Like all babies, kittens grow and develop at a breakneck pace. They are learning new things every day, finding new ways to get into trouble, and bonding with you. Their little minds and bodies need specific support. Picking the bet kitten food is vital to support their growth.
Because of their speedy rate of growth, their nutritional needs are different from a grown cat. Just as we do not feed our human babies the food that we eat, kittens require a specialized diet.
Cat food and kitten food are different because of the vast differences in nutritional needs between an adult cat and a baby kitten.For example, the recommendation is that kittens get food with 30% protein while adult cats are recommended to get a minimum of only 26%.
Kittens also require a different calcium to phosphorus ratio (1.0 to 0.8) while grown cats can have a ratio that is nearly identical between the two nutrients. Likewise, kittens need almost double the Vitamin A that an adult cat would require in their diet.
Kittens who do not get the proper balance of minerals may develop hyperparathyroidism, for example. Pet nutritionists recommend against feeding a homemade diet unless that diet has been formulated by a professional. In addition, do not add anything supplemental to your kitten’s food without talking to a pro first.
Ready to find out the best food for kittens?
The “science” in the name illustrates the method for formulating this food. It was developed specifically for indoor pets, as they have a slightly different set of dietary needs than kittens who are allowed outdoors. Lean proteins and added fiber, along with an antioxidant blend of Vitamins A, C, and E make this a well-balanced kitten food. Many owners credit this food with better digestion which makes cleaning the litter box at least a little more pleasant. Veterinarians and animal professionals often choose this brand for their own practices.
Using real meat is a hallmark of Blue Buffalo, and it is always the first ingredient you will see on the list of ingredients. The dry food contains the usual vitamins and nutrients needed for kitten development, including fatty acids DHA and ARA, which aid in brain and retinal development. Blue Buffalo also includes its exclusive “Life Source Bits” are a precise combination of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals selected by holistic vets and pet nutritionists and are designed to support immune system health and more.
Purina has a solid reputation in the pet food industry for a reason and this kitten food seems to be no exception. Because they have been in the market for so long, they have a leg up on developing foods that address each specific stage of development. The first wet food on the list, real meat is its prime ingredient. It also contains DHA as well as other essential nutrients to foster healthy growth and keep your kitten active and fit. It is also formulated with immune-supporting vitamins and minerals. Kitten owners report that their cats love it and eat it without hesitation.
If you want your kitty to go paleo, at least the feline version of it, this is a good choice. It contains no grain, no corn, no soy, no wheat-gluten, no artificial preservatives, no meat by-products, and no artificial colors or flavors. It does still contain the necessary nutrients to meet necessary calorie levels and probiotics to aid digestion. It is well-balanced to promote healthy and appropriate weight gain. One other potentially attractive aspect of Wellness Core is that their foods are made in only in the USA.
Gluten reactions aren’t just confined to humans; cats can also have an allergic reaction. For this reason, grain free foods have become more prevalent in the pet food market. Similar to Wellness Core above, this grain free wet food also no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and features actual meat as a main ingredient. Blue Wilderness wet foods come in a variety of textures, from flakes to morsels to the typical pate style, so even the most finicky cat should be able to find something to like.
Choosing a kitten food is going to be a personal decision based on the needs of your cat and yourself. Any decisions should also be made with input from your vet or pet nutritionist, as they are the experts. They will also have heard from other pet owners, so they will be able to give you an idea of what to expect. Keep in mind some that what works for one kitten, may not be best for a different kitten.
Look for a kitten food that has undergone Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) feeding trials. Nutrient profiles are not the same as feeding trials. A nutrient profile means that it meets standards on paper, which does not guarantee that the food has been given to live animals.
Pro Tip Dry vs. Wet food: Wild cats prey is approximately 70 percent water and dry cat food only has 10%. In contrast, wet food has 78%. Cats on dry food may become dehydrated and have health problems like renal failure.
Also, keep in mind when doing research that more-established pet food companies are typically the ones investing in third party research. They often consult with experts and work hard to ensure proper nutritional balance in their food, companies will even cater for sensitive stomach cat food. You won’t have to dig deep or investigate to get the information that you need because they will be upfront with what they are offering in their products.
If you want your cat to get enough water, they need to drink about a cup of water per ten pounds of body weight each day – and more during the hot months. Feeding a cat dry food is fine but you must always make sure they have access to plenty of water to supplement the hydration needs.
