Feeding your kitten is all about giving them the right nutrients, in the correct form at the perfect time. No wonder it leaves plenty of new cat owners in spin! The best way to feed your kitten will depend on their developmental stage, breed and health condition. Large breed kittens will need a specialty food, as will those with flat faces. Most young kittens benefit from multiple small meals per day rather than feeding once a day like many older adult cats.
- Feeding your kitten kibble.
- Canned food or kitten pouches.
- Kitten feeding schedules.
- Combination feeding for kittens.
Here you’ll find answers to all the most common kitten feeding questions. We will look at the differences between dry kitten food, wet kitten food and combination feeding. Together with kitten feeding schedules, quantities and even a handy kitten diet chart.
What is the best food for my kitten?
When you bring home your new kitten, you want the very best for him. The main options for feeding your kitten are:
That’s a lot of options to choose from, but don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you. And help you to decide which is the best kitten food for him. This choice will be based upon her needs, as well as your circumstances.
What is the right way to feed a kitten?
Fed is best! Try not to worry about whether or not the method you chose is ‘the right way’. There is no absolute rule when it comes to deciding the right way to feed your kitten. Let’s take a look at each of the main kitten feeding options in turn.
Feeding your kitten dry food
Dry kitten food is very popular, and with good reason. It has a lot going for it when it comes to you as an owner, and to your cat.
It comes in cardboard boxes or plastic packets. You can buy it in fairly small quantities about the size of cereal boxes, up to enormous sacks that will last you for weeks at a time. And there are a lot of options to choose from.
Dry kitten food, also known as kibble, is convenient. It is very easy to buy, you can find it in local supermarkets, pet stores, and probably even in the service station at the end of your road.
Kibble is easy to clean up when it is spilled because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue. It is simple to store in the box or bag it came in, or in a large tupperware pot. There is very little wastage when it comes to dry food. You can dish out the amount required and put the rest back into the container.
Dry kitten food can be cheap
There are a huge range of dried kitten food options available. At the lower end of the spectrum they are incredibly cheap.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad quality, but cheap foods tend to have more filler. Which isn’t ideal when you are feeding an obligate carnivore. A pet that is designed to exclusively have meat.
You can buy dry kitten food with a higher price tag, which may or may not be better suited to your little cat. The best food will be one with good quality ingredients, and a high protein and fat content.
How much dry food should I feed my kitten?
Your dry kitten food packet will have instructions on it, giving guidelines for the quantities of food your kitten should require. However, you will need to take these with a pinch of salt.
Kittens even in the same litter can range quite widely in size, not to mention appetite.
You will therefore need to begin by following the packet guidelines and adjust accordingly. If your kitten is always leaving a lot of food and seems healthy and to be putting on weight, then you can reduce the amount you put in the bowl.
Just remember that as he grows your kitten will need increasing amounts of food, so keep an eye on him. Refer to the instructions on the packet for increasing quantities for your growing cat.
Potential problems with dry kitten food
Dried kitten food should provide a complete nutritional diet for your cat, but the downside of dry food is that it is quite dehydrating.
As a child we had always had family cats. They had all been fed on whichever dry cat food was convenient, and lived long, happy and healthy lives. So when I decided to get a kitten myself years later, feeding him wasn’t something I had ever given much thought to.
I brought the same brand of dry kitten food as his breeder had been giving him, and he seemed to thrive on it. But after he had been with us a few weeks, we had a bit of a shock. Late one evening I noticed that he had been peeing blood into his litter box.
One panicked drive, an emergency vet visit, and quite a considerable sum of money later, he was on his way to recovery. As it transpired, whilst Oscar was happily eating his dried food and had fresh water constantly available, he wasn’t actually drinking enough of it. The dried cat food had caused him to get a serious urinary tract infection.
Fortunately, the vets were able to sort it out quickly, but from then on Oscar has from then onwards been fed on wet cat food. Now, whilst by no means unique this experience should not put you off feeding dry kitten food.
It is only my personal situation, it is worth bearing in mind when you make your decision. Keep an eye on the litter tray for any signs of something being amiss!
Many dried kitten foods have a high carbohydrate content, which could potentially cause problems for your growing kitten. Feline type 2 diabetes has been thought to be linked to high carbohydrate foods.
There are several nature and nurture elements to a cat becoming diabetic, but one that has been investigated is the high carbohydrate, low protein diet that some cats are fed.
High carbohydrate diets increase the blood glucose and therefore insulin levels in a body. So it follows that the likelihood of becoming diabetic is increased by these ingredients.
If you have a Burmese cat, which seem to be more predisposed to diabetes, finding a cat food with a high protein, low carbohydrate percent would be sensible.
