A kitten should stay with their mother until at least 8-9 weeks of age, at which point they should be fully weaned. This period with their mother is also really important for learning feline behaviours and social interactions. For the first few weeks of life a kitten will be drinking their mother’s milk. They will then start to experiment with solids, but this will initially involve a soft, paste-like diet and they will still be feeding from their mum.
After another couple of weeks (5-6 weeks old), dry food may start to be introduced. It normally needs to be soaked to begin with and mixed in with the wet food. By the time a kitten is ready to leave their mum, they will probably be munching on a mix of wet and dry diets.
A gradual change of a kitten's diet is best
If you are bringing a kitten home for the first time, it is worth keeping them on the same diet as the breeder or rehoming centre to begin with. This is because sudden dietary change can lead to diarrhoea and young kittens can become dehydrated quite quickly from loss of fluids. Once your kitten is more settled into their new home, you can start to transition them onto a different diet by mixing the new food in with their current food and gradually increasing the proportion of new over several days.
At what age can kittens eat dry food?
Kittens can start to eat dry food from about 5-6 weeks of age, which should be about two weeks after they first start eating solids. At first this should be softened in water and then they can gradually be fed more dry.
How do I get my kitten to eat dry food?
This is a gradual process as part of weaning. Young kittens should be started on wet food for the initial transition from their mother’s milk, and can then progress to soaked dry food after about two weeks. They will usually be able to eat small amounts of dry food by the time they are ready to leave their mum.
Can my kitten eat normal cat food?
It is essential to feed your pet a diet that is appropriate for their life-stage. A food packet will advise what age range it is appropriate for. Generally, a kitten diet should be fed until around one year of age and then an adult diet should be transitioned to over a period of about a week to avoid stomach upset. Kittens have a higher protein requirement than adult cats, so the diet will be specially formulated to reflect this. There are certain minerals and vitamins that are usually higher in kitten food as well to help support growth and a healthy immune system.
When should I switch from kitten to cat food?
Switch to adult cat food from about one year of age unless you've spoken to a vet and they advised sooner. Certain larger breed cats like Maine Coon do not tend to reach adult size until about 18 months to two years old and may need to be fed a kitten diet until this point.
When should I see a vet?
A kitten should see a vet at around nine weeks of age for their first vaccination and at 12 weeks old for the second part of this primary course. After this they will need an annual booster. When you bring a new kitten home, it is worth having them checked over by a vet to make sure that they are fit and healthy. Usually it is beneficial to book this appointment for a few days after they have been brought home, as this gives time for you to notice anything unusual about their behaviour or appetite. Yet they should see a vet sooner if they appear unwell or if their second vaccination is due. If your kitten has not received their first vaccine with the breeder, this will need to be booked in at the same time as their health check.
What should I ask a vet about wet cat food?
You can ask questions about diet at your kitten’s first vet appointment. You can also speak to a veterinary nurse about what to feed your kitten and for practical tips. It is helpful to take along the packaging of the diet your kitten is currently being fed.