According to the 2019 PDSA Animal Wellbeing report, a little under a quarter of the British population have a cat. The report estimates the cat population to be 10.9 million in the UK. Cats are among the most popular pets, with dogs. As a result of their independent temperaments, many cats are left to their own devices from a young age, coming back to their owners when they need food and cuddles.
Experienced cat owners are equally happy to adopt an adult cat or a kitten. On the other hand, new pet owners have a strong preference for kittens. They are soft, fuzzy, cuddly. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why kittens are such a popular choice. However, despite the natural independent character that most felines have, kittens rely on their owners to grow into healthy adult cats. For inexperienced cat owners, the abundance of choices in cat food can be overwhelming. Your choice in cat food, however, is detrimental to the health of your kitten. Gastrointestinal diseases are among the most frequent feline complaints that vets in the UK treat. An upset stomach can be the result of a variety of things for an adult cat. In kittens, however, stomach complaints are frequently caused by inadequate cat food for kittens. They can have dramatic consequences at an age where a cat is still growing and needs plenty of energy.
Choosing the right cat food for your kitten can avoid many health scares. Besides, helping your kitten grow strong and confident is the best way to strengthen your bond.
Can a kitten eat regular cat food?
At birth, a kitten weighs about 100 grams. However, by the time you adopt a kitten, between 6 and 10 weeks, it will weigh approximately 1 kilo. The feeding regimen is, therefore, detrimental to their weight gain and growth. As a rule of thumb, kittens gain about 15 grams each day during the first 8 to 10 weeks of their lives. During the first weeks, kittens rely essentially on their mother’s milk for their calorie intakes. Foster cat parents who take in kittens that can’t be fed by their mother know that cat’s milk formula is specifically designed to target their needs. Typically, however, unless your vet says differently, kittens are to be looked after by their mother until they are ready for adoption. As a result, most cat owners are unaware of the feeding needs of young kittens.
In the UK, kittens can be adopted when they reach 8 weeks of age, by which point they have been eating solid food for several weeks. While you don’t need to worry about providing a replacement for their mother’s milk, cat owners need to support their kittens’ ongoing growth. Kittens can increase in weight until they are almost 1-year-old, after which, additional weight intake will not be part of the growing process. Therefore, kitten food needs to take into account their growth-related needs. In terms of calories, a 10-week-old kitten will need 250 kcal of energy per kilogram of body weight per day. For comparison, the adult cat needs approximately 70 to 80 kcal per kg of body weight for the same day. In other words, adult cat food is unlikely to meet the growth requirements of kittens. While feeding your kitten adult cat food is not toxic; it isn’t sufficient to maintain a healthy growth rate. Kittens require special formula food until they have reached maturity at age 1. Cat food for kittens is, therefore, higher in calories than adult cat food. If you already own an adult cat, vets warn against the considerable calorie intake when feeding them kitten formulated food.
What can kittens eat?
Kittens begin to eat a mixture of solid food – whether dry or hard – when they are about 3 to 4 weeks of age. For new cat owners, the process of getting used to solid food would have already happened by the time you adopt your pet. You, therefore, don’t need to worry about the weaning phase for kittens. Kitten fosters, however, will work through this stage with the advice of a vet to gradually move young kittens to consume solid food that is suitable to their baby teeth.
Cats have a reputation for being picky eaters. Adopting a kitten means being able to find not only suitable cat food for kittens but also palatable food. The first year is the perfect opportunity for cat owners to expose their kittens to a variety of food flavours to keep the diet as diverse and enjoyable as possible. Kitten-focused food can be either dry or wet. It needs to contain all the nutrients and calories to support growth:
- High levels of protein to increase body mass
- High levels of calcium, phosphorous, zinc, iron, magnesium for healthy bones and teeth
Vitamin C and vitamin E to help their developing immune system
Introducing healthy routines such as favouriting dry food and kibbles for dental care can happen during this stage. Kittens have, however, small teeth, so it may be helpful to soak big kibbles into lukewarm water first.
Is kitten food necessary?
Kittens need plenty of energy, which is why cat food for kittens is higher in protein and energy density as adult cat food. Dry kitten food, for instance, contains approximately 35% to 40% crude protein, as well as 20% to 25% of healthy fats. Comparatively, dry adult cat food should not contain more than 33% to 35% protein, and 12.5% to 19% healthy fats. Specially formulated cat food for kittens supply the nutrients a growing body requires until maturity. Your kittens wouldn’t be able to gain healthy weight and develop their bodies from adult cat food.
Additionally, adult cat food is typically designed to prevent weight gain. You should always consult your vet before choosing cat food for your kitten to ensure you don’t miss essential medical conditions that should be catered for by food. With healthy kittens, pet owners can focus on food that includes healthy proteins, high levels of vitamins and minerals for bones and teeth growth and immune system strength.
Choosing the best cat food for kittens can be tricky for new cat owners. Kitten food should provide for high energy and growth needs, which is why adult cat food isn’t suitable for a growing kitten. Dry food is an ideal choice as it can help protect your kitten’s teeth and introduce healthy dental care habits.
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