Feeding Kittens: What, When, How Much
Experts answer six common questions about kitten food and more.
2. How can I know I’m selecting a high-quality kitten food?
Mindy Bough, CVT, senior director of client services for the Midwest Office of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) emphasizes the importance of high-quality kitten food. “I don’t recommend generic or store brands,” Bough says. Buy from a reputable company -- one that veterinarians recommend more frequently, she says. “Research has determined these kitten foods provide excellent health.”
But how can you be certain a kitten food is of high quality? One way is by checking the label. It should at least contain the following: “Meets the nutritional requirements of kittens established by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).” AAFCO is a group of state and federal officials who regulate pet food. Even better, look for this: “Complete and balanced nutrition for kittens based on AAFCO feeding trials.” “Complete and balanced nutrition” means your kitten will require no mineral or vitamin supplementation. In fact, remember that too much of a “good thing” can be bad for your kitten, causing severe medical problems. Use supplements only if your veterinarian recommends them.
Also use caution with homemade diets. For example, all-meat homemade diets can be low in calcium, leading to a mineral imbalance that causes hyperparathyroidism, a disease more common in rapidly growing kittens. “If you use a homemade diet, make sure it’s been formulated by a reputable nutritionist,” Bough says.
After feeding for a period of time, you be the judge. With proper nutrition, your kitten should be healthy and alert, have a steady weight gain, and a clean, glossy coat. If not, check with your veterinarian about possible diet changes or ruling out any health problems.
3. What type of food does my kitten need, wet or dry?
It’s important that very young kittens have at least some canned food to eat as part of their diet. Very small kittens have very small teeth and can’t chew dry food well. Without some canned food, they won’t get enough nutrition to grow properly. If you are feeding your kitten both dry and canned foods, then twice a day canned feedings are sufficient. If they’re only eating canned food, they should be fed four times daily.
4. How do I switch from one kitten food to another?
Cats are often considered the epitome of the “picky eater.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. Get your kitten started off on the right paw.
“It’s easier to switch foods if a kitten has been exposed early on to different textures and flavors,” Larsen says. “If exposed to the same food over and over, cats tend to get a fixed preference for a particular flavor and texture.”
If you’re trying to make a switch to a new kitten food, Larsen recommends not mixing it with the old food. “If the kitten dislikes the new food, this can put them off the old food, too,” she says. Instead, offer the new food and old foods in separate bowls. Over time, offer smaller and smaller amounts of the old food along with the new food. “A little bit of hunger will help them make the transition - and resign them to at least trying the new food.”
Remember that making rapid changes in food can cause stomach upset or “hunger strikes.” So you may need to make the transition to a new food over four to seven days.