A guide to kitten feeding

Feeding your kitten a nutritionally complete diet that is tailored to their specific needs is vital for supporting healthy development and laying the foundation for a healthy future.

How do my kitten's nutritional needs differ from an adult cat's?

As kittens are growing rapidly, and their digestive and immune systems are developing slowly, they have very specific nutritional needs that are different from adult cats. In particular, kittens need a diet with a higher energy and protein content, plus vitamins and minerals that support the immune system and the development of healthy organs, muscles and skeleton.

What does my kitten need from its first food?

As well as satisfying your kitten’s unique nutritional requirements, their first food should be suitable for their young digestive system and teeth. For felines in general, the smell and texture of food are bigger deciding factors than taste. As kittens retain their milk teeth until 4-6 months old, it’s important to select a dry formula that is easy to chew and complement it with a wet formula that eases the weaning process. It is beneficial to introduce your kitten to wet food early as it can have health benefits and may be difficult to introduce later in life.

Feeding your kitten: the basics

If you’re worried you don’t know what to feed your new kitten and when, there are a few things you should know:

From milk to solids: We recommend introducing solid foods when weaning the kittens. This starts at 4-4.5 weeks. You may decide to use a Mother and Baby cat food so that the mother and her kittens are eating the same food.

Easy to chew: You can use soft, wet foods like our Mother & Babycat Ultra Soft Mousse, which are easy to eat and will help your kitten transition to solid food. Or you can use dry foods. Bear in mind that dry food is harder to chew, so if you decide to use it, start by adding water or a kitten milk replacer to moisten it. Over time, progressively add less and less liquid until your kitten is only eating dry food.

A gradual transition: Kittens are very sensitive to change, so always make sure you transition to new food over the course of a week so your kitten can get used to their new diet.

Find out more about changing your cat's food.

Less and often: Up to around 6 months when your kitten's stomach is still small, you may decide to feed your cat with smaller portions 4-6 times a day. As they grow into an adult, you can transition to twice a day, as they can handle larger portions in one meal. Alternatively, you can leave out their entire daily recommended portion of dry food and let them eat at their own pace - but you must remove any leftovers after 24 hours.

Find out more about how much to feed your kitten.

Key foods for your kitten

Milk: When they’re first born, your kitten will exclusively drink its mother’s milk, if she is able to provide it. Colostrum is the first milk of the mother and it provides vital antibodies to pass on immunity to kittens in this early part of their development.

Milk replacer and formula: If your kitten is not with its mother or their mother cannot provide milk, you can use kitten milk replacers. Specially formulated, replacers offer all the benefits and nutrients of their mother’s milk and should be used until your kitten is weaned onto solid foods.

Dry kitten food: Dry food such as kibble is a great option for kittens. For young kittens, you can introduce dry food by moistening it with water or kitten milk replacer, to make it easier to chew

Wet kitten food: Canned or pouched, wet food is an alternative or a complement to dry food and removes the need to add water. Many kittens and adult cats eat a mixed diet of dry and wet food.

Why your kitten's diet is so important

To help your kitten grow and stay healthy, it's vital to provide food suitable for their age, lifestyle and specific nutritional needs. They need the right balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Only a well-balanced diet will provide essential amino acids such as taurine, which cannot be synthesized by the cats' bodies.

What to feed a kitten from birth to 8 weeks

In the first 4 weeks of their life, your kitten goes through an intense growth spurt that helps to build a strong skeleton and muscle mass. For this, they need protein and other key nutrients from their diet, such as antioxidants for immune system support.  During this period, they should be fed exclusively on their mother’s milk or a kitten milk replacer.

Then, from around 4-4.5 weeks, you'll begin the weaning process, slowly introducing solid foods to their diet. You may decide to transition to a soft wet food like our Mother and Babycat Ultra Soft Mousse, or a dry food like our Mother and Babycat Dry Cat Food moistened with water or kitten milk replacer. This 'gruel-like' mixture may not look very appealing but will help ease your kitten onto their new diet during the weaning process, which can take up to 4 weeks.

What to feed a kitten from 8 weeks to 4 months

After they have been weaned, your kitten will now be on a solid food diet. This may be a dry food diet, a wet food diet, or as with many cats, a mixed diet. Royal Canin offers a range of dry and wet kitten foods, formulated to support healthy growth and development during this period.  You may decide to use a Mother and Babycat food for both mother and baby.

What to feed a kitten from 4 months to 12 months

Between four and 12 months, your kitten will enter a new stage of growth but will still have a high energy requirement as they begin to explore their surroundings, their body continues to grow and they develop muscle mass. However, their digestive system is still maturing and cannot yet handle portion sizes as large as they will eat as an adult.
At this age, you may use dry kitten food. Or, if they've been neutered or spayed a specialized food like our Kitten Spayed / Neutered Dry Cat Food.

By the time most breeds reach 12 months, you should transition to adult nutrition with larger portion sizes. Find out more about when your kitten becomes a cat and what you can do to support them along the way.