Kittens usually depend on their mother’s milk for the primary food source for the first several weeks of their lives. If something has happened to the mama cat, the kitten will (hopefully) be bottle fed until it is developed enough to eat on its own.
Realize that a kitten is very similar to a human baby; it has to learn what it likes and dislikes. The only way to figure this out is trial and error. Use the guide to find foods with the right nutrition levels, and age-appropriateness, and then buy single cans of a variety of brands. Once you find out what makes the kitten purr when you open it, you’ll know you have hit on the right flavor.
The inclination may be to go for the cheapest food, because you know you will be buying it in bulk. However, keep in mind that the cheaper the food the higher the probability that the quality will match the price. This isn’t to say that that you should go out and buy the most expensive food because it must be the best, because that isn’t the case either.
If you have taken on the responsibility of a kitten, you should be looking for the food that will be most beneficial to the kitten. Some brands do offer different “levels” of food. Purina, for example, has several different sub-brands. Find out what your kitten likes, and then buy dry or wet food accordingly to your budget.
Not all wet foods are equal; they come in a variety of styles. Pate is probably the most familiar to most people. This is the mushy, semi-solid form of wet food. In recent years, pet food companies have branched out and now offer different textures as well.
There are morsels, which are chunks of meat in a gravy. Wet food may also come as flakes, usually with a chicken or fish flavor because of the natural flaking tendency of those meats. Minced or cuts is another texture often found when the food consists of two meats.
As with pretty much everything when it comes to kittens, figuring out which texture your kitten prefers is trial and error. Most kittens prefer the softer pate when they are youngest but switch to liking flakes or morsels as they get older and their teeth develop.
Pro Tip: Never feed your kitten chocolate, grapes, raw eggs.
Experts estimate that a 5-pound kitten should receive about 200 kilocalories (kcal) a day. However, a typical 10-week old kitten could need as many as 100 kcal per pound of body weight. This could be dependent on the level of activity and whether or not the kitten is indoor or outdoor.
A wellness checkup at your vet should provide you with a general guide to start your kitten’s nutrition off correctly. When it comes to food, you will need to check the labels to see the kcal level, because this is one area where all kitten foods are not equal. What seems to be the more nutritious food may not meet caloric intake requirements, leading you to need to supply more food to meet your kitten needs.
You can see how this could become pricey. Do your research and have everything for your kitten firmly in mind before purchasing any foods. Being informed will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run.
Dry foods for kittens provide all the nutrition they need. Dry food is often easier to store and serve and can be easily brought along on family trips. Dry kitten food is also generally less expensive. Cats who eat dry food do have a slightly higher risk of dehydration so be sure to give you cat plenty of water and pay attention to his or her behaviors.
- Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Cat Food – Kitten
- Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Natural Kitten Dry Cat Food
- Hill’s Science Diet Dry Kitten Food – indoor
- Purina Pro Plan Kitten Dry Cat Food
Some companies claim that they will also help with your kitty’s dental health as the cat crunches the hard bits of food. However, there is no evidence to support that and cats don’t really chew as much as they tear and swallow.
This is an ideal dry kitten food to promote healthy growth. It is one of the most balanced and complete formulas available for kittens. Many brands claim to be grain-free, but this one is guaranteed to be 100% grain-free. This could save you vet bills in the future, because you will already be avoiding any potential gluten allergy complications. Long-term users report that some ingredients seem to have lessened in quality over recent years.
- 100% guaranteed grain-free
- Multiple formulas to address different life stages
- Ingredient lists are not consistent across formulas
- Can be pricey
Quality at a reasonable price is one of the most attractive aspects of this food. There are formulations for the various life stages. The high levels of protein help kittens’ muscles become lean and strong. The special formulation for indoor cats provides the boost of energy they need. Exclusive LifeSource Bits included in the foods may turn some cats away due to the added textures and flavors.
- Different formulas address each life stage, allowing you to stick with one brand of food
- Contains Blue’s exclusive LifeSource Bits
- Some cats do not the like the flavor and texture of the LifeSource Bits
- Can also be on the expensive side
A favorite of professionals, this premium cat food is consistently at the top of most “best cat/kitten food” lists. The formulations are usually well-balanced, and cats seem to like the flavors. Their antioxidant and vitamin blends earn high marks as well. There are no additives, but some of their proteins are from questionable sources.
- Sometimes called the “caviar” of cat food.
- Helps with digestion, smells and gas.
- Specifically formulated for the lifestyle of indoor cats.
