Proper feeding is essential for promoting healthy growth and development. Feeding a kitten is different from feeding an adult cat because kittens have different nutritional requirements. On top of that, they grow so fast that you'll need to keep reevaluating the amount of food to give them. For first-time kitty parents, this can be stressful. So, we've put together a simple feeding chart below to help you raise a healthy, happy cat.
This article is not meant to be a piece of medical advice. The following information is for educational purposes only. Please be aware that each kitten is an individual. Please seek veterinary advice if your kitten has any special dietary needs or has a reaction to a standard kitten diet.
Kitten feeding chart
A kitten’s weight will double or even triple during the first few weeks of its life. To support this explosive growth, kittens need higher calories and it’s not possible to obtain adequate calories from a single meal. As such, a growing kitten will need to be fed at least 4 times daily.
In an ideal situation, the mother cat will nurse their kittens up to the age of 4-6 weeks. A mother cat’s milk is nutrient-rich and consuming her milk helps form the kittens’ immune systems and offers protection from diseases. Orphaned kitties will need to be bottle-fed with a suitable milk replacement formula for their mother’s milk. A kitten milk replacement formula is not the same as lactose-free milk. At this age, it is best to feed a proper kitten milk replacer to ensure that the young kitten gets the proper nutrition to support his growth and development. Newborn kittens must be fed every 2 hours up to the age of 4 weeks.
At 4 weeks, most kittens are ready to start on solid foods. Some kittens are more eager to switch to solids than others. Very young kittens have very small teeth and can’t chew dry food well. Start with softer food. A good quality wet canned food, formulated for growing kittens, like this Wellness Complete Health Pate (KITTEN) Whitefish & Tuna Wet Cat Food is a good option to start with.
Every kitten is different and wet canned kitten food comes in a variety of textures. ‘Pate’ would indicate a smooth paste, while ‘mousse’ is usually an ultra-smooth, silky blend. At the beginning of the transition to solid food, some kittens eat better on a softer diet. You can consider the Kit Cat Kitten Mousse Tuna Wet Cat Food if you are looking for an ultra-soft and smooth kitten food. This formula is so smooth and well blended that it is even suitable for syringe feeding.
Introduce solid food slowly into their diet and if necessary, mix the wet canned kitten food with a milk replacer formula to soften the food. Initially, start feeding in a small amount, like a tablespoon per feed, and keep them topped up with the milk formula to ensure they keep gaining weight and growing. Eventually, they will make the change to solid food when they are ready.
By the 6th or 7th week, most kittens will be fully weaned, and are more comfortable with solid foods. At this age, they will be eating 4 times per day. This is also a good time to introduce dry kitten food if you intend to feed dry food in adulthood. With the kitten’s exponential growth rate, and high caloric and nutrient requirements, always choose high-quality kitten food.
Transition the kitten’s diet in phases, by adding a little dry food to his wet food each feeding. A sudden change in diet can upset the kitten’s sensitive tummy and may lead to diarrhea or vomiting. So, take it slow and monitor your kitten’s progress before advancing further.
8 weeks and beyond
Keep feeding your kitten up to 4 times per day, until he reaches the age of 6 months old. You can reduce feeding to two meals per day when they are 6 months old but continue to feed them a good quality kitten formula. And don’t forget to provide plenty of fresh water as it’s key to keeping cats of all ages healthy.
As a general guide, you will only switch your kitten to an adult food formula at 12 months old, or as otherwise advised by your veterinarian.
Take note as well that every kitten is different. How much to feed will depend on your kitten’s growth, weight, and the type of cat food. You may start off by following the recommended feed amount stated on the product label, but if your kitten is getting plump or not growing too well, then adjust the amount of food accordingly. Your veterinarian should be able to guide you on your kitten’s ideal weight and growth rate.
Special note on teething
A kitten’s baby teeth will start falling out at the age of 3 months, making room for the adult teeth to then pop up. Typically, by 6 months old, all kitty’s milk teeth would be replaced by adult teeth. During your kitten’s teething process, you may see a tooth on the floor or in their bed. This is normal, so don't worry! Most cats swallow their teeny teeth but, again, no need to fret as this doesn't cause any harm to a cat.
You may also notice young kitty pawing at his mouth and his gums may seem red and sore. There may be slight bleeding of the gums and a decrease in appetite too. Excessive drooling and chewing on soft materials are other signs that you may notice during teething.
Some kittens prefer to chew on softer materials to soothe their gums. Instead of the typical hard chew toy, a softer plush toy like this Nandog Pet Gear My BFF Corduroy Camel Squeaker Toy may be a better cat teething toy option. As pet toys are not tightly regulated, please purchase only toys from reputable brands to ensure that the toys are durable and do not contain chemicals that can be harmful to your kitten.
Finally, some food items are toxic to cats, so do not feed these to your kittens. Make sure that these toxic food items are kept in closed cabinets and are not within easy reach of your kitten. This is not the complete list of foods dangerous to cats, but these food items are commonly found in kitchens - alcohol, onions, onion powder, garlic, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes, raisins, sultanas, currants, tomatoes, and cooked bones. If you believe your kitten may have eaten some toxic foods, please call your veterinarian immediately.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.