Choosing the Best Food for Kittens

Give Your Little Kitten the Right Start for Growth and Development

Young kitten eating from blue bowl
Benjamin Torode / Getty Images

Your kitten will probably have been already weaned when he or she first arrives at your house, and, hopefully, will be eating a high-quality food designed for kittens. If so, it will probably be best to continue him on the food he is accustomed to, to avoid the inevitable tummy upsets of a quick food change. If your kitten has been eating a lesser-quality food made up up fillers and junk, you will need to convert him over to a more appropriate kitten food gradually.

Start by adding a small amount of premium kitten food to his existing food, then gradually increase the amount each day. By adding a little more each day over the course of a few weeks, you will avoid any stomach ailments. You will likely find that once your kitten tastes the higher quality food, he will nose through the kibble to find those morsels. At that point, you can make the switch to the higher quality food for the entirety of his diet. 

Choosing a Kitten Food: Dry Food Versus Canned

Many owners choose dry kitten foods because of their convenience; a large bag can be purchased and stored for several weeks, making it easier and more economic than other food options. If you go this route, choosing a high-quality dry food is essential; many dry foods are poor quality, so you will need to do additional homework to find nutritious options. 

If possible, a wet food is often better for your pet's health and longevity.

While less convenient and often more expensive, wet foods have more of the essential nutrients your kitten needs. They are often of a much higher quality than dry foods. 

Unlike adult cats, kittens will eat only as much food as they need for adequate nutrition, so free-feeding of dry kitten foods will work, if that is what you need for your own household.

Are Adult Cat Foods a Good Choice?

Kittens are not just miniature cats.For a kitten's appropriate growth and development, he needs extra protein, fat, vitamins and minerals to get the right start in life.  The extra protein is needed for growth and development of strong muscles and supporting tissue; fat is essential for fatty acids, as a carrier for fat-soluble vitamins, and for the additional calories for energy. Minerals, of course, are needed for the development of strong teeth and bones.

While adult cat food will not "hurt" your kitten in the short term, it is selling him short on the extra nutrients he needs for active growth, which takes place throughout the first year of his life. Save the adult cat food for your big guys, and give your kitten what he needs: kitten food, for his first year.

Bringing a kitten home is an exciting time, but you need to take into account your pet's future health and nutritional needs. By transitioning him to a high-quality diet now, you can improve his chances for a long and happy life.