Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

Five Tips for Feeding Kittens

August 07, 2015 / (1) comments

Good nutrition is essential if a kitten is to live a long and healthy life. The following five tips are key to getting kittens started off right.


1. Do Not Wean Too Early


For the first four weeks or so of life, mother’s milk should be a kitten’s primary source of nutrition. It is ideally suited to meet a kitten’s needs and contains antibodies that help protect them from potentially deadly infections. Kitten milk replacer is available but is not ideal.


At around four weeks of age, kittens should start eating solid food. Canned kitten food is the best option to start with. Over the next four to six weeks, kittens will naturally eat more solid food and drink more water as they mature and their mother limits their access to milk. By eight to ten weeks of age, kittens will only be eating solid food and drinking water.


2. Feed Kitten Food


Kitten foods are more calorie-dense than are foods designed for adult cats, and the differences don’t stop with calories. Kitten foods also have more protein, more of certain types of amino acids, and more calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, and vitamin D in comparison to adult cats.


Kittens are at risk for nutritional deficiencies if they eat foods designed for adult cats. High-quality kitten foods also contain optional ingredients to optimize development (e.g., docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important for eyes and brains).


3. Variety is Key


Cats can develop strong dietary preferences at an early age. These preferences include texture (dry versus canned) and flavor. Many owners prefer to feed dry food because it is cheaper and more convenient in comparison to canned foods.


While many cats appear to do quite well on a dry diet, canned foods are superior when it comes to preventing and/or treating several common feline health problems, including obesity, chronic kidney disease, lower urinary tract disease, and diabetes mellitus.


If you choose to feed a primarily dry diet, I recommend you regularly offer canned meals to keep all of your options open in the future. It also doesn’t hurt to alternate between several high-quality canned and dry foods so that cats don’t become “addicted” to a certain flavor or formulation.


4. Feed Multiple Small Meals


Cats are built to eat multiple small meals throughout the day and to work hard to catch those meals. While it is tempting to simply leave food out all the time, this puts many kittens at risk for obesity.


An automatic feeder that dispenses small amounts of food at set times throughout the day is a simple way to increase the frequency of your cat’s meals. Place the automatic feeder as far away as possible from your kitten’s favorite resting place to encourage exercise.


5. Watch Weight After Spay/Neuter Surgeries


Research has shown that cats want to eat more after they have been spayed or neutered. At the same time, their caloric needs are declining—perhaps as a result of the surgery or simply because their growth rate is naturally slowing. This is a dangerous combination when it comes to maintaining a healthy body weight.


Keep a close eye on your kitten’s body condition and adjust the amount of food you are offering accordingly. After your kitten has been spayed or neutered, ask your veterinarian when he or she recommends you start offering a food formulated for adult cats. 




Dr. Jennifer Coates



Image: Ljupco Smokovski / Shutterstock

Comments  1

Leave Comment




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.