What To Feed Kittens?

(Everything You Need To Know)

Posted by | Mar 1, 2016 |

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Author Amira

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I’m Amira, founder and editor at Cattention.

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When my cat (Furball) gave birth to two adorable kittens, my first thought was to learn everything about kitten care, for example: when can I hold the kittens in my arms, what are the first steps I have to be aware of and what would I feed them?

Since kittens usually complete weaning by the eighth to ninth week, I knew I had enough time to learn about kittens’ nutrition. As I started searching for the proper information, more and more questions popped up in my mind that I knew I should not miss out: what, when and where to feed, what type of bowl to use and how much food to give to my new lovely pussycats. After spending hours and hours at the computer searching for answers, I found out the following things:

What to feed kittens?

Considering the kittens’ sensitive digestive system and urinary tract, it is very important to have information on what type of food we give to our kittens. Many people are not aware that the food they offer to their pets may be harmful. It is also imperative to know that usually after the fourth week, weaning kittens will try chewing on soft food and will continue to experiment different foods until their eighth or ninth week. By this time the nutrition in their mother’s milk will not be enough for their further development so feeding them with proper food will be a must. But what exactly shall we put in that cat bowl?

Types of food for kittens

1.    First of all, we should have the knowledge that cats are obligate carnivores. Therefore, they must eat meat to survive with hardly any vegetation, be it wet or dry food.

2.    The next important thing to realize is their sense of smell. If something smells good for a cat, she will eat it (even though this smell can be unpleasant for humans), otherwise she will not.

3.    Last but not least, make sure to know about the ingredients of their meal.

Let’s go through these things step by step.

Cat smelling flower

1.    There are two types of food available, wet and dry, and some of them are specifically made for dealing with dietary needs of kittens. These small cuties need proper meals including high protein and fat ingredients for their healthy growth and development.

Bear in mind that in the natural world cats tend to catch prey which are soft and moist rather than dry. Thus, kittens need wet food containing high-calorie meat and the best ones for this are the ones that come from muscle meat and organs. There are plenty of canned wet foods available, so make sure you choose the appropriate one. To help you decide, I recommend the following:

Fancy Feast

Fancy Feast cat wet food

Purina Pro Plan

Purina Pro Plan cat wet food

Friskies

Friskies cat wet food

Sheba Pate

Sheba Pate cat wet food

The daily meal should also contain dry food. Since it is quick, clean and easy to prepare, you may be tempted to give this kind of food all the time. Please remember that dry food can cause dehydration so if you want to keep your loved ones healthy, know the limit,  frequency, and portion of this type of meal. My recommendations:

Purina One

Purina One cat dry food

Wellness Complete

Wellness complete cat dry food

Meow Mix

Meow Mix cat dry food

Wellness Core

Wellnes Core cat dry food

2.    Regarding the kitten’s smell and taste, for the first trials I suggest you to buy only small cans of various flavors and let your little one decide which one she prefers. If she smells it but rejects to eat, do not panic, maybe that flavor is not her taste. My little Furball loved chicken wet food, but you can find many other flavors in the market. While choosing, keep in mind that the most appropriate and digestible one is poultry and rabbit. On rare occasions, you can offer fish and liver also, but make sure not to give it too often as it is not healthy in big portions.

3.    The ingredients of food you give also play big roles in the kittens’ life. If you stand in the supermarket choosing the very first meal for your kitten, and you cannot decide which brand to take from the plenty of them, first recommended thing to do is to read the label on the package. The first three ingredients must include meat and make sure to avoid the cans containing too much-added preservatives (these ingredients can be seen on the cans’ labels) and artificial flavoring. It is wise to choose a high-quality pet food product to ensure your small friend’s health.

Cat eating solid food

Raw food

In recent times, there is talk about feeding kittens and cats a completely raw food diet (since this is the best fuel for their digestive system) but this is only possible if you are extremely well versed in the preparation of such foods and are aware of the nutritional requirements for your pet.

For now, I would recommend that you stick to canned food and dry food.

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Water

Please keep the water bowl at least a feet away from the food bowl and make sure it is absolutely clean. Wash it every day, your kitten will surely love you for this.

If your kitten is being picky and refuses to drink tap water, I recommend you to offer bottled water for your fussy cutie. Some cats prefer running water. You can get high quality running water dispenser or water fountain almost in every pet shop.

Although cats are desert animals and do not like to drink water, if your kitten does not get adequate water then it is quite possible that she will end up having constipation and urinary tract infection. You must keep a bowl of fresh water available at all times because your playful kitten will need to quench her thirst regularly. Room temperature water is the most appealing for these small furballs.

