Kittens are rapidly growing and developing, so their diet is hugely important. It is also necessary for them to have a different nutritional balance to their adult counterparts. Kittens need food that is very high in energy and protein, alongside the correct balance of vitamins and minerals, to ensure optimal growth and development. Their bodies are growing, but they are also developing their immune systems, their nervous system and brain and many other vital functions. They also have a requirement for various amino acids, some of which, like taurine, cannot be manufactured by their body and therefore are an essential component of any diet.
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When do kittens wean?
Kittens will naturally wean between four to eight weeks. Their first food will ideally be soft and palatable to help ease the transition from milk. Kittens are growing quickly at this age so need a diet high in protein and healthy fats.
What should my kitten eat?
Before your new kitten arrives home with you, it is useful to have checked what food they were weaned onto and have some of this ready at home, even if it’s not the diet you want to use long-term. Sudden changes in diet can cause digestive upsets. It is best to get your kitten happily settled in their new home and then gradually change their food over the course of 4-5 days if you wish to.
A complete kitten diet is recommended: this can be wet, dry or a combination. High quality diets will have the correct balance of energy and protein, with added vitamins and antioxidants for growth and development.
How much shall I give them?
The specific amount will vary depending on the exact diet you are feeding, so always check the quantities listed on the packaging. These are just guidelines, however, so the best thing to do is to keep track of your kitten’s weight and condition and adjust the amounts accordingly.
Most kittens will self-regulate their food intake, especially if on dry food. Cats are natural grazers and so may eat up to 15 small meals in each 24 hour period! Free access to a complete dry kibble is therefore a common feeding strategy for kittens – just set out each morning the amount they need for the day and leave it available.
If your kitten is on a wet diet, or is prone to over-eating, fractioned feeding may be more appropriate. This is when you give the kitten set meals. Remember: they are grazers, so multiple small meals are better than one large. Care must be taken not to overfeed if using this technique.
Cats can be quite particular in their ways, and so it is good to give some thought as to where they eat, as well as how much. A quiet area is best, away from their litter tray and busy household areas. Cats also prefer their water away from their food so that it doesn’t become contaminated.
Can kittens have milk?
Giving cats a saucer of milk is a very traditional treat – but actually, completely unnecessary! A complete food, alongside unlimited fresh water, is all they require once weaned. Some cats struggle to digest the lactose content in milk once adult, so it is usually best avoided.
Help! My kitten is always asking for food!
First, check their weight and condition – a veterinary surgeon or nurse will be able to advise you on this if unsure. If they are underweight, increase their food intake as they may well be hungry.
If your kitten is growing well and a good weight, don’t be tempted to feed more even if they pester you. They will become overweight which can lead to many health issues. Try splitting their food into more meals if they don’t have free access to graze. Puzzle feeders are an excellent way of slowing down their eating and providing some stimulating entertainment at the same time.
To sum up:
There are a huge variety of kitten diets available, and the choice and amount to feed can be overwhelming. Look for a good quality complete kitten food, remember to always change over between diets slowly, and use package guidelines alongside your kitten’s weight gain to judge the correct amount.
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