Breed specific dried kitten food
Some dry cat food manufacturers have developed different lines of dry kitten food targeted at the owners of different breeds. Some brands for example, provide a food designed for Persian cats.
This breed has a different facial structure, with a flattened brachycephalic muzzle. This food claims to be designed to be easier to pick up, and to encourage use of the jaws and chewing.
On a basic anatomical level this makes a lot of sense. When looking for breed specific kitten food consider your kitten’s breed. Does your kitten belong to a flat-faced breed? Does his breed have a different growth rate from other cat breeds, or known problems with skin or hair? If so, it might be worth trying out a breed specific food.
However, if you have a healthy short haired kitten, you probably don’t need to look for breed specific foods. As all major brands will be designing their food to be suitable for your cat.
Best dry kitten food
The best dry kitten food for most pet kittens is one that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. You do however of course need to take your finances into account when making a decision about feeding your cat.
If you are going to bring home a new kitten, make sure that you have enough money in your weekly budget to allow for essentials like feeding.
However, don’t feel too bad giving your kitten a cheaper variety of food.
Kitten Dry Feeding Chart
The kitten feeding chart below is based upon averages from a wide range of dry kitten food manufacturer guidelines.
It is based around an average kitten’s requirements.
For large breeds, you will need to look at the higher end of the ranges given.
Cheaper kitten foods will usually need to be fed in larger quantities. This is because they have a higher proportion of ‘filler’. So they need a greater amount of food to get the nutrients they require.
Feeding your kitten wet food
Wet kitten food is also a very popular option. This most commonly comes in cans or pouches. Whilst it is widely available, it is perhaps slightly less so than the dried kitten food packets. It is also more messy.
You will need to wash up your kitten’s bowl immediately after he has finished eating. You also cannot leave the food in the bowl whilst you go out for the day, as when you return it will have gone off.
You don’t want to risk your kitten putting slightly rancid food into her immature stomach.
I personally find that the kitten food pouches are easier to use than the canned kitten food. You also don’t need a can opener, or to use a fork to remove the contents. Simply tear across the tab at the top of the pouch and push the food straight into the bowl.
How much wet food should I feed my kitten?
Whilst they are very small kittens are growing quickly, and need approximately twice the nutrients they will when fully grown. However, their stomaches are still developing and they will need to be given these servings in regular small dishes.
Kitten Feeding Chart: Cans and Pouches
The kitten feeding chart below is based upon averages from a wide range of wet kitten food manufacturer guidelines. A kitten’s daily feeding requirements will vary depending upon his breed, and personal needs.
Please always refer to the packaging when feeding, and if in any doubt check with your vet.
Best wet kitten food
The best wet kitten food is one which is complete, high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Canned or pouched kitten food does tend to be lower in carbs than dry kitten food. The proportions do change between brands so it’s worth checking a few out before making your decision.
Combination feeding your kitten
Combination feeding your kitten can feel like you are getting the best of both worlds. Giving them meaty chunks of food, with biscuits to fill them up. But it is worth bearing in mind that kitten food in any form is meant to be complete.
This means that it should be giving them everything that they require. Therefore, either feeding your kitten on dry kitten food or wet kitten food alone should be sufficient to keep them healthy.
Best way to combination feed a kitten
There are two ways to combination feed a kitten.
Divide their food portions between dry and wet kitten food. For example, wet food at 8am, then dry at midday and wet again at 4pm. Or vice versa. Don’t worry the timings above are just an example. You can space your kitten’s meals out to suit your schedule.
Give them wet kitten food at their regular mealtimes, and to leave dry kitten food available for them to snack on during the rest of the day. This method has the benefit of meaning that your little kitten always has something available to eat. The downside is it could potentially make them more likely to gain excess weight.
In order to combat this you can decide on the amount of dry food they need in a day, and only put down this amount. So that when it’s gone, he will only have wet kitten food thereafter.
This will also help you to cut down on dry food wastage. As whatever your kitten has not finished at the end of the day will need to be thrown away anyway.
Combination Kitten Feeding Chart
Want to use a combination of wet and dried kitten food? Our combination feeding chart for kittens will give you a rough guide to the appropriate amounts of each food to offer at each meal.
What other food does your kitten need?
If you are feeding your kitten on any complete food they should not need their diet supplemented with anything else. Kittens have immature digestive systems and treats may just end up giving them an upset stomach.
Switching brands of kitten food
Before you bring your new kitten home, ask his breeder or the rescue centre who have been caring for him what brand of food he has been eating.
Being moved to a new home can be unsettling to a little kitten. He will be more likely to have an upset stomach in those first few days. Help him ease into the transition by keeping him on the same food he was eating with his mother and siblings.
Stick with this for at least the first couple of weeks he is with you. After this time, you will be able to move him onto the brand of kitten food of your choice. The best way to do this is over the period of a couple of days.