Cat drinking tap water

Milk Myth

There is an evergreen myth that kittens and cats love cow’s milk. I think it is because of all the cartoons are showing cats enjoying a bowl of milk. However, the truth is that most of them are lactose intolerant and giving them cow’s milk can upset their stomach and lead to diarrhea.

The exception is only when you have a kitten that should still be weaning but unfortunately, the mother cat is not around. Then you can feed your kitten a specially made formula.

READ MORE ABOUT MILK

Can you give kittens milk?

Grass

I am sure you often wondered why do cats eat grass. One reason for this is that it contains certain nutrients that are not a part of your kitties’ natural diet. On the other hand, you can see these adorable animals regularly lick themselves which is a part of their grooming process, and this can often lead to hairballs in their stomach. They eat grass as it helps them vomit and remove the unwanted hairballs and worms from their stomach.

Since providing grass is a health issue for your loved ones, I suggest you to have some indoor greenery. There is a special kitty grass available in pet stores, or you can also opt for cat-friendly greenery, like thyme, sage or parsley.

Cat eating outside

READ MORE ABOUT GRASS

Why do cats eat grass?

Treats

There are times when we, cat lovers feel like giving something – a little bit more special than usual – to our little babies. These times do not happen only when we want to reward them for some good behavior or try to teach a trick, but ‘just because’. Please do not make the mistake and give treats any time your kitty attempts you for attention. If you do so, you teach your pussycat that anytime she wants to interact, it has to be only about food. Instead, provide treats immediately after your kitten does something favorable for you (for example instead of scratching your sofa, she uses the scratch post).

Pick treats with high protein and low-fat content. Do not offer food made for human consumption as treats because kitten treats are made, keeping in mind the vitamins and amino acid required of your kittens overall development.

Always place your treats in a place far away from the reach of your kitten and remember that treats should be given in very small quantities and definitely not during feeding time.

“Begging” for food at the table

Cats, especially kittens, tend to beg for food at the dining table.  They will meow at you, rub themselves to your leg or the chair or even jump up onto your lap, or the worst to the table. To avoid this situation, there are some tricks to discourage them begging at the table:

•    Never give food when you are preparing your meal.
•    Never feed on the dining table or on the dishes used on the table.
•    Never leave your food outside.
•    Do not let her on the dining table, not even once.
•    Ignore her while you have your meal.

It is the best to feed them right before you sit down to have your meal. If you fail with this trick, you still have the option to close them in another room until you finish eating.

Types of food to avoid

While you are aware what types of food to put in your lovely kitten’s bowl, you also must have knowledge of what types of food to avoid.

Here are some bullet points to know about:

•    Chocolate – it is toxic to cats, and anyway they cannot taste sweetness.
•    Egg white – it contains an enzyme which can destroy a basic vitamin in these pets’ body.
•    Foods with high grain content – it can cause gas.
•    Flavors with corn syrup and corn in other forms like ingredients which contain corn (corn gluten, corn meal, corn flour) are unhealthy for cats.
•    Ingredients like rice or rice flour, white or sweet potatoes, carrots or any kind of fruits are not appropriate.
•    The most common allergic ingredients: beef, milk, chicken, eggs, fish, soy, wheat and corn. Keep your eye on your kitten after feeding her food with these ingredients. If you notice nonstop itching, then your loved one most probably has an allergy.
•    Food with gravy is also a type of food to avoid.
•    Although cats love the flavor of tuna, it is recommended to avoid it as it is bad for their urinary system and even may cause cancer.
•    Any food packaged for people – it can be harmful to cats.
•    Try to avoid unspecified sources.

How much to feed kittens?

While it is enough to feed an adult cat twice a day, it is surprising, but kittens need to eat more frequently. The reason for this is that they have a tiny stomach and fast metabolism plus they need energy for growth and development.

Their meals should consist of mostly room temperature meat which gives them more energy and takes longer to digest. Please remember that kittens have small teeth, and it would be better to feed them almost entirely of wet food. They should not eat dry food, or if they do so, it should be a very little amount.

You may be quite confused at first how much to give the kitty, but there is an easy way to determine the right quantity. Just grab a spoon and offer a scoop of the wet food. If your kitten eats and eagerly starts smelling the bowl and looking around then offer some more. Using this simple method you can have a fairly accurate idea of how much your kitten wants. Do not worry about the portion and keep giving food until she walks away because cats naturally eat only until they are full.

