What you need to know about your kitten’s nutrition

Congratulations, you’ve just adopted a new little kitten! Now comes the hard part, choosing a diet for your new bundle of joy. While selecting a kitten food is probably seemingly straightforward, there’s also a few other things to consider when feeding your kitten.

Key Nutritional Factors for Kittens
There’s a few Key Nutritional Factors that we need to consider when feeding kittens. One is what growth phase they are in, as kittens have three growth phases; nursing, post-weaning and then after neutering/second growth stage. Kittens will nurse from their mother until they are around four to six weeks of age. They then enter a post-weaning phase where they are eating mainly soft foods until around four months of age where they will begin to eat kibble and more textured foods. At around 9 months of age, kittens growth begins to slow down and this usually coincides with neutering – for this reason, a neutered diet may be considered to avoid excess weight gain during this final phase of development where the kitten reaches their adult weight.

Key Nutritional Factors from post-weaning to adulthood (Source: Small Animal Clinical Nutrition)

What else should I consider?
It’s important to be aware that milk is not a suitable food for kittens once they are weaned. Cow’s milk should never be given as this is nutritionally different from their mother’s milk, contains high levels of lactose and can cause digestive upset. As kittens are weaned onto solid foods, their ability to digest lactose decreases dramatically which is why most cats will become unwell if fed milk.

Another interesting area of consideration is something called the ‘immunity gap’. When the kitten is weaned and no longer receiving their mother’s milk and antibodies, the immune system is still immature – there is a gap where the body’s own immunity doesn’t kick in immediately after the mothers antibodies wear off. This is called the immunity gap and this is often where kittens can become sick. So it’s important to consider how the post-weaning diet will support the immune system; this doesn’t just mean supportive vitamins. There’s a growing body of evidence on the benefits of prebiotics to the microbiome and how this relates to the immune system. We populate our microbiome with the food we eat, and we also indirectly feed the microbes in the gut when we eat. So, when looking for a kitten food, a source of prebiotic fibre (ingredients such as psyllium husk, chicory root, FOS, MOS etc) is extremely beneficial to the kitten’s overall health and immunity.

How often should I feed my kitten?

I am frequently asked how many meals a day you should give your new kitten. This depends a little bit on the kitten’s age and if they are getting soft or dry food; if giving dry food, placing a measured amount in their bowl and offering it free choice throughout the day is usually best. For wet only diets, small frequent meals are preferable. The amount of meals depends on the pet’s energy requirements; once you’ve calculated how many calories your pet needs (you can use Pet Nutrition Alliance’s Calorie Calculator), you simply need to divide this by the foods kcal per cup or grams. You can then further divide this into meals – for example, if the daily amount is 3 cups, you can feed 1 cup morning, noon and night. There is no set requirement for how many meals your kitten needs.

Still confused? Leave your questions on kitten care and nutrition below!