Choosing the best diet for your kitten
Posted December 05, 2018
Kittens have very
specific dietary needs in order to grow into healthy, active adult
cats. As carnivores, all cats need more protein than many other
pets, but kittens also require a variety of nutrients to provide
energy for growth and development.
Dr. Deb Zoran, a professor at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has advice for
kitten owners on choosing acceptable diets for kittens.
At birth, kittens rely on their mother for everything,
especially nutritious milk. If a kitten is separated from its
mother, it needs a suitable milk replacement.
Zoran said the best option is to find a foster queen, which is a
different mother cat who will accept and feed the orphaned kitten.
If this is not possible, commercial kitten milk replacers are the
next best option.
“Cows, goats, dogs, or other milk sources may actually induce
diarrhea and won’t have the needed nutrients, especially amino
acids, that kittens need–they are very different from other
species,” Zoran said.
After a kitten is about 2 to 3 weeks old, owners can start
looking for the signs that a kitten is ready to begin the
transition to solid food.
“Most kittens can start to eat small amounts of wet food after
their eyes are open and they are starting to move around well on
their own,” Zoran said.a
Until the kittens are about 4 weeks old and weigh at least a
pound, they will still need the milk or milk replacer in addition
to any wet food.
“The wet food can be introduced by placing small amounts on a
plate or saucer. It needs to be warm, not hot; cold foods do not
have a good odor and are less likely to be accepted,” Zoran
She also suggests pureeing wet food at first and gradually
offering it in a more solid form.
“Dry kibble should not be offered until kittens are at least 6
weeks of age and should not be fed as the sole food,” Zoran said.
“Wet food has more protein and more water, both of which are very
important for young kittens.”
Once a kitten is fully weaned from milk, Zoran advises choosing
a kitten food with more than 50 percent protein and less than 10
percent carbohydrates. She said that kittens can develop diarrhea
if they are fed a poor quality food or a food with too many
Looking at the first five ingredients on the label can help
owners determine whether a food has too many carbohydrates; the
ingredients on a label are listed by weight, so those listed first
are present in the greatest amounts.
An appropriate kitten diet should not have a carbohydrate source
listed in the first five ingredients, but, instead, should have
water and protein sources, according to Zoran.
The name of a kitten food can also help with determining if it
is a good option. For example, Zoran said a food named “chicken and
rice” would indicate that it is high in carbohydrates.
In addition, she said, “The food should say on the label that it
is complete and balanced for all life stages or for growth.”
Although providing a good diet is only one aspect of caring for
a kitten, it is a very important one that sets a kitten up for a
long, healthy life. With good nutrition, a kitten will quickly grow
from a sleepy newborn to a strong, playful young adult cat.
Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be
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