Nature is very good at catering for your kitten’s nutritional needs in his first four weeks of life. Mother’s milk contains everything the newborn requires in the way of food and drink. The litter of kittens will carry on suckling until they are between six and eight weeks old, but by this point 80-90 per cent of their nutritional needs will be supplied by kitten food rather than mum. This means that by the time a litter is ready to be rehomed they will no longer be reliant on mum. As a kitten will have reached almost 75 per cent of his adult bodyweight by the time he is a year old, he requires a high quality food that contains the optimum amount of protein, vitamins and minerals. A specific kitten food will meet his needs without any additional supplements being required. ‘Complete’ foods supply all of a kitten’s nutritional needs whereas foods marked ‘complementary’ need to be fed in association with others. Food needs to be energy dense, with a lot of calories packed into a small volume of food, as a young kitten has such a tiny tummy.
Moving to a new home is bound to be unsettling for your new kitten, but keeping him on the same diet should help to avoid an upset tummy. The Feline Advisory Bureau recommends feeding kittens aged eight to 12 weeks four meals a day, with suggested meal times between 6-8am, 1pm, 6pm and 10pm. Speak to your kitten’s breeder/rescue home and try to stick to the routine they have already implemented. If your new kitten refuses to eat or has an upset stomach seek advice directly from your vet as diarrhoea can be serious in small kittens. Once a kitten has settled-in you may decide to change his food. If so, mix the old and new together, slowly increasing the amount of the new food given in each meal, over a week to ten days. Put clean dishes down for your kitten each day, disposing of any uneaten food from the previous meal. Fresh water should always be available. Although opened wet food is stored in the refrigerator, serving it at room temperature will aid digestion and make it smell more appealing.
Cats are obligate carnivores. They cannot manufacture enough of the amino acid taurine to meet their needs and only animal protein can make up the shortfall. White fish is deficient in vitamins A, D, E and K, while oily fish, such as tuna, contains high levels of vitamins A and D and unsaturated fatty acids. A fish-only diet may cause skin inflammation, however, cooked white fish is useful if your kitten has an upset stomach, as is boiled
chicken. Coley (make sure you remove the bones) with washed and well-cooked rice is a good choice to help settle tummies. Weaned kittens become increasingly lactose intolerant and giving milk can lead to diarrhoea. Milk is not essential to a kitten’s diet, but specially formulated cat milk makes an occasional treat. Feeding your kitten food meant for humans can lead to weight gain and bad teeth.
It’s good practise to monitor your kitten’s weight to ensure he is growing and then, as he reaches maturity, he is not becoming overweight. (Obesity and its associated issues is one of the biggest problems seen by vets.) Monitor your cat’s weight; it is best to nip problems in the bud early and cease feeding kitten food, as this is much higher in energy than one designed for adults. If the weight continues to increase, change to a ‘light’ food and measure out the recommended quantity carefully each day.
Between three and six months your kitten’s meal times can be reduced to three times a day, and twice daily from six months, although you should check individual food packaging guidelines as these will vary and twice daily from six months, although you should check individual food packaging guidelines as these will vary between different foods. Adult food should be introduced gradually over a couple of weeks, from around six months of age. Most cat and kitten food brands have a careline service, so if you have any queries about their foods, give them a call. Details can be found on the product’s packaging.