Kittens are essentially baby carnivores with specialized needs. Kittens naturally wean off their mother’s milk at around 8-12 weeks of age. When young cats are old enough (around 8 weeks old) they start to eat food on their own whilst simultaneously decreasing the amount of milk they suckle from their mother. Choosing the right foods for kittens is essential for promoting healthy growth and development. Kittens should have a different diet from adult and senior cats because they have specific nutritional requirements. Providing a nutritious, tailored diet for your kitten will maximize the chances of them developing into a healthy, active adult.

Neonatal kittens (under four weeks of age) cannot eat solid food (not canned, not dry) and cannot urinate or defecate on their own, so you must bottle-feed them around-the-clock and stimulate their genitals after every feeding so they can eliminate Skipping feedings or overfeeding can cause diarrhea, which results in dehydration, a condition that can be fatal for small kittens (not to mention a hassle for you to clean up after). Diarrhea requires a visit to the veterinarian.

Kittens grow fastest during the first stage of their life. Proteins and fat are essential nutrients for stimulating that growth. Do make sure you give them the correct proportion of proteins and fat, we recommend 32% protein and 13% fat. Proteins ensure healthy growth while fat gives the kitten the energy it needs to get enough exercise. Apart from giving them enough protein and fat, it is important to make sure the food does not contain any chemical preservatives and artificial scents, pigments and flavorings

What can a kitten eat?

Kittens start eating solid food — or, actually, soft food — at about 4 weeks old. A meat-based canned kitten food is ideal for this time. They’re still drinking their mother’s milk at this age and will typically continue to nurse as well as eat kitten food until about 5 or 6 weeks of age. After weaning, kittens do best on a diet formulated for kittens. Kitten food is more nutrient dense, supplying calories and nutrients in smaller amounts, easier for little stomachs to hold. Avoid adult cat diets labeled for maintenance; they don’t have the higher protein and fat content that kittens need. A dry kitten food should have about 35 percent protein and 12 to 24 percent fat content; canned food will appear to have less because it is diluted with water.

Of course, you want to provide the best possible home for your kitten which includes a healthy diet. A 6-week-old kitten can be fed both dry food (kibble) and wet food (canned). Their small teeth may still struggle with kibble, so it is a good idea to soak the kibble in lukewarm water at first. Yarrah Grain-Free cat food is very well-suited for kittens. The kibble is rich in protein and fat which is important for the kitten’s growth and health.

Skipping feedings or overfeeding can cause diarrhea, which results in dehydration, a condition that can be fatal for small kittens (not to mention a hassle for you to clean up after). Diarrhea requires a visit to the veterinarian.

A KITTEN-INSPIRED FEEDING CHART TIMELINE

  • If you have a kitten, or you’re looking forward to welcoming a new feline friend to your family, here is a timeline to help you decide what to feed your kitten as they grow:
  • 0-4 weeks: mothers usually take charge of feeding their kittens up to the age of 4-6 weeks. If you have a newborn kitten, which is not being fed by its mother due to illness or rejection, you can give your kittens newborn milk replacement formula. Newborn kittens need to feed frequently and they usually feed every 2-4 hours up to the age of 4 weeks.
  • 4-5 weeks: at this stage, most kittens are ready to start supplementing milk with solid foods. It’s a good idea to combine kitten food with milk formula during the transition period. Some kittens are more eager to switch to solids than others. If your kitten is reluctant, keep them topped up with formula to ensure they keep gaining weight and growing. Eventually, they will make the change when they are ready.
  • 6-8 weeks: at this point, your kitten should be fully weaned, and they should be more comfortable with solid foods. Choose wet and dry food that has been specially formulated for kittens, and always ensure there is a clean, fresh bowl of water available. Most kittens will eat 3-4 times per day at this age.
  • 8 weeks and beyond: keep feeding your kitten up to 4 times per day, opting for high-quality kitten food until your kitten reaches the age of 6 months old. You can reduce feeding to two meals per day when they are 6 months old.

Kitten Feeding

Daily weight gain is an indication that the diet is meeting the kittens’ nutritional needs. Weigh kittens at the same time daily, not only to ensure adequate weight gain but also to calculate the amount they should be eating with each feeding. Kittens should gain about ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) per week. Keep in mind that the younger the kittens are, the more accustomed they are to staying latched onto their mom’s nipple all the time and nursing small amounts periodically. Frequency is essential for digestion and allows the kitten’s digestive system to handle small amounts at any one time.  Additionally, the act of nursing stimulates digestion. If you notice a kitten not eating enough in one feeding, increase the frequency of feedings or go back to that kitten after the others finish eating to give it another chance to take more food.

GUIDELINES FOR BOTTLE FEEDING KITTENS:

  • Kittens must be warm, they cannot digest properly if their body temperature is low.
  • Combine 1 part powdered KMR formula to 2 parts water. (NEVER give them cow’s milk and keep them on the same formula.)
  • Kittens should eat 2 tablespoons or 30 ccs of formula per 4 ounces of body weight within a 24 hour period.
  • Feed kittens less than 2 weeks of age at least every 2 hours.
  • Kittens 2 to 4 weeks of age should eat every 3-4 hours. If they are sleeping for longer periods during the night, do not wake them to feed.
  • Feed weak kittens or ones not eating enough more frequently.
  • Some individual variations in frequency and amounts for each kitten may occur.

Effects of feeding to small kitten Teeth

Between four to six months of age, the permanent teeth appear and grow rapidly. Introducing kitten-specific chew toys and healthy chewable treats can alleviate “teething” issues – the global Veterinary Oral Health Council lists dental products that meet standards for safety and reducing plaque/tartar.

Bones and raw meat are not recommended as they can break teeth and cause constipation and internal blockages, raw bones also carry bacteria that can make both animals and humans ill.

If you do choose to offer bones to your kitten, these should always be raw and introduced gradually. The bone must be large enough so that the kitten cannot fit the whole bone in its mouth or swallow the bone whole; only some smaller bones are suitable for kittens such as raw chicken necks and wings. Never feed your kitten cooked bones as these can splinter, causing potentially fatal internal damage or intestinal obstruction. Always supervise your kitten when eating raw bones.

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