What is a normal eating pattern for a kitten?

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

16 August 2019

Once you’ve brought your kitten home, you may be wondering if their eating pattern is normal or even how much to feed them at all. With our handy guide you’ll be able to tell if your kitten has a healthy appetite or may need some intervention to make sure they get all their nutrients to grow into a healthy, happy adult.

Healthy eating patterns for kittens from newborn to one month

If you suddenly find yourself the new mother of a litter of kittens (for example if they’ve been rescued or the mother has died), you’ll have to the newborn kittens every few hours.
It’s very important not to use cow’s milk for your kittens. Instead, use specially formulated milk that you can get from your vet. Many pet stores also sell the milk formula. Follow the directions on the tin to make the formula and be sure to feed each kitten equally. In this way you will also notice if one of the kittens get ill or is struggling to drink.
Don’t worry if newborns seem to drink very little — healthy newborn kittens only drink between 2ml and 5ml of formula at a time and only about 15-31ml per day. This will slowly increase as your kitten grows and their stomach also grows bigger.
Kittens will start to eat solid food from three and a half to five weeks of age. Feed them small amounts of specially formulated wet kitten food at first.

Healthy eating patterns for kittens from 4 weeks to 8 weeks

Your kittens will now start weaning and they will start to eat more solid food. Keep them on the same specialised kitten food during this time and their first year of life to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need to grow up healthy and happy.
Your kitten will still need to be fed every few hours, but not nearly as often as when they were newborns. You can slowly change their feeding times until they routinely have four meals a day when they are 8 weeks old. Be sure not to overfeed them, though. Follow the portions on the food bag and don’t leave out dry food all the time, as they may overeat if food is always available.

Healthy eating patterns for kittens from 8 weeks to 6 months

Kittens usually go to their forever homes between the age of 8-10 weeks. Find out from the breeder or rescue centre what food your kitten has been eating and start them off in their new home by feeding them the same food.
You can then slowly transition to new food, if necessary, by adding some of the new food to your kitten’s current diet. Add some more of the new food and less of the old food as the days pass until they only eat the new food.
During the first weeks that you have your kitten, you will still need to feed them a few times a day. Because their stomachs are still quite small, give them only small portions at a time. By now they’ll eat both dry and wet cat food. Remember to always have fresh water available as well, especially if your kitten is eating a lot of dry food.

What is the best food for your kitten?

Your kitten has very specific nutritional needs with regard to vitamins, minerals, protein and more. To ensure that your kitten gets all the nutrition that they need, feed them food that has been specially formulated for kittens.
The kitten and adult cat food differs in their ingredients, as adult cats (that is, cats older than a year) have different nutritional needs. Your kitten will also be able to easily digest their kitten food.
After your kitten has been weaned, they will also no longer require milk. Cow’s milk, for instance, can also give your kitten diarrhoea, so rather stick to plain water.

Tips for feeding your kitten

  • Start to get into a feeding routing as soon as you get your kitten. This will ensure that your kitten gets all the nutrients and energy they need for the day in bursts instead of having meals that are too big. A good routine includes a morning meal and evening meal with smaller meals in-between.
  • Be sure not to leave wet food out for longer than 30 minutes. Dry food can be left out longer and it’s a good idea to feed your kitten dry food during the day by leaving out a portion of dry food while you are at work or school. You can also leave dry food out overnight for when your kitten gets hungry. In this way they won’t have to wake you up to get fed.
  • Switch slowly between different brands of food or even between different flavours of food. If you suddenly give your kitten completely new food, they may refuse to eat it. But, don’t worry, you’ll soon learn what flavours of food they prefer.
  • If you see that your kitten isn’t eating or eating very little, they may be feeling ill. Try to give them a small treat to see if they will eat that. If they still won’t eat, take them to the vet as soon as possible, as kittens can dehydrate very quickly and that can be life-threatening.
  • Medium- and long-haired kittens will throw up hairballs every now and then. Don’t worry when this happens, as it is normal. Kittens will also eat some grass to help them throw up the hairball. (You can even grow some pet grass or wheat grass for your kitten.) However, if they keep throwing up, take them to the vet to have them checked out.
  • If you leave dry food out, don’t just fill a bowl and leave them to eat whenever they want, as your kitten could potentially eat too much. Rather set out specific portions for them to nibble on. These portions are usually shown on the pack.
  • If you see that your kitten is still eating too much, you can get a food puzzle ball. In that way they get some exercise while “hunting” their food.

Photo by Danilo Batista on Unsplash


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