- No moisture in dry food means ensuring your kitten has plenty of fresh water
- Protein levels are supplemented by soy protein, which could cause GI issues
This dry kitten food is made with 41% protein and real chicken is the first ingredient. This is one of the few kitten foods that actually has live probiotics as well, which contribute to the health of your kitty’s GI tract. The vitamins and minerals included in the formula add shine to the fur while nourishing the skin. In short, this food can pamper your kitten both inside and out.
- High protein content
- Live probiotics
- Reasonable price for a good product
- Not grain-free
- Flavors are often strong, which could be a problem for finicky kittens
Generally, cats seem to prefer the flavor and consistency of a wet diet. Cats who eat wet food are eating a diet much more like what they would get out in the wild. This is because in the wild, cats are entirely carnivores.
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness Wild Delights High Protein Grain Free
- Purina Pro Plan Focus Kitten Canned Wet Cat Food
- Hill’s Science Diet Wet Kitten Food
- Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Kitten
This is considered somewhat of a gold standard when it comes to wet food for kittens. It is formulated to mimic the diet of a cat in the wild, so special attention is given to all of the lesser known vitamins and minerals, like taurine, that a growing kitten requires. It is made 100% in the U.S.A., and the quality is extremely high. Unfortunately, the quality comes with a price, as this is one of the most expensive foods you will find.
- Closely mimics a “natural” feline diet
- Focus on nose to tail nutrition
Purina rarely disappoints, and consistency is one of their strongest assets. Their wet food contains real meat and vegetables, giving your kitten a well-balanced diet. The formulas also ensure that the proper levels of protein and fat are reached. Purina prides itself on its flavor profiles, which is a double-edged sword. Some kittens may like the strong flavor, but others may turn their noses up.
- Purina has a solid reputation in the pet food industry
- Less expensive than some other specialty foods
- Some owners complain about digestive issues
- Flavors can be limited, and kitty might get bored eating the same thing
Just like the dry food, Hill’s Science Diet Wet Food is used widely in veterinary offices due to the balance and nutrition it provides. They generally use real meat as their main product, but also use protein by-products to supplement. This could cause allergies or GI issues in some cats. Additionally, they use a lot of vegetables, which some cats flat out will not eat. However, if you are looking for a well-balanced, complete wet food, this is a good choice.
- Reliance on chicken, which is a high-protein meat
- Extremely well-balanced nutritional aspects
- A bit pricey
- Contains vegetables; fussy cats may not like it
Unlike many of the other wet foods, which tend to be pate for kittens, Royal Canin comes in small, thin slices in gravy and is formulated for easy digestion. Adventurous kittens will love that they can chew it. It contains fiber, probiotics and proteins that are easy on the fragile kitten stomach. However, some owners say their cats don’t care for its flavor.
- Often recommended by vets
- Holistic benefits for complete wellness, inside and out
- Some cats won’t like that they have to chew so much
Your kitten has different nutritional requirements from an adult cat. They need more calories, more protein and different amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. Just as a human infant needs breast milk or formula while it is small, kittens need a specialized diet.
Your kitten should eat pet food because it is specifically formulated to be nutritionally balanced. However, they can have certain human foods in moderation as a treat. A few that are OK for cats are:
- Deli meat
- Cooked eggs
Yes. It most certainly can. Keeping it sealed, out of the sun and heat and in a cool, dry place will help to keep it fresh. Never feed your pet expired food. Be careful to read labels. When you buy new food, do not mix it with old food as you will not know how old the food really is.
Many people underestimate the importance of hydration in their cats but it is every bit as important as their food. If a cat eats wet food, he or she will get a good deal of their H2O from their food but they still need to drink.
On average, your kitten requires 2-4 ounces of fresh water. That is in addition to his food but a cat that is fed dry food will definitely drink more. Therefore, it will depend a great deal on your pet and his or her food and eating habits. Leave a fresh, appealing bowl of water out for your cat to drink at will.
When your kitty is either one year old or your vet recommends it. Try and transition them slowly over a 7 -10 day period. Put some adult food in with the kitten food and increase the amount each day until he or she only eats adult cat food.
Kitten food is necessary for the first year of life because it gives the kitten so many extra nutrients and calories. Choosing a kitten food may prove to be a journey that requires some experimentation but the most important thing you can do is to watch your kitten closely for signs of health and happiness. Just as you would with a growing human child, pay attention to your pet’s development and raise any concerns that you may have with a professional.