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How much food should I give to a kitten?

two kittens eating advice © Shutterstock

The time has arrived… your new fur baby is finally coming home! It’s essential to give your kitten the best start in life possible, so let’s talk about how much to feed a kitten.

By Alice Lang

You’ve gathered loads of cat toys, organised a cozy area for sleeping, bought a lovely set of food and water bowls and signed up at your local vets. 

Yep, you’ve spent days preparing for the arrival of your bouncy, bubbly and tiny kitten, but you just can’t get one thing out your mind: “how much should I feed my kitten?”.

If you’ve never had a pet before, it’s difficult to know how much to feed a kitten. But providing your kitty with the best diet possible, in the correct quantities, is your best bet at ensuring they grow up strong, healthy and happy.

With that said, let’s get started! Here’s how much and how often to feed a kitten:

Nutritional needs: Kitten vs Cat

All too often, cat owners believe that the nutritional needs of their new kitten will be exactly the same as their previous adult cat. That couldn't be further from the truth - and, in fact, feeding a kitten an adult cat diet could actually stunt their development or make them seriously ill.

Another common misconception is that kittens need less food than adult cats, because they’re much smaller. Wrong again! It’s actually the other way round - kittens need around triple the amount of daily calories than an adult cat.

Kittens have a lot of growing to do in the first year or so of their life. They grow much faster than human babies - 15x as fast, in fact! On top of this, they’ve got seemingly never ending energy - and that has to come from somewhere.

Before we talk about how much to feed a kitten, it’s important you’ve got the correct food to feed them in the first place. Always pick a high-quality, tested cat food which is specifically formulated for kittens. Kitten foods contain more calories and higher levels of certain amino acids and vitamins to help your cat grow up strong and healthy.

How much to feed a kitten

The right kitten diet is as much to do with what you’re feeding than as how much you’re feeding. Too little nutrients could lead to development issues and illnesses, whereas too much could lead to weight gain, leading to a host of nasty health problems.
How much to feed your kitten depends heavily on the kitten food brand you’ve chosen - they all vary in terms of calorie content. Thankfully, most pet food labels have a comprehensive feeding guide to help you out. 

Read the instructions and use them as a guideline. Do be aware that kittens sometimes have eyes bigger than their stomach, so if you’re kitten is yelping for food, they’re not necessarily hungry. Split the recommended daily food intake into however many separated meals you plan to give your kitten per day.

The guidelines might need adjusting slightly depending your kitten’s individual activity levels and metabolism - every kitten is different. If you think you’re cat seems overly hungry or thin, increase their food intake slightly. Likewise, if they’re gaining too much weight, cut back slightly. The main thing to aim for is maintaining a healthy weight and a strong, lead physique.

If your kitty is noticeably skinny or seems to be piling on the pounds uncontrollably, it’s best to head to the vet and rule out any underlying conditions.

How often to feed a kitten

A big part of getting your kitten’s diet right is understanding how often to feed them. Although kittens need more food than adult cats, their stomachs are much smaller. For this reason, they need to eat little yet often. Kittens are snackers at heart, too - they much prefer eating multiple small meals a day.

Try the following feeding guidelines:

Up to 4 months (after weaning): 4 meals a day or free feeding
4-6 months: 3-4 meals a day
6 months +: 2-3 meals a day

Cats like routine, so it’s best to keep to a regular schedule. Obviously, this will change slightly as you adjust the amount of meals per day - but try to stick to 2 or 3 regular mealtimes once they hit 6 months.

Feeding a kitten: out top 5 tips

Tip #1: Pick a high-quality food which has been specifically developed for kittens. Feed them kitten food until they are a year old.

Tip #2: Put your kitten’s food and water bowl in a quiet, secluded area and ensure it’s well away from their litter box. If their food is too near where they go to the toilet, they may refuse to eat!

Tip #3: Avoid feeding your kitten processed cat treats, unless you find ones which are made for kittens. If you do feed your kitten treats, remember to take it out of their daily calorie count.

Tip #4: Pick wet food over dry food if you can. Dry biscuits are sometimes too difficult for kittens tiny teeth to handle.

Tip #5: Ensure that fresh water is available at all times. It’s a good idea to place multiple water bowls throughout the house to encourage them to drink. 

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