¼ cups for kittens aged over 6 months.
What do you feed kittens if they get diarrhea?
Consult your vet if your kitten develops diarrhea. Diarrhea is not common in kittens and it should be checked out as quickly as possible. If your kitten has diarrhea, it’s important to replace lost fluids and nutrients. You can do this by adding unflavored Pedialyte solution to their food.
When should you switch from kitten food to adult food?
You should start buying adult food for your kitten once they reach their first birthday.
Human-Grade Foods for Kittens from The Honest Kitchen
If you are looking for high-quality, nutritious foods and healthy options for your kitten, take a look at these premium products from The Honest Kitchen:
- Dehydrated Grain-Free Turkey Recipe
- Instant Goat’s Milk with Probiotics
- Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Supplement
Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.