Choosing the right food for your kitten is an important decision. Nutrition supports her growth, development and can even affect her behavior.
Giving her high-quality kitten food now will help support many long, healthy years as an adult cat. If you’re a first-time cat owner, choosing the right food and knowing how much to feed and when is a daunting task. We’ll help you understand what to feed and when to help set you and your kitten up for success.
What Do Kittens Eat?
Newborn kittens get their nutrition from their mother through nursing. If separated from their mother, a kitten milk replacer may be used. The weaning process may begin around three to four weeks of age, at which time more solid foods can be introduced.
Kittens need a complete and balanced diet formulated to meet their unique growth and developmental needs.
Look for a protein-rich kitten food to support her growing body and high energy. Calcium supports her teeth and bones and DHA helps support healthy brain and vision development.
Can Kittens Drink Milk?
Once a kitten has been completely weaned from her mother’s milk, she does not need milk in other forms.
Although cow’s milk is often appealing to kittens and adult cats, it doesn’t contain the nutrients they need and cannot replace a complete and balanced diet.
When Can Kittens Eat Dry Food & Wet Food?
As kittens begin to wean, they can start to nibble (and play with) solid foods. Starting with wet kitten food or moistened dry kibble will help through the transition.
Start by combining one part of warm water and three parts of dry or wet kitten food (it should look like oatmeal). Over the next two weeks, gradually decrease the amount of water and increase the amount of food.
By six to eight weeks, kittens can eat wet or dry cat food at will. With wet food and/or dry food, you can provide a greater variety of flavors and textures, which will help support her adventurous nature. You can also feed a combination of wet and dry food or dry kibble by itself.
Once your kitten is fully weaned and eating solids, choose whichever option is recommended by your veterinarian and works best for your situation.
Above all else, make sure the wet or dry food you choose is specifically formulated for kittens.
How Much to Feed a Kitten
Now you know what to feed a kitten, but how much should you feed her? The kitten feeding guide on the back of the package will tell you how much to feed your kitten.
If you’re feeding dry kibble, you can put an entire day’s serving out at once or divide in half and feed her twice a day.
You can also divide wet food in half and feed her twice a day. Any leftovers in her bowl should be discarded. You can store an open can of wet food in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Bring it up to room temperature before serving.
The chart below can help you determine how much to feed your kitten. Refer to your kitten’s food packaging and consult with your veterinarian to ensure your kitten is getting the correct amount of calories each day.
Kitten Feeding Chart
Feeding charts are required on all kitten food packaging, but they don’t all look the same. Pay close attention to the chart on your kitten’s food label to ensure you’re feeding her the right amount based on her age and weight.
Here’s a sample kitten feeding chart, similar to what you’ll find on kitten food labels:
|Age||Weight (lbs)||Dry Food Amount (cups)|
|6 weeks||2/3 to 1-1/3||1/4 to 1/3|
|7 weeks to 5 months||1-1/2 to 5-3/4||1/3 to 1|
|6 months to 1 year||5-3/4 to 12||2/3 to 1-1/4|
Note: Amounts listed above are for a 24-hour period. Kitten feeding amounts vary from product to product based on calorie content and formula. Consult the feeding chart on the back of your kitten’s food packaging. Individual needs can vary, so consult with your veterinarian regarding special dietary needs.
When to Feed a Kitten
Once you know what to feed your kitten and how much, it’s time to create a feeding schedule that works for you both.
Use your kitten’s name when feeding to help her learn her name, while also associating you with a pleasant activity.
Creating a routine and feeding her at the same time each day can help your kitten feel secure and will aid in forming a bond between you two that will last for many years to come.
You can feed your kitten one to three times a day, as long as you don’t give her more than her total daily calorie needs.
For example, you can put dry kibble in her bowl in the morning and she can graze throughout the day. If a twice-a-day schedule works better, give half her daily amount in the morning and half in the evening.
Same for wet food or a combination of wet and dry food. Just make sure the wet and dry food combined meets the total amount of calories she needs in a day.
When to Stop Feeding Kitten Food
Kittens grow fast and before you know it, you’ll need to switch to adult cat food. For most cats, this transition should happen around her first birthday.
Large breed cats like Maine Coons, however, take a little more time to mature. They may need to continue eating kitten food until between 18 months and 2 years of age.
Your kitten’s first year goes by fast, but ensuring she's getting the right nutrients during this time will help support her in the years to come.