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Just for Kids: Feeding Your Kitten

By: Virginia Wells

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Right from birth, food is critical to your kitten. She will feed on mom's milk until she is old enough to eat food on her own (weaned). This happens at around 10 weeks of age. She can start eating solid food at about 3 to 4 weeks of age, along with her mother's milk. Your kitty will have few teeth and a tender tummy, so a soft meat-based (canned food) diet is easiest for her to eat and digest.

When Weaning Ends

After your kitty is weaned, she needs a balanced diet that provides all the nutrients (energy, protein, vitamins, minerals) in proper proportion and amount. You can feed her either of two kinds: one specially made for kittens, which has plenty of nutrients; or a diet for "all stages" that can be fed to kittens and adults. Both diets will help your kitten to grow.

Foods made especially for kittens provide high protein and energy. Dry kitten foods contain about 35 percent protein, have a higher fat content, and are about 25 percent higher in calories than adult dry cat foods. If a food is labeled "100 percent complete and balanced for all life stages," it's okay to feed it to your kitten. Don't feed her a food labeled for "maintenance" because that means it is for adults only.

The food you choose should provide the following nutrients: calcium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, and thiamine. Essential fatty acids and taurine are especially important. A diet that has all nutrients but one, like zinc for example, could result in poor growth, skin problems or other deformities.

It Has to Taste Good

Your kitten likes food that is tasty. She judges her food by smell, texture and taste. If you feed her several different flavors, she'll probably not grow up to be a finicky eater. As your kitten matures, you can feed her a good balanced dry food along with some canned food. To make it easier to eat, you can moisten the dry food with warm water.

Try to feed your kitten the same way each time. Don't switch back and forth because she may get an upset tummy or diarrhea. Feeding canned and dry is fine, as long as it tastes good and is easy to eat.

Can You Overfeed?

When your kitten is very young, up to 3 to 4 months, it's almost impossible to overfeed her.

  • At 10 weeks of age, your kitten needs about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of dry food, or 8 to 9 ounces of canned food.
  • At 4 to 6 months of age, your kitten's daily requirement for energy is closer to that of an adult cat (70 to 80 kcal/kg body weight), as growth of body tissues slows down.
  • Between 8 months to a year of age, most kittens reach adult body size and weight. The daily food requirement at adulthood is about 1 ounce of canned food or 1/2 ounce of dry food per pound of body weight.

    Has Your Kitten Lost Her Appetite?

    You should be primarily concerned with feeding her a high quality, balanced diet. If your kitten is playfully frisky, you and she are doing just fine.

    If your kitten doesn't eat for 48 hours, consult your veterinarian. If symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or fever accompany a lack of appetite, see your veterinarian immediately. Your kitten may be very sick.

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