"Feeding a Kitten"
- March 25th 2019
Like all young ones, kittens have very specific feeding requirements. If you have just brought a new (and adorable) bundle of fur home, then this is the article for you. Here, we will talk you through what your kitten’s feeding needs may be and the schedule you should establish.
How do kitten’s feeding needs differ from an adult cat’s?
Kittens require far more calories than adult cats, as they grow rapidly in this stage of their life. A kitten may double or sometimes even triple their weight in their first year. Food, food and more food is crucial during this growth phase.
As obligate carnivores, cats need a meat-based diet; they cannot survive on a plant-based diet. This is especially relevant for kittens. Kittens have a higher need for protein than even adult cats, and may have a greater urge for some amino acids and minerals. It is best to feed your kitten specially designed cat food for kittens , as opposed to adult cat food. Some labels claim they are suitable for cats at all ages, but make sure you only buy these after you have done your research.
Not providing cats with the nutrients they need during this time can cause health problems. A diet low in calcium, for instance, could lead to hyperparathyroidism, which could cause kidney disease in the long run. Always make sure you invest in high-quality cat food for kittens to ensure your cat has the balance of nutrients they need.
What do you feed your kitten?
For the first eight weeks of their life, your kitten will be with their mother and will feed on their mother’s milk. After this, they will need to be weaned slowly onto cat food. Introduce the process gradually – do not expect it to happen in a day.
To begin with, introduce your kitten to the taste of cat food by mixing it with water and allowing them to lick it off your finger. This will help them grow more familiar with cat food – cats rely heavily on their sense of smell and on taste when acclimatizing to a diet. After that, mix some water with the cat food for kittens so that it is easier for your kitten to digest. As time passes, reduce the amount of water.
Canned food – Kittens usually need some amount of canned food in their diet. This is because canned food is softer and easier for them to chew and digest. You can usually find canned cat food online or in shops in India. Certain amounts of dry food are fine for a kitten, but make sure they can genuinely eat this. Otherwise, they will just go hungry.
Home-cooked diets – If considering a home-cooked diet, then please consult your vet for what would be the best food groups. Kittens need a lot of calories, and less food can impact their growth. Mineral and vitamin deficiency at this stage can also have serious consequences. Make sure your home-cooked food plan is approved by your vet and it has enough variety.
Variety – Also consider introducing variety into your cat food for kittens, just to get your cat experimenting at an early age. Cats can be fussy eaters and tend to not change their preferences over time. This is especially true if they have only eaten one type of kitten food when they were young. Introduce them to different textures and flavours, so that they get used to changing things up.
When should you feed your kitten?
Adult cats are usually fed about twice a day, but a kitten should be fed around four times a day. Several pet parents also recommend free feeding – that is, leaving your kitten’s bowl full of cat food for kittens so that they can feed whenever they like throughout the day. This works with a kitten’s personality, as food can be a comfort for them and they like to have it always available. Make sure the food does not get spoilt though and is always fresh.
Once your kitten reaches a year, they are considered an adult cat and you can start reducing their feeding times to twice a day.
While it is true that kittens need a lot more calories than a regular cat and they are growing, you should be careful to not overfeed your kitten. If your kitten is already overweight, then free feeding them cat food for kittens may not be the best idea. Make sure you give them controlled portions to keep their weight in check. Consult your vet for what proportions and calorie intake they would recommend.
Also do not forget to include treats in the amount of food you are giving your kitten. Treats are usually how pet parents train their cats, so there is a lot of it while your kitten is growing up. Make sure treats do not form more than 10% of the total calories you are feeding your kitten. Spoil them, but do not spoil them too much!
What to watch out for
We know that feeding a kitten – especially if it is your first kitten – can feel like a daunting task. Here are some tips on what to watch out for.
Milk – As much as advertisements love to show a cat lapping up milk, it is not necessarily good for your kitten. Your cat may love it, but their digestive systems are not equipped to handle the lactose and it may lead to an upset stomach. Stick to plain old water.
Don't forget the clean water – Make sure your kitten always has access to a constant supply of clean water. This is a crucial part of keeping your kitten healthy.
Say no to dog food – While dog food is not poisonous for a kitten, it is certainly not the right kind of nutrients they need to grow up healthy. Dogs have a higher variety of plant in their food, which cats cannot process. And cats also need more protein than dogs, as well as several minerals that they cannot produce on their own. In short, puppy food is not a substitute for cat food for kittens.
Vitamins and supplements – While it may feel tempting to give your kitten that extra boost by feeding them vitamin supplements, always do so only in consultation with your vet. Too many supplements as an extra boost to an already well-rounded diet can be dangerous for your kitty.