Everything You Need to Know About Feeding Your Kitten


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Belinda Stancombe

What your kitten eats in the first year of life has a direct effect on their growth, skeletal development and immune system. It also influences their risk of developing obesity later in life.

Kitten food has the right balance of energy, protein, fat and calcium to help your kitten develop properly and is highly digestible which is good for sensitive little tummies. Depending on your kitten's breed and size they will need to stay on kitten food from 9 to 15 months of age.

Our vets have put together this helpful guide with everything you need to know about feeding your new kitten!

Everything You Need to Know About Feeding Your Kitten

Choosing The Right Food

When it comes to choosing a diet to feed your kitten, it is important to keep two things in mind. Firstly, kittens require a diet that has been specifically formulated for their life stage. These 'kitten' diets contain optimal levels of key nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals to support their rapid growth and development.

Secondly, the chosen diet must be complete and balanced. Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores which means they have an absolute requirement for animal protein as well as certain amino acids such as Taurine. In general, you can assess whether a diet is complete and balanced by looking for an AAFCO statement (The American Association Of Feed Control Officials) on the packaging or on the manufacturers website.

Premium diets such as Hills Science Diet, Royal Canin, Advance and Pro Plan offer a range of benefits over cheaper supermarket brands. These features include high digestibility and high quality ingredients, which promote optimal growth and development.

Should I Feed My Kitten Wet or Dry Food, or Both?

Both wet and dry food offer individual benefits for cats. We generally recommend feeding a mixture of both.

Advantages Of Dry Cat Food

1. The mechanical action of chewing kibble helps to clean the teeth and reduce tartar formation

2. More cost effective

Advantages Of Wet Cat Food

1. Helps with hydration

2. May help prevent medical issues such as urinary crystals and kidney disease

3. More palatable

Mixed feeding from an early age will help to discourage your kitten from developing strict dietary preferences and allow you to feed a range of diets. This may be important if they need a specific diet for a health condition during their life.

How Much Should You Feed Your Kitten?

Up until the age of about 5 to 6 months it's recommended to split your kitten's daily feeding amount into 3 separate meals. After this age, they can have 2 meals per day. Kittens need to eat more frequently than adult cats, after all they only have tiny little stomachs!

The ideal feeding amount will vary from formula to formula and depends on your kitten's age and weight. To work out how much to feed your kitten, consult the feeding guidelines on the food packaging and use this as a starting point, adjusting the amount up or down depending on your kitten's needs. If you need help or aren't sure how much to feed, check with your veterinarian or Ask a Pet Circle Veterinarian.

How To Introduce a New Food

When you first bring your kitten home you should start by feeding the food that they were eating at their previous home. Suddenly changing a kitten's food can result in tummy upsets and diarrhoea so it should be avoided. Over a period of one to two weeks you can gradually transition your kitten across to the new diet of your choice. To begin with, you should feed your kitten three to four small meals a day.

Here's what we recommend:

Day 1-2: Mix 25% of the new food with 75% of the old food

Day 3-4: Mix 50% of the new food with 50% of the old food

Day 5-6: Mix 75% of the new food with 25% of the old food

Day 7 onwards: 100% new food

Which Bowl Is Best?

While it may be tempting to use any old container that you have at home, it is best to invest in a safe, pet approved bowl. This is especially important if you have a kitten in the house as cheap plastic can easily break and can be dangerous if swallowed.

Choosing the right bowl for your pet is more than picking out your favourite colour. Factors like material, design or functionality are important too!

Ceramic Cat Bowls are heavy and offer greater stability than a plastic or stainless steel bowl however be careful not to drop this one! If your pet has a habit of tipping over their bowl or has difficulty keeping it still, this could be the solution you're looking for. Try to avoid purchasing an unglazed ceramic bowl as it is highly porous and will require regular scrubbing to get rid of any nasty bacteria.

Stainless Steel Cat Bowls have earned the title of "vet favourite" as they are easy to keep clean and disinfect. Stainless Steel bowls are sturdy, durable and safe.

Plastic Cat Bowls are generally a more cost effective option than ceramic or stainless steel. High quality plastic is quite durable however can be difficult to keep clean as scratches from general wear and tear can become a breeding ground for nasty bacteria.

Interactive Toys: Consider ditching the bowl and go for an interactive toy instead. Toys such as the KONG Wobbler and Lickimat make your pet work for their food while providing environmental enrichment, to help keep your kitten mentally stimulated and avoid boredom.

Shop All Cat Bowls

When To Transition Your Kitten To An Adult Diet

Most kittens need to be fed a kitten food until they are 9-12 months of age. For most cats, the '12 months' rule applies, but some cats (particularly those who were desexed early) may start to become a little pudgy by 10 months, and these kitties may benefit from a swap to adult food earlier than 12 months.

However, large breed cats such as the Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cat generally require a kitten diet for up to 13 - 15 months.