Cat eating wet food

Loss of appetite

If your kitten refuses to eat at first, be patient, eventually she will come around and try it. If not, there are some excellent tricks available to get your lovely four legged friend to start eating. One of them is to flavor the offered portion with some fresh cooked chicken piece on the top. If this method does not work either, then you can still try to give another brand or another type of meat. If she still avoids the food area, it may be due to other reasons such as:

•    flavor of the food
•    a new type of food
•    unclean food bowl
•    stress
•    noisy area
•    new environment

Most of the cats like to have company while eating. So if you leave them alone, they also might refuse to eat the given portion. Keep them company and active attention.

Food to avoid - chocolate

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When to feed kittens?

The next question people usually have is how often and when to feed their kittens. First of all, you have to know that as your appetite is different from day to day, the same is applicable for your adorable kitty. So do not be surprised if one day she eats all the meals you offer but the next day she does not. Just make sure that your beloved kitty surely eats something within 24 hours.

Do not leave the food bowl out for more than 15 to 25 minutes and if your kitten hasn’t eaten all the food by that time, then the next time you will be able to judge how much food to offer. Even though your kitten eats quite frequently, you should never leave out food for her to “snack” on as it could lead to health issues and even if she leaves some in the bowl, take it away and serve it in the next scheduled meal.

The number of hours between the feeding times is not critical at all, just try to make it comfortable for yourself and predictable for your kitten. If you are unable to fix a proper feeding schedule due to school or work, then please leave dry food only along with water or get one of the automatic pet feeders for your pussycat.

Try to create a proper schedule according to the recommended meals. From the age of eight to ten weeks, they should have around five to eight small meals daily. This frequency constantly reduces with their age, like four to six meals till they get four months old and three or four till they reach the age of seven months. After all, by the time they reach eight months old they should have an adult cat eating schedule, one meal in the morning and one in the evening.

Where to feed kittens?

Choosing the right place to feed your kitten is absolutely important, and many people tend to pick a spot in the kitchen. While deciding on the best spot, just keep an eye out on your kitty’s body language, as they are extremely sensitive to sound, and there may be things that we overlook which could bother or scare them. If this did not help to choose, here’s what you need to consider before you decide:

•    Is it away from passages and hallways?
•    Is it away from noisy machinery?
•    Is it away from the kittens litter area?

If you have answered yes to the above questions, then it is quite possible that you have a suitable location for your kitten’s eating spot.

Cat eating in a quiet place
When to feed kittens?

What type of bowls to use to feed kittens?

This may look a bit silly question at first, but the shape of the bowl is a very important topic if you want to make your kitten feel comfortable and healthy. Feeding bowls come in a huge variety from deep to shallow or from plastic to stainless steel.

The most comfortable type for kittens is a wide and shallow bowl, and it also avoids your kitten’s whiskers from getting dirty.
While you may be tempted to use plastic bowls, know that plastic can cause allergies and sores on your kitten’s chin or tongue. So even for water, please avoid using plastic bowls. Glass is also available, but because it is breakable I would not recommend it. I suggest you to use a ceramic or a stainless steel bowl with a rubber grip as this type of bowl is easy to clean and won’t harm your kitten in any way.

Please remember that cats have a strong sense of smell. Always keep your kitten eating spot and bowls cleaned to avoid that disappointment that your furry friend refuses your food. Giving her wet food will mean that you have to clean and wash the food bowl regularly during the day or keep two separate bowls, one for wet and one for dry. If you do so, make sure to keep enough distance between them, because food pieces in water can be unappealing for your little kitty. In case you have more cats, the same thing is applicable, place their bowls at a pleasant distance from each other, so there is no competition.

Cat food bowl

NEED MORE HELP WITH BOWLS?

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and more useful tips about cat bowls:

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Final tips

By now, you should have a much better understanding of what do kittens eat and how much to feed them. Here is a recap of everything you need to know:

1.    Balance between wet and dry food.
2.    Provide plenty of clean water.
3.    Avoid giving milk.
4.    Provide proper grass.
5.    Offer treats in moderation.
6.    Feed before you eat.
7.    Avoid flavors with corn syrup, allergic ingredients, and unspecified sources.
8.    Determine the right quantity of a portion.
9.    Keep your cat company while she is eating.
10.    Give four to eight small meal per day and reduce the frequency by their age.
11.    Do not leave out the feeding bowl.
12.    Pick a quiet area as a feeding spot.
13.    Choose wide stainless steel or ceramic bowls.

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