Your Cats Dietary Needs Evolve Over Time
As your cat moves through kittenhood, early adulthood, and beyond, his nutritional needs will change. Meeting those requirements at every phase of life sets the stage for good health.
Your first stop when choosing the right food for your cat? The nutritional adequacy statement.
Usually located on the back of the bag or can, this statement indicates whether or not the food is nutritionally complete and balanced for its intended life stage. The label will read, for example, formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO cat food nutrient profiles for all life stages.
Foods that arent nutritionally complete and balanced will usually be labeled for supplemental feeding only. These foods dont contain the appropriate balance of macronutrients and micronutrients and shouldnt be your cats sole source of nutrition.
While youre looking at the label, check out the feeding instructions as well. For the average house cat, the appropriate feeding instructions are usually already placed on the packaging of the cat food.
The nutritional guidelines on the package will point you in the right direction, though you may need to make some modifications to fit your cats exact needs.
Feeding Kittens Wet Versus Dry Food
Wet and dry cat food are commonly available in kitten formulations, and there are pros and cons to feeding each. To decide which option best suits your kittens needs, talk with your veterinarian and get their recommendation. Here are some pros and cons of each:
Wet cat food is higher in moisture, so it can be beneficial in keeping kittens hydrated, flushing out the urinary tract, and helping kidneys stay healthy. However, wet food tends to stick to the teeth more, which can be associated with dental disease and painful cavity-type problems for cats.
Dry cat food is easier to feed in mutli-cat homes and can help scrape tartar from the teeth. However, some cats can overeat with dry food and gain excessive weight, which can be associated with arthritis, heart problems, blood pressure problems, respiratory problems, or diabetes mellitusjust to name a few.
Why Its Important To Switch To Adult Cat Food
Kittens experience rapid growth and development, plus, theyre playful and have a lot of energy. Kitten food has higher calories and more protein and fat to support energetic, growing kittens.
Its also formulated with DHA to help support brain and vision development, plus vitamins and minerals needed for their developing immune systems.
Once they reach maturity, cats dont need the same amounts of those nutrients. Plus, theyre often less energetic, so eating a high-calorie kitten food could result in weight gain.
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When Can Kittens Eat Dry Food
Ensuring your kittens get the vital nutrients they need from their diet is essential for their growth and development. According to animal sanctuary and activism group Best Friends, kittens should be exclusively nursed or bottle-fed for the first month of life. Heres what a general feeding schedule should look like:
Weeks Four And Five Feeding Schedules
During weeks 4 and 5, a kitten will slowly increase how much food it consumes in a meal. Feedings will occur less frequently and a bowl of formula or other liquid kitten food should be made available for a kitten to start drinking from. By the end of week 5, a kitten should only be nursing three times a day but at each meal it should be consuming about 3 tablespoons of milk or formula.
A kitten should weigh about 14 to 16 oz. by the time it is 4 to 5 weeks of age if it is eating enough food. Towards the end of week five, you should be offering the kitten more food from a saucer than it is consuming from nursing. The food should graduate from being a liquid to eventually more of a gruel by using less and less water with canned kitten food over the course of a couple of weeks. This will be a messy stage of a kitten’s life since it usually ends up walking in the food, but it is a necessary step to begin weaning it off of its mother’s milk.
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A Nutritionally Complete Diet Is Crucial During Kittenhood
Remember that a nutritionally complete diet is crucial during the first 12 months of life. During these months, youre building the foundation for a lifetime of good health. A diet that is nutritionally incomplete or unbalanced could set your kitten up for serious health problems down the road.
An article on Mercola Healthy Pets illustrates this fact with the story of a 5-month-old Sphynx kitten who was fed exclusively raw chicken for the first several months of his life. As a result of this imbalanced diet, the kitten developed lameness and eye problems. By the time the kitten was adopted, he was suffering from osteopenia, a condition resulting from inadequate mineral density in the bones. Inadequate taurine had caused central retinal degeneration and lesions on one of his eyes.
Four months of inadequate nutrition may not have had such an obvious impact on an adult cat, but for a growing kitten, every meal is critical.
Kitten Food Should Be Rich in High-quality Protein from Real Chicken, Turkey, Rabbit, Or Other Animal-Sourced Ingredients.
As obligate carnivores, cats of all ages need a lot of protein.
Compared to middle-aged adults, kittens are more sensitive to both the quantity and quality of that protein. While adult cats need at least 6.5 grams of protein per 100 calories according to the AAFCOs nutrient profiles, kittens need 7.5 grams or more.
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 its 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.
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Protein And Fat: Important Nutrients In A Kittens Diet
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 flavourings. This reduces the risk of allergies and other health issues. All Yarrah food is 100% organic, which means it contains no chemical preservatives or artificial scents, pigments and flavourings.
Chicken And Cranberry Cat Treats
Cranberries are thought to help reduce the risk of UTIs by lowering the urinary pH levels and preventing bacteria from sticking to the system. Hence, adding some cranberries to a cat treat recipe can not only brighten your cats day but may also help to keep UTI at bay!
Prep time: 20 minutes
- 1 heaping tablespoon dried catnip
- 1 large egg
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What To Expect At Your Kittens First Vet Appointment
Take your new kitten to the veterinarian for a thorough checkup, which includes:
How And What To Feed Your Kitten
You will likely receive recommendations for a complete and balanced kitten food from your veterinarian or the breeder or rescue group from which you adopted your new pet. There are many dry and canned foods made specifically for the nutritional needs of young kittens.
Because your kitten is growing rapidly but still has a tiny tummy, shell need small, frequent meals. Create a mealtime routine that allows her to eat frequently throughout the day. When feeding canned food, discard any leftovers that have been in her dish for longer than 20 minutes. And leave clean, fresh water available at all times.
