11 Jul 2022

Kitten Nutrition

Understanding kitten nutrition helps your new feline friend live a happy and healthy life far beyond their first few months.

Taking an interest in kitten nutrition to prioritise your young kitten’s diet is extremely important. Underneath all that fluff, kittens have a lot of growing up to do in a relatively short timeframe. Within the first 8-12 months, kittens rapidly develop muscles, bones, skin and coat, teeth, internal organs, and important socialisation skills.

Birth to Weaning

A kitten’s survival instinct kicks in quickly. Soon after birth, newborn kittens will try to find their mum’s milk supply. This is a crucial time, as the mother will have produced a special type of milk called colostrum, which helps support the kitten's immune system.

During the first few weeks of life, most kittens nurse at least four to six times per day. In the case of orphaned kittens, mums lacking milk, or kittens failing to latch on, kitten formula or milk replacements should be given.

At this delicate age, any kitten's two most important activities are eating and sleeping.

At weeks 3-4, a kitten’s nutritional requirements change. Their mother’s milk production naturally lessens and the kittens’ ability to digest lactose decreases. From this point, it's important to gradually introduce a fully balanced and complete kitten diet, specially designed to meet kittens’ nutritional needs, providing sufficient energy and highly digestible nutrients.

Introducing A Kitten's New Diet

Kitten diets should be introduced gradually. To help this transition, feeding the lactating mum and kitten the same complete kitten food helps kittens to familiarise themselves with the food in the early stages of weaning.

You should start this process by mixing kitten formula or milk with wet or dry ‘complete’ kitten food into a gruel. Serve this to kittens in a shallow dish so they have easy access.

You should not use cow and goat’s milk as kittens cannot digest these well.

You should continue to serve a mixture of formula or milk and complete kitten food, slowly replacing the milk with water if you are feeding dry food, until your kitten is only eating solid food. This is typically around 6 weeks old.

At this point, all kittens should be fully weaned and happily eating a specially formulated kitten diet, with a good supply of fresh drinking water available.

How Much To Feed Kittens

You should always review the manufacturer's feeding guidelines for guidance on how much to feed your kitten, as this will be tailored to your chosen kitten food.

Weigh your kitten’s daily food ration using an accurate kitchen scale to ensure they receive the correct amount of energy and nutrients.

While products’ feeding guidelines are a great starting point, all animals are unique and their calorie intake should be adjusted according to individual needs. Monitor your kitten’s body condition, and if you have concerns, seek advice from your vet.

How Often To Feed Kittens

Kittens should be fed little and often, with their daily food ration divided into small portions at regular intervals throughout the day. 

By the time the kitten reaches 6 months old, they can transition to two meals a day, but keep in mind that cats are natural grazers and prefer to eat little and often. If you decide to continue feeding your cat little and often, take care not to overfeed them by keeping them on the same daily ration as if they were eating two meals per day, but divide this into several meals a day.

If you are feeding your kitten wet food, any leftover food should be cleared away after 30 minutes. Dry food can be left out for longer. 

Transitioning from Kitten to Adult Food

Once kittens have reached 90% of their expected adult weight, they can switch from a kitten diet designed for growth to a maintenance diet intended for adulthood. 

A change from one food to another should be done gradually (over 5-7 days), increasing the quantity of the new food and reducing the current food each day until only the new food is given. This will help avoid an upset digestive system often associated with a sudden diet change.

Neutering & Diet

Most domestic cats are neutered around 4-6 months of age. After neutering, their energy requirements are reduced, and owners must adapt the diet to mitigate the risk of unnecessary weight gain. Use our Pet Size-O-Meter to help monitor your cat’s body condition once neutered. If you notice your cat is gaining weight, discuss it with your vet team.

Supplementing Kitten Diets

There is no need to supplement a complete and balanced kitten diet. In fact, supplementing can be detrimental, leading to growth abnormalities. Simply invest in a good quality, complete and balanced diet designed to help support healthy growth and development.

Kitten Welfare

A cat should be at least 8 weeks old before leaving its mother. Welfare charities such as Cats Protection, International Cat Care and RSPCA provide tips and guidance on responsibly sourcing a kitten. Keep your veterinary team involved throughout kittenhood to receive advice on when to vaccinate and neuter and to check your kitten's health regularly.


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