Bringing a kitten home to the family is not only an exciting time but can also be a stressful one. What food do you buy? How often do you feed them and does this change over time? When are they no longer kittens? Here are some handy facts and tips to help relieve the stress and to instead focus on providing love and attention to your precious feline.
1. Kittens need lots of little meals each day.
To cope with their small stomachs, and the fact kittens do not tend to overeat (unlike puppies), it is usual to allow kittens free access to food during the phase of rapid growth, or up to 5 meal occasions per day. As they grow and mealtime routines embedded, this reduces to 3-4 meals to the age of 6 months, then can reduce again to twice daily if desired to adulthood. Multiple meal occasions fit well with their natural preference to graze and snack feed throughout a 24-hour period to eat several small meals rather than a small number of large meals.
2. When is a kitten an adult?
Don’t let your kitten fool you into thinking they’re all grown up when they have reached sexual maturity (6 months), have all their adult teeth (8 months) or when they may be mistaken for an adult (9 months). While size and sex of a cat can influence the length of the kitten stage, kittens are generally not considered adults until 12 months of age when their energy requirements reduce to adult levels and reach or are close to reaching their full adult body weight.
3. Why do I need to feed kitten food?
Kittens have a higher nutrient requirement compared to adult cats. They require over twice the amount of protein and five times the amount of calcium and phosphorus as their adult counterparts. Kittens grow fast, so their demand for protein is higher to ensure they can synthesise tissue for their growing bodies. If they don’t receive an adequate amount of calcium and phosphorus, it can cause skeletal issues, tooth loss and lameness in growing kittens. So it is important to feed a kitten food that has been designed specifically for kittens (or all life stages) up to their 1st birthday. Complete and Balanced kitten food is specifically designed to ensure these additional requirements are included in the diet.
4. What happens if my kitten eats adult food?
While feeding a kitten adult food as a once-off will not likely cause illness or issues, continual feeding adult products during their growth stage can cause slow development and development issues, and illnesses caused by malnutrition. So even though you may not think your kitten is growing any further from the outside, there are changes still occurring inside body that are not apparent.
5. When do I transition my kitten onto adult cat food?
When your kitten reaches 12 months of age (note this could be up to 18 months for larger male cats), you may like to transition them to an adult diet. Just like when changing from one brand or format to another, it is important to introduce the new food gradually to minimise any upset tummies, digestion or negative food preferences. Most reputable brands recommend taking 4-7 days to gradually introduce the new diet.
6. What kitten food is recommended by vets?
As a minimum, always look for a specifically designed kitten food that is Complete and Balanced that has been substantiated as per the Australian Standard (AS5812). Products that contain quality protein sources that are highly digestible are recommended to ensure they are receiving adequate amino acids at the optimal levels, however significantly high protein foods (56% dry matter) must be supplemented with arginine to ensure the normal urea cycle function is not compromised.
Furthermore, highly acidic foods must be avoided as kitten urine pH is already lower than an adult cat and therefore will be at risk of metabolic acidosis (a painful kidney issue).
7. Should I make the switch to a raw diet for my kitten?
Kittens when fed a variety of formats, textures and flavour variants will be more prone to seek variety in their food as they grow older. Regardless of your food preference for your feline, always ensure the choice is Complete and Balanced so the kitten can get all the nutrition they need for optimal growth.