Kittens Need Different Food From Adult Cats

Feeding your kitten a nutritionally complete diet that is tailored to their specific needs is vital for supporting healthy development and laying the foundation for a healthy future.

As kittens are growing rapidly, and their digestive and immune systems are developing slowly, they have very specific nutritional needs that are different from adult cats. In particular, kittens need a diet with a higher energy and protein content, plus nutrients that support the immune system and the right balance of vitamins and minerals.

Why Your Kitten’s Diet is So Important

To help your kitten grow and stay healthy, it’s vital to provide food suitable for their age, lifestyle and specific nutritional needs. They need the right balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Only a well balanced diet will provide essential amino acids such as taurine, which cannot be synthesized by the body.

Birth to 4 Months

During this intense growth period, kittens need a diet rich in antioxidants to help build their immunity. They’re ready to wean at four to eight weeks and, initially, their food should have a very soft texture to help them move on from mother’s milk.

4 to 12 Months

Your kitten’s digestive and immune systems are strengthening but still fragile. Their growth rate and energy needs begin to slow, but they still need easily digestible food designed for developing kittens.

Adult Cats

Once your kitten is 12 months of age, you can slowly switch to adult food. An adult cat’s nutritional needs depend on factors including their breed, activity levels, and whether they’ve been spayed or neutered. It’s worth getting advice from your vet about switching to the right adult food at the right time for your cat.

Nutrients for Healthy Growth

There are a range of vital nutrients that your kitten needs during the first months of life to grow and develop into a strong, magnificent cat. Kitten diets must provide enough energy and quality proteins to support growth, strengthen the immature immune system, and be easily digestible. ROYAL CANIN® diets are nutritionally balanced to offer a complete tailored diet to meet the needs of kittens of all lifestyles and breeds.

Your Kitten’s Feeding Schedule

How much should my kitten eat?

Before bringing your kitten home, check the food they're used to and the quantity they're fed daily. Any sudden dietary changes can upset your kitten's stomach and they'll adapt more easily to their new home if their food's familiar. Keep an eye on your kitten's weight to ensure they're neither losing weight nor becoming overweight – both of which can cause health issues. Follow the recommended feeding quantities on your kitten's food packaging and contact your vet for advice if you're concerned about their weight or growth.

What's the best kitten feeding schedule?

  • Self-service - This is the most natural style as, when cats have free access to food, they usually eat several small meals a day – as many as 16 in 24 hours. It's suitable for kittens who can eat dry food and aren't overweight or likely to overeat.
  • Fractioned feeding - This is when you feed your kitten at specific times during the day. It's not as well-suited to their natural grazing tendencies, so it's best to divide their overall daily ration into smaller amounts offered several times a day.
  • Combination feeding - For this feeding method, you provide kibbles on a self-service basis and wet food at set times. If you use this approach, it's important to control the amount of food provided overall to prevent your kitten becoming overweight.

Do kittens need less food after sterilization?

After sterilization (neutering or spaying), a kitten's appetite tends to increase but they also become less active. Without careful management of their diet and exercise, this can lead to them becoming overweight. Ask your vet for advice on adjusting your kitten's diet after sterilization. You may need to switch to a food designed for kittens that have been sterilized, so you can provide the same quantity but fewer calories.

Create the Right Environment for Feeding Your Kitten

Cats are very sensitive and a variety of factors can create food aversion. They prefer to eat somewhere calm, out of sight, and with an easy escape route, and don’t like their food bowl being near their litter box. Keep your kitten’s food bowl away from their water bowl, too, to prevent the water becoming contaminated with food. And create their feeding area away from your own dining area so they’re not tempted to nibble at your meals.

Events such as strangers arriving, arguments, changes in lighting, and sudden noises may all affect how much your kitten eats, so keep disturbances to a minimum.

What are food puzzles?

Keep your kitten’s water topped up and change it at least daily to keep it fresh. Wash water bowls daily, too, to prevent them from getting dirty.

What are the benefits of food puzzles for kittens?

Even when cats are well fed, they still have a strong hunting instinct and food puzzles tap into this. They can benefit your kitten's physical health by encouraging them to be more active. And they can improve their mental wellbeing and prevent behavioral problems by reducing the boredom, frustration, and stress often caused by an indoor life.

How Much Should My Kitten Drink?

Cats generally need to drink around 60 ml or 2 oz per kg of body weight – either by drinking or through their food. The temperature, your kitten’s exercise levels, and their physical condition affects how much they need to drink, as well as their diet. A kitten fed dry kibbles (which contain around 10% water) will drink more than one fed with wet food (which contains around 80% water).

Make Sure Clean Water is Always Available

Keep your kitten's water topped up and change it at least daily to keep it fresh. Wash water bowls daily, too, to prevent them from getting dirty.

How to Encourage Kittens to Drink

  • Using glass, porcelain, or metal bowls – many cats don't like the taste of water from a plastic bowl.
  • A wide, shallow bowl filled to the brim so your kitten can keep an eye on their surroundings while drinking.
  • Letting your kitten drink from a water fountain or tap – some prefer running water.

Why Can Mixed Feeding be Good for Kittens?

Mixed feeding is when you feed your kitten a combination of wet and dry food – either at the same meal or at separate meals. It can help to provide balanced nutrition and offer a variety of other health benefits, too. A cat’s dietary preferences are influenced by the routines established in their first year. So it’s good to offer your kitten a variety of foods early in life, while always introducing new foods gradually. An ideal time to start mixed feeding is between the ages of two and three months.

  • Hydration: Canned wet food can provide a significant portion of your kitten’s recommended daily water intake.
  • Palatability: Our wet formulas are designed to be highly appealing to the fussiest of kittens.
  • Weight Management: Wet food’s high moisture content means you can serve a larger portion for the same number of calories.
  • Dental Hygiene: Dry kibbles can help to keep your kitten’s teeth clean thanks to the brushing effect on their teeth as they chew.
  • Natural Grazing: Providing dry food to nibble on throughout the day enables your kitten to follow their natural instinct to eat several small meals daily.

Any sudden changes in diet can cause digestive upsets and may make your kitten wary of their food. So it’s important to introduce new foods slowly during a week-long transition – whether you’re switching to adult food, changing products, or introducing mixed feeding.

Brought to You by Royal Canin