There’s nothing quite like bringing home a new kitten. Aside from how utterly adorable they are, you also know that this new kitten is going to bring you endless joy as they become an integral part of your family.
However, raising a kitten is a lot of work too. You need to make sure your home is kitten-proof for one thing. You’ll also need to give them proper nutrition so they’re always as healthy as can be.
Let’s look at what this responsibility entails.
Plan on feeding your kitten four or five times a day
Kittens are snackers. Perhaps you can relate. They don’t just eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’d also appreciate a couple small meals in between.
These little snackers can double in size—or even triple in size—within their first month or so, which explains why they love a little meal here and there. This type of growth demands a lot of calories.
Below, we’ll cover actual snacks in a bit more depth.
Until they’re six months old, though, you can just leave their food out, allowing them to snack as they wish throughout the day.
Go with kitten food, not cat food
Growing kittens also have different nutritional requirements than their older comrades. If you try feeding them food for full-grown cats, their specific dietary requirements won’t get met.
As opposed to adults, fur babies need more minerals, vitamins, protein and amino acids. In fact, 30% of their energy should be coming from protein.
Do your research on a specific brand before giving it to your kitten. Some labels claim their food is good for cats of any age—this is never the case. Others may tell you that their recipe was formulated specifically for kittens. Go online to confirm feeding tests were done to support this.
Also, don’t try giving them a vegetable-based or vegan diet. That’s become a “trendy” option, but cats are carnivores, plain and simple. They don’t have the necessary enzymes for converting vegetable proteins into amino acids, so trying to force them to accept a vegan diet is dangerous.
Avoid “store brands” and opt for higher-quality
To make things easier on yourself, avoid store brands altogether. More often than not, they are low-quality options.
Instead, speak with your vet and, again, go online to do some research of your own.
Ideally, you want to pick a brand that has the following on its labels:
“Complete and balanced nutrition for kittens based on AAFCO feeding trials.”
This ensures you won’t have to give your little kitten supplements to meet their vitamin and mineral needs. It’s always best to avoid supplementation anyway, as too much can be bad for your kitten. Always speak with your vet before adding supplements to your little pal’s diet.
Canned food is preferable for kittens
Someday, your kitten will grow up to have an impressive set of chompers. Right now, though, they have tiny little teeth that may have a tough time with dry food.
You can mix dry food with wet food or just opt for the latter. Whatever you do, though, don’t give them only dry food or they’ll soon begin skipping meals.
Use this one simple trick for switching brands
There could be a number of reasons you end up switching the type of food you give your kitten.
Anyone who’s had to do this will probably have no shortage of horror stories to tell you about it though. Kittens are the definition of “picky eaters” and will often prefer hunger over eating something they don’t like.
If you’re switching brands, try simply offering your kitten the new version first. You may get lucky and they take to it immediately.
Of course, there’s a good chance your kitten will try sending their food bowl back to the kitchen.
The mistake most cat-parents make when this happens is mixing the two foods together, thinking they can facilitate a slow transition to the new kind.
Unfortunately, what typically happens is that your kitten will associate the things they don’t like about the new brand with the old one. Now they aren’t eating either.
Instead, present them with two bowls and split their meal between both brands. At first, they may simply skip the second bowl. Over time, though, they’ll most likely warm to it. Then you simply continue adjusting the portion size until, one day, you’re back to one bowl.
Avoid table scraps and other “human” foods
As we mentioned above, kittens love to snack. This doesn’t mean giving them human food, though. You especially want to be careful about not giving them:
- Raw meat or liver: they could contain harmful bacteria or parasites.
- Raw eggs: they might contain Salmonella. They can also interfere with absorption of vitamin B.
- Raw fish: it could also decrease vitamin B absorption.
- Milk: unless it’s from their mother, milk can cause diarrhea.
Simply because your fur baby will eat it—or even prefers it—doesn’t mean you should give in. Human food generally isn’t good for kittens.
Instead, get snacks and treats made specifically for felines. Also, never let snacks account for more than 10% of your kitten’s daily calories or they’ll soon be overweight.
Keep an eye on your kitten
Though it might seem a bit rudimentary a method, it’s important you keep a close eye on your kitten to ensure the food you’re giving them is doing what it’s supposed to.
Your kitten should be growing by leaps and bounds during that first couple of months. Speaking of leaps and bounds, they should be plenty active too. Kittens may enjoy a cat nap or two, but healthy ones are also tiny little balls of energy. They should be alert at all times and their coat should be clean and glossy.
Obviously, there are a number of reasons to keep an eye on your kitty, but definitely look for any signs that something is wrong with their development. If you notice anything, take them to the vet—you may find out their diet is to blame.
Once you get into a routine with feeding your kitten, it becomes extremely simple to meet their dietary needs and keep them healthy. Even going with high-end options won’t hurt your budget much if you plan ahead.