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Homemade Beef And Vegetable Soup For Cat
If your cat doesnt like the taste of chicken, a beef and vegetable soup will make for a good alternative. While this beef and vegetable soup for cats can be time consuming to cook, the long cooking duration ensures the nutrients from the beef bones are released into the broth to give your cat a health boost. If your cat still finds it hard to consume soup, we suggest pouring some soup over their favourite dry food. This ensures your cat licks up the soup while eating and will get used to the taste of the broth.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Can My Kitten Just Eat Dry Food
Once your kitten has stopped nursing, practiced eating solid wet food, and is at least six weeks old, your kitten can transition to just eating dry food. This food will need to be a dry kibble designed specifically for kittens. Dry food made for adult cats should not be fed until your feline is at least one year old.
Kittens under six weeks old who are eating dry food will need to have the food wet down with water or kitten formula.
This helps your kitten be able to chew the food until it has strong enough teeth to break apart harder food pieces.
Kittens under one-year-old have a different nutritional need than adult cats.
Kittens are growing quickly and are naturally very active creatures, especially when you compare them to adult cats who have reached maturity and tend to enjoy long naps in the sun.
This means that kittens need to eat more calories and have a boost of nutrients that older cats do not.
For this reason, it is important to feed your kitten a dry food designed especially for cats under one year old.
Finding dry kitten food is not usually a difficult task and is usually sold by the bag at most major stores or online on sites like Amazon.
The one below, for instance, is a particularly well-reviewed dry kitten food and is of the highest quality ingredients:
The size of the bag you buy will depend on if you have one kitten or many and how often you go to the store or are willing to purchase online.
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Feeding Your Kitten From Four Months Onwards
As your cat matures, maintain good feeding habits and avoid stress by letting it eat in peace in a calm place. Cats are natural grazers, and will eat 15 to 20 very small meals a day. Lots of cats will self-regulate their eating, so you can leave out the total recommended portion of food for the day and allow them to revisit their bowl.
If you choose to get your cat neutered, there is the risk theyll gain weight rapidly after the procedure as their energy expenditure reduces by 30%, yet their appetite increases by up to 26%. Choose a food thats specially formulated for sterilised cats, and which is appropriate for their breed and gender, and monitor their weight closely.
You should also consider your cats lifestyle when feeding them as an adult cat, from around 12 months onwards. Indoor cats with sedentary lifestyles need less energy than outdoor cats, so its important to give them an appropriate portion to avoid them gaining weight and suffering from connected health problems.
Setting up good feeding behaviours and providing your kitten with the right food for their needs can help them become a healthy and content adult. If youre not sure of the right way to feed your cat, get in touch with your vet for advice.
What To Feed Kittens At 8 Weeks Old
There are several different types food manufactured as a kitten diet at 8 weeks. Dry food is very popular because it stores well, is light, is low odor and not messy. But sadly, it can cause problems.
For the best food for kittens at 8 weeks we recommend wet food*. This is especially important for male kittens, as dry food can give them painful crystals in their bladder. The first you may know of this is when you see blood in the litter box.It wont affect every male kitten but we dont think it is worth the risk. There are lots of different types of kitten food on the market. It comes in cans, like the popular Purina brands shown above. And in pouches. Either is fine.
Look for a wet food that is specifically designed to provide a complete diet for a young kitten. Food for adult cats is not appropriate.
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Her Primary Kitten Food
Your kitten should be eating a good quality kitten food or a food labeled for all feline life stages. Even as you introduce her to other foods, this should be her primary food as too many changes can cause digestive upsets. Feel free to change flavors of food but remain within the same brand to maintain some consistency.
Offer Your Kitten Small Completely Dry Meals A Few Times A Day
When your kitten has mastered eating a mix of dry and wet food together, start offering small meals of just dry food a couple of times a day.
When first offering these meals, also offer separate small meals of soaked food.
This gives your kitten time to get comfortable eating bowls of completely dry food while still giving them something familiar to eat during the change.
When your kitten is easily eating the small dry meals, make them a bit larger and eliminate any wet food you do not wish to feed long term.
If you start the process of introducing your kitten to completely wet food around four weeks and build up to eating completely dry food, your kitten should be able to eat dry food by around eight weeks old.
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Potty Training Your 8 Week Old Kitten
Fortunately, litter box training a kitten is rarely a problem. Many kittens arrive in their new homes fully litter box trained and all that you need to do is to make sure that the kitten can easily access his litter box, at all times of the day or night.
As a precaution, its a good idea to use a litter that he is familiar with. You can always try out different types of litter when you are happy he is using his litter box reliably.
The Happy Cat Handbook – A unique guide to understanding and enjoying your cat!
Later, when he is older, hell be able to wait if he cant get at his litter box immediately, but for now, just make sure that the litter box is right where he can get at it, and you wont go far wrong
Youll find a complete guide to cat toilet training in our cat care section, and if the idea of not having to handle cat litter or poop appeals to you, check out our in-depth review of automatic litter boxes
Try Mixing With Wet Food Or Adding Water
If your kitten is used to eating wet food, then he may have some trouble adjusting to the drier texture or the taste of kibble. This is especially true if hes been getting the same type of food for quite a while. He might need a little coaxing to try something new.
Some veterinarians suggest if your kitten resists switching from canned to dry food, try sprinkling a little bit of dry food over the wet food.1 Gradually switch, adding more dry food to the mixture over time. If your kittens still resistant when its mostly dry food, add some water to the kibble to change the texture a bit. You can slowly decrease the amount of water over time.
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