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November 7, 2022 |0 min read

Your Kitten and Food: When, What, & How Much

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Caring for a kitten is an incredibly exciting time for both you and your furry family member as you both adapt to your new life together. While there are endless play sessions and cuddles to look forward to with your new kitten, there also comes a tremendous responsibility of making sure you are supporting their needs and overall health as they grow and develop into a fully-grown cat.

Navigating the right cat food choices and creating an appropriate feeding schedule can be one of the trickiest tasks of becoming a new cat parent. Read on to learn more about when can kittens eat dry food, how to choose the right types of food for your kitten, calculating appropriate portion sizes, and establishing a consistent meal schedule that will help you support your kitten's overall development and  well-being as they grow.

What Is a Healthy Diet for a Kitten?

Kittens grow and develop the most rapidly within the first six months of their lives. During this fast-paced growth period, there are different types of food that your kitten will need, depending on their age and the various forms of food they can digest due to their development. So, how much dry food should you feed a cat or kitten?

Here is an average timeline that entails what your kitten should be fed based on their age:

  • Newborn to 4 weeks old — Newborn kittens in their first 4 weeks of life should be kept with their mother cat to nurse if at all possible. If the kitten has been separated from the mother, they can be bottle fed with a feline milk replacement formula.
  • 3 to 4 weeks old — You can start to wean the kittens and offer wet food, with warm water mixed in if it needs to be softened further.
  • 5 to 6 weeks old — Kittens will begin to have their baby teeth coming in, and can continue eating wet food.
  • 6 to 8 weeks old — You can start to offer kittens dry solid food, with warm water mixed in if  needs to be softened further.
  • 2 to 10 months old — Kittens should be eating a diet of wet and/or dry cat food, formulated specifically for kittens.
  • 10 to 12 months old — Kittens around 10-12 months old are nearly full-grown and can start transitioning to a diet of wet and/or dry adult cat food. 

How Many Calories Per Day Does a Kitten Need?

For precise information about what your kitten's ideal calorie intake per day should be, the best option is to visit your veterinarian and discuss your cat's health with them. Considering your kitten's specific body type, breed, gender, sterilization status, and any health conditions or concerns, your vet can let you know how many calories your kitten should consume every day, and help you tailor a personalized meal plan for your cat.

On average, these figures show the number of calories your kitten should be consuming each day based on their body weight:

  • 8 oz — 52 kcal
  • 12 oz — 88 kcal
  • 1 lb — 104 kcal
  • 2 lbs — 162 kcal
  • 3 lbs — 225 kcal
  • 4 lbs — 272 kcal
  • 5 lbs — 327 kcal
  • 6 lbs — 369 kcal
  • 7 lbs — 418 kcal
  • 8 lbs — 457 kcal
  • 9 lbs — 504 kcal
  • 10 lbs — 541 kcal

What Is a Healthy Serving Size for Kittens?

To determine an appropriate serving size for your kitten's meals, you should take their daily total calorie intake and divide that number by the number of meals you will be feeding them throughout the day. Kittens typically do well with at least three meals every day, but you can spread out smaller, more frequent portions across as many as six meals. Compare the number of calories per meal you calculated with the nutrition label on the packaging of your kitten food to determine how much of that food should be measured out to serve your kitten at mealtimes.


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What Kind of Food Should You Feed Your Kitten?

Kittens have a unique set of nutritional needs they must derive from their food to support their rapid growth and development. Because of this, choosing a food formulated specifically for kittens is important because these foods will contain higher levels of protein, fats, and the essential vitamins and minerals that they need for healthy body and brain development. Kitten food is also more calorically dense than adult food, because kittens require a lot more energy as their bodies develop into that of a healthy fully-grown cat during the first year of their lives.

Just like adult cat food, kitten food is available as both wet canned food or a dry kibble. Each type has its benefits, with wet food supporting proper nutrition and hydration all-in-one, and dry solid food being more cost-effective and shelf-stable. Whether you're planning on feeding your cat one over the other, or a combination of both, this is the perfect time to introduce your kitten to each one.

Train Your Kitten to Try a Variety of Foods

Cats can be notoriously picky eaters, but if you are raising them from the time they are kittens, there are a few things you can do to help them expand their palate from an early age. This can be incredibly helpful in making sure your cat doesn't get too attached or dependent on one particular brand, flavor, or type of food. An extremely picky cat may refuse to eat anything other than their preferred meal, which can become a problem in the future if, for example, the usual cat food you purchase is out of stock or discontinued, or if your cat's dietary needs change and require a different type of food.

To deter your cat from becoming a picky eater, you can try introducing them to a variety of different flavors and textures starting in kittenhood. Not only can this help you discover what your kitten does and doesn't like, but it will help your cat get used to many different types of food from an early age. One way you can do this is by offering your kitten a rotating menu of a few flavors. You may also try a combination diet of both wet kitten food and dry food, if you would like your cat to learn to accept both types to reap the benefits that both diets have to offer.

How to Transition a Kitten to a New Type of Food

Planning on changing cat food? Any time you are making a change to your cat's or kitten’s diet, the change from one type of food to another should be made slowly and gradually over the course of at least one week. Transitioning to a new food too abruptly can upset your cat's digestive system, often leading to uncomfortable symptoms for them such as vomiting or diarrhea. Here's how you can smooth this transition for your cat by introducing new foods slowly:

  • Days 1-2: Start by mixing about 25% of the new food with 75% of your cat's current food.
  • Days 3-4: Mix about 50% of the new food with 50% of your cat's current food.
  • Days 5-6: Mix about 75% of the new food with 25% of your cat's current food.
  • Day 7: Feed your cat 100% of their new food.

When Can Kittens Start Eating Adult Cat Food?

Most cat breeds are fully grown by the age of one year. Veterinarians will typically suggest making the gradual switch from kitten food to adult cat food around this time, as your cat's body will no longer need the elevated amount of calories, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals that kittens need while their bodies and minds are developing at a rapid rate. As a fully-grown cat, your feline's diet will transition from one that supports explosive growth to one that is designed to maintain the proper levels of nutrition necessary for an older cat.

Summary

Selecting the right food and maintaining a healthy feeding schedule are both important parts of taking care of your new kitten. With proper diet management in serving them wet or dry kitten foods at the appropriate intervals during their first year of life, you are setting your feline friend up for success and helping them grow and develop into a beautiful, healthy, full-grown cat. By your cat's first birthday, you can choose a high-quality adult cat food like PrettyPlease for them to transition to and maintain their ideal weight and overall health and well-being.



Sources:

  1. "Feeding a Kitten: Schedule, Calories & Feeding Chart." Chewy.https://be.chewy.com/how-much-to-feed-your-kitten/
  2. "Feeding Schedule for Kittens." Pet MD.https://www.petmd.com/cat/centers/kitten/nutrition/evr_ct_kitten_feeding_schedule
  3. "Kitten Food vs Cat Food: What's the Difference?" Pets Radar.https://www.petsradar.com/advice/kitten-food-vs-cat-food
  4. "How to Transition Your Cat to a New Food." Pet MD.https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/lhuston/2013/aug/how-to-transition-your-cat-to-new-food-30701

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!