Although kittens have tiny stomachs, they also have up to three times the energy requirements of a grown cat. This means that they need to eat twice as much protein as adult felines if they are to grow up strong and healthy. Kittens need lots of help to make the transition from kitten food to adult food. Some cats can be very fussy eaters, so it is important to introduce them to a balanced diet early on to encourage them to have good eating habits as adult cats.
When kittens are fed together, the more dominant ones will eat more than the others. To make sure that each kitten gets the nourishment it needs, it may be necessary to feed them separately.
Cats have unique needs when it comes to food. Cats are carnivores and cannot live healthily on a vegetarian or a low-protein diet. They must have lots of protein in the form of meat and fish, and fat, to survive. Kittens grow quickly and feeding them appropriately is vital.
Begin weaning at three weeks as follows:
3 weeks: A teaspoon of powdered cat milk diluted in water, 4 times a day.
4 weeks: Add puréed baby food or baby cereal to cat milk and feed 4 times a day.
5 weeks: Add a small amount of minced, cooked meat or canned kitten food to one of the milk feeds.
6-8 weeks: Gradually replace each milk feed with a solid meal, reduce to 2-3 small feeds a day, with plenty of milk or water.
A kitten will take its mother’s milk up to the age of about four weeks, after which he will be able to lap up food. This is a good point at which to encourage him to feed independently of his mother and to change to solid foods. A kitten should be completely weaned by the time he is nine weeks old. He shouldn’t be taken from his mother before this.
KITTEN FOOD – A GOOD START
To give the kitten a good start, feed him milk or kitten milk little and often. Ideally, at the next stage add baby cereal, or give him puréed foods. Next, substitute finely minced cooked chicken or fish. By six weeks the kitten should be ready for regular cat food. At eight weeks offer three solid meals a day, plus a full bowl of milk or water, changed twice a day. Substitute water for the milk when the kitten is six months old.
If you prefer to use foods specially formulated for kittens, there are many available, both wet and dry. Complete dry meals are a fairly recent addition to the market. They contain all the nutrients your kitten will need, and are clean and convenient to use. It is essential to provide plenty of water with dry food as it contains far less fluid than wet (canned) food.
A kitten’s weight can increase drastically in the first seven weeks, from a minimum of 75g (3oz) to around a maximum of 880g (2lb).
Pedigree kittens suckle for up to two weeks longer than non-pedigree kittens. They are not fully weaned until they are 12 weeks old.
A kitten fed a healthy diet will have clear eyes and a glossy coat.