By Ashley Gallagher, DVM
Even though it's quite exciting, having a new kitten in the house can be exhausting. Pet stores can be overwhelming given the endless aisles of cat toys, cat treats and cat foods to choose from to make sure there are no deficiencies or excesses. Start by discussing the diet you intend to select with your veterinarian to ensure it is balanced and specially formulated for your growing kitten. Here are some other tips to help you and your kitten start off on the right paw.
You want a kitten food from a pet food company that has undergone AAFCO feeding trials. This means that the specific formulation of the diet has been fed to cats to make sure there are no deficiencies. Many pet food companies make up their food based on a recipe and never feed it to actual cats before sending into the stores. The better pet food companies invest in scientific research and consult with veterinary nutritionists to provide a food that is completely balanced without any imbalances in nutrients that may be harmful for your kitten’s development.
Kitten food should be higher in calories than adult food to compensate for how much energy kitties expend by growing, not to mention all that playing. About half of the calories they consume are spent on tissue growth and development. It is important that the amount of food they are eating provides an adequate amount of nutrients to help them develop properly.
Offer your kitten a mix of canned and dry food early on to get them used to the different textures. Medical conditions that they may develop later in life such as diabetes or kidney disease may use canned food as part of a treatment plan. If they have never been offered canned food before some cats refuse to switch from kibble.
The ingredients in your kitten's food (and how they are balanced) are vital to the development of your kitten. For instance, a kitten’s nervous system is dependent on the essential fatty acid DHA. Kitten diets should have a higher amount of this than adult foods to make sure the brain, eyes and ears all develop properly.
Keeping your kitten at a healthy weight is crucial to lifelong health. Underweight kittens may not develop properly while kittens that are overweight are at increased risk of being overweight adult cats. This can lead to diseases such as arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Your veterinarian should evaluate your kitten’s body condition score at each visit to make sure you are on track with nutrition.