Begin by mixing a teaspoon of his new food in with the old food. If he doesn’t suffer any ill effects, put in two teaspoons at the next meal. If he is fine after this time, then at the next meal make the food split 50/50 between the old brand and the new one.
For the next day keep an even split in the food. If your kitten appears fine, and his faeces are a normal consistency, then the following day you can put him on the new food.
Just remember to keep a close eye on him for the next few days. Make sure he is playing, eating and drinking normally, and that his litter tray is in its usual state.
Where to feed your kitten?
The best place to feed your kitten is somewhere hygienic, easy to clean and convenient. Although you might want to keep all of your new kittens paraphernalia in one place, it is not a good idea to feed him beside his litter tray.
Cat faeces and urine carry diseases, and contact between his waste and his food could make him very ill. Not to mention that you will need to come into close proximity with the tray with you fill his bowl.
Make sure his feeding area is away from any surfaces you prepare food on. Remember, if he has stood in his litter tray and then leaps onto the worktops to eat his dinner he will be bringing tiny particles of his own mess with him on the bottoms of his feet. It will also help your kitten to have easy access to his food.
Put it somewhere that is obvious for him to see, and simple for him to reach. A corner in the kitchen is an ideal place. Most kitchens have wipe-clean floors, so you can clear up easily after he is done.
How often should you feed your kitten?
From 8 weeks old a kitten needs feeding four times a day, with these meals spaced out evenly throughout the day time.
From 12 weeks old your kitten will need feeding three times a day.
Again evenly spaced with a meal in the morning, lunch and then dinner.
After 6 months old your kitten will be developed enough to cope with his meals in two larger servings, to be provided in the morning and late afternoon.
You can continue in this manner for the rest of his life.
Mealtimes and schedules: when to feed your kitten
Since our cat was about 6 months old he has been fed at 7.30am and again at 4pm.
This works well for us as a family and for him, except around daylight savings changes.
When he is most unimpressed with the delay in dinner time.
This is just a guide, you can adjust feeding times according to your schedule and your growing kitten’s preferences.
As long as you leave appropriate gaps between your kitten’s meals, you can spread these over the day at points that are most convenient for you.
My Kitten Is Always Hungry
Some cats will ask for more food than they need.
Your kitten might meow by his bowl pitifully at certain points of the day, and make you question whether he needs more food.
If he is obviously of a healthy weight, then chances are he doesn’t need more food.
He just wants some.
And haven’t we all felt that way?
Obesity in pets is a very serious issue with potentially nasty health repercussions.
Especially for those whose bones are still growing,
As owners we are responsible for keeping them healthy, and on occasions you will need to harden your heart to their appeals.
If he is asking for food between meals you can try splitting the same quantity into five instead of four.
If he is asking for more when he has finished his meal, then try distracting him with a game instead.
Is my kitten too thin?
If your kitten actually needs more food, you will be able to tell by inspecting them.
Signs a kitten is underweight include visible ribs, prominent bones near the base of the tail and spine.
They will have no fat or muscle coverage to speak of, and a severe waist and abdominal tuck.
If you feel your kitten is too thin then gradually increase his portions at each mealtime.
But do make sure you pop down to the vets with him too to make sure there isn’t another underlying cause to his weight loss.
Is my kitten too fat?
Kittens need a lot of food when they are growing.
They tend in general to be quite good at knowing how much they need, and don’t suffer from over-eating as many adult cats do.
You do however still need to use your better judgement to limit their access to food.
Even though they will be hungry a lot of the time, kittens have little stomachs.
So they need to be fed in small quantities, but with greater frequency than adult cats.
If you are concerned that a kitten under 4 months old is overweight, then pop down to your local vet with him before you start cutting his food down.
Some health problems like worms can give kittens big bellies, so it’s worth making sure he is healthy before looking at cutting down his food slightly.
Very small kittens are far more likely to be underweight than overweight.
Changing from kitten to cat food
When your kitten has stopped growing, they won’t need kitten food any more, they will need adult cat food instead.
The age at which you swap from kitten food to cat food will depend partially on their breed, as some breeds mature slower than others.
And partially on the brand of food you have chosen for them.
You will find on the packets, recommendations for the age at which to switch to an adult version of the food.
Staying with the same brand is a good idea when initially changing over.
They are likely to be made from similar ingredients and therefore could reduce the chances of your kitten feeling unwell during the shift.
Make the change over the course of a few days.
On the first day mix 25% new food with 75% kitten food. If their stomach seems fine, then the next day do a 50/50 split.
Feeding your kitten
Feeding your kitten can feel like a big responsibility at times.
Try not to worry.
Commercial food all provides a complete diet, and although some are better quality they should all give your kitten the nutrients she needs.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support if you are worried.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!