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How often should you feed kittens?

Black and white kitten eating from a bowl advice © Shutterstock

How often should I feed my kitten? It is an often-asked question of first-time cat owners and one of the most important. Find out from us how often is 'just right'.

By Nick Whittle

For a growing kitten nutrition is everything. Of course there are the vaccinations, the wormings and the socialisation to take care of, but without a great nutritional launch pad a kitten will never quite reach his peak.

In order to help your kitten along the way you to do some ground work: RESEARCH what he likes and dislikes, LEARN what nutrients and minerals he needs and then SHOP for the perfect food.

As his owner, you have to get it right: your kitten is growing at an astounding rate - 15 times faster than a human baby - and within a year will be cat-sized.

Without the right nutrition given at the right times and of the right amounts your kitten won’t grow to be a strong adult cat. He'll be deficient in vitamins, not have enough protein for his muscles and lack folic acid for a health nervous system. He could turn out to be malnourished and more prone to nasty illnesses.

Read on to find out how often you should feed your kitten during each stage of his growing up:

How often to feed a kitten aged: 0 – 4 weeks

During these weeks your kitten should be suckling his mum. He will probably have to contest the homemade milk with two, three or four other kittens (although generally speaking a teat order keeps all of his mother’s eight nipples productive).

If the mother cannot feed her kittens for whatever reason you’ll be in charge of feeding your kitten by bottle. When he is this age you will need to feed him eight times in a 24 hour period using a bottle of specially formulated milk.

Such intervention is not for the feint-hearted: kittens feed through the night too. If you are faced with such a task you must consult your vet about how best to manage the feeding regimen.

How often to feed a kitten aged: 1 – 2 months

When he reaches one month old you should begin to train your kitten to eat food rather than to suckle his mother cat. This process - called weaning - is concerned with gradually introducing the kitten to what will be his adult diet and at the same time withdrawing the supply of his mother's milk.

Weaning has to be done gradually: to properly wean a kitten takes around eight weeks. Give your kitten either: 1) one part dry kitten kibble with three parts cat milk replacement, or 2) one part wet kitten food with two parts milk replacement.

A kitten this age has a small stomach and should therefore be allowed to feed whenever he wants. And he will do: a kitten is an eating machine! Leave food out so he can eat when he feels hungry.

How often to feed a kitten aged: 2 – 3 months

Weaning should come to an end in this period and your kitten should find staple food more interesting and filling: as the kitten grows his mother’s milk does not contain enough goodies to keep him growing at the rate he is.

A kitten’s appetite is at its peak during this time; his body needs calories, protein, fatty acids and vitamins.

Kittens this age should be fed four times a day. Dry kitten kibble can be left out for him to come and go as he pleases but wet food should be removed and put in the fridge if not eaten within half an hour after serving.

You don’t have to throw the wet food away. Just wrap it up and bring it out for the next meal time. Remember to heat it up to room temperature before serving it though.

How often to feed a kitten aged: 3 – 6 months

Your four-meal-time regimen in the last period should be a precursor to your plans for a standard mealtime when your kitten reaches cat-hood. Your 12 weeks kitten will appreciate the routine just as much as a child or a puppy. You can now reduce his feeding to three times a day.

Your kitten wants to eat little and often so you may still leave the dry kibble out for him to pick at but wet food is put away if it isn’t eaten.

During this time you may also want to think about which room your adult cat is going to eat in. Once you’ve decided, make sure the room is clean and hygienic but is also quiet. Cats don’t want to be harassed when they eat.

How often to feed a kitten aged: 6 – 12 months

A kitten is general assumed to be a ‘cat’ at around one year old. They are still growing but the rate at which they grow slows significantly. During this time you should reduce the daily meal times from three to two.

Start to look at how much food you are giving your cat and now take away the come-and-go option. Your cat can over-eat if bowls of food are left out for him all day.

You have a choice of foods going forward: you may choose to mix the wet and dry food, but you may prefer to feed your cat either wet or dry food. There is also raw food, which is usually a mix of raw meats and some ballast vegetables or fruit. It is at this stage that you decide what type of cat food he will eat during this adult life.

To know how often to feed your kitten and what to feed him allows you the chance to provide him with the best start in life. Too little nourishment in the early stages can make him prone to diseases in later life that are brought about by vitamin deficiencies and a weak immune system.

Conversely, the wrong kinds of food and overfeeding cause obesity, which brings its own host of ailments. Above all, be determined about your cat’s regimen and learn what needs to be done. After he is weaned your kitten relies on you to provide the goods.

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