Kittens are baby cats, without proper nutrition they will not grow and develop properly. Sadly the minimal standards in pet food nutrition do not even come close to what a kitten truly requires. As such many of the kitten foods available in stores are not actually good quality for your young kitten.
First we should understand that kittens should be with their mother, receiving her milk until at least six weeks of age, ideally eight weeks. If for any reason a kitten is removed sooner it should receive proper kitten milk replacement, cows milk is not suitable and can make your kitten sick.
While a kitten is still with its mother, the mother should be fed a proper kitten food; the kitten will learn to eat by watching her, and testing her food. She should have dry food available all the time, and canned should be offered at least twice a day. At about five weeks of age the kittens will start eating the food on their own and can eat dry food by six weeks, they should not be removed from their mom until they are able to eat the dry food on their own. Canned food can be offered to them on a plate, it should be the pate type of food and can be mushed up even more with a fork.
If the kittens are removed and go to different homes they should be kept on the same food they were raised on, at least for one week. After this they can be switched to another kind of food, but the switch should be made gradually.
What is a Good Kitten Food?
As mentioned earlier, many available kitten foods are low quality, meeting only minimum standards in nutrition. The problem of poor quality ingredients is more noticeable in dry foods which usually make up a larger portion of a kittens diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat meat. The trouble is many pet foods use a lot of filler, corn, and other things that might look good on the package, but serve no nutritional value to felines.
Corn should never be in the top three positions on an ingredient list of a kitten, or cat, food. The top ingredient should always be a good meat source. Chicken meal, turkey meal, or lamb meal, are often considered the best. By-products should be avoided too, they are of lower digestibility and are preserved with Ethoxyquin, a chemical pesticides. BHT and BHA are lower quality preservatives, cheaper than Vitamin E, which is preservative used in the better foods.
In canned foods owners should watch out for, and avoid, feeding any foods with chunks in gravy. Gravy is a carbohydrate, thus it is of no nutritional value to kittens, and is fattening. Fish should be avoided too, stick with chicken, turkey, and lamb. Beef is okay, but not as gentle on their stomachs. The main concerns with fish are mercury level, and calcium content, which contributes to urinary tract problems as cats get older.
As a rule grocery stores, department stores, discount stores, and so on, do not sell quality pet foods. Any food you see commercials for is not a good food, the money is going into commercials, not nutrition. Even veterinarians are not always up to date on what is a quality food, often selling foods for companies that pay them to do so. A wise owner will read labels and shop at smaller independent stores, or even livestock feed stores. Better foods may cost more per bag, but the kitten will get more nutrition in every mouthful so will need to eat less, and will poop less too!
scared feral kitten
How Much to Feed a Kitten?
Kittens should have access to dry food all the time and be fed a small amount (a table spoon at most) of canned food three times a day. This can be reduced to twice daily after the kitten is three months of age, or can be continued if the kitten is thin. After six months the kitten can have canned only once a day. At one year of age, they can be switched to adult food. If the kitten is getting chubby, is indoors only and less active, it may be switched to adult food earlier.
How to Feed a Kitten?
Stay away from plastic bowls. They can contain bacteria and are the leading cause of kitty acne. Instead use stainless steel, or ceramic, bowls. The dry food and water can be out all the time. When feeding canned food, do not mix it with the dry food. Instead put the canned food in its own bowl or on a plate when your kitten is very young. Remove uneaten canned food within twenty minutes. As your kitten becomes a cat, you may want to mix water with its canned food to make a soup, this will help maintain its urinary tract health. Eventually you may want to only offer canned food at night, or your kitten may start waking you up early to get its canned food.
Can Kittens Have Treats?
We all like treats, but be careful not to over do it or you may make your kitten sick. Feed only kitten treats, not dog, or people, food. Avoid feeding the milk replacement treat, it has no nutritional value, and of course, never give your cat milk or dairy products as they are hard on kitties tummies. Treats can be used to help your kitten to bond to you, and to teach it its name.
Hopefully this guide will have been helpful to you and your kitten will grow up nice and healthy as a result.