First-Time Cat Owner’s Guide! 5 Tips on feeding your new kitten!

30/9/2022
kitten sitting in a kitchen eating

 

Through this article you can learn:

As a first-time cat parent, you will for sure have many questions and worries!

How to take care? What is the best kitten diet? How long should kitten food be fed for? 
We hope to provide you with answers to these frequently asked questions in the form of 5 Key Tips, ensuring your cat receives the nutrition it needs to grow up happy and healthy!

 

Choose Diet according to Developmental Stage

Depending on the breed, kittens take about 12-15 months to mature into adult cats. The feeding regimes for kittens during this crucial growth period can be roughly divided into three stages: 

  • 0~3 weeks: if a newborn kitten is unable to feed on its queen’s milk, it is recommended to feed a milk powder replacer specially formulated for kittens so it obtains the nutrients it requires.

  • 3 weeks~4 months: weaning normally takes place around 4-8 weeks of age, at this stage the kitten’s diet should gradually be switched to solid food. Around this time kittens tend to increasingly engage in social interactions, being most active during day. To fuel this increased activity they require a high-calorie, nutrient-rich, solid diet.

  • 4~12 months: puberty begins at this stage, the kitten’s growth rate slows down and thus its caloric needs reduce. However, the gastrointestinal tract and immune system are still vulnerable, so it is essential to provide an easy-to-digest, antioxidant-rich diet. 

So how long should a kitten stay on kitten feed for? Veterinary surgeons in general recommend that up to one year of age, young cats should be fed a diet designed for kittens. However, as cats can be prone to weight gain after desexing, which usually occurs at 5-7 months of age, owners should take veterinary advice on a suitable feeding schedule in order to avoid over-feeding and obesity.  

 

A guide to change your cats food

 

Diets that meet Scientific Nutritional Standards

There is a massive amount of information available on the internet on how to feed your pets some good and some bad! Among them, the Nutrition Toolkit established by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) contains a number of diet selection recommendations and nutritional assessment guidelines, to help owners choose safe and nutritionally balanced pet foods from the wide selection available. 

The pet food guidelines established by various official organisations also serve as an indicator for owners on how to select a balanced diet. Examples include, the FEDIAF standard monitored by the “European Pet Food Industry”, or nutritional standards such as NRC and AAFCO formulated by American research institutions. 

 

Ensure the Diet has Adequate Nutrients and Calories

Kittens require more protein, fat, vitamins and minerals than adult cats for growth, metabolism and energy. In addition, the astonishing sense of balance and dexterity that cats are born with also develops during this time. As such, kittens require ample amounts of DHA (a fatty acid) and taurine (an amino acid) in order to facilitate the healthy development of vision, brain cognition and heart function. 

 

Deciding between Dry Food, Wet Food, or a Combination 

Should cats be fed dry food or wet food? Actually, there are benefits to both!

One of the main advantages of dry food is that it is easy to store and easy to feed. Even if the dry food is left in the cat’s bowl all day, owners need not worry about the food going bad. This also allows for more frequent and unrestricted eating on the cat’s part, enabling good eating habits to form. Some dry food can also improve dental health, due to specially formulated kibble, whose shape and texture increases surface friction which gently and effectively reduces tartar build up.

For wet food, the main advantage is that it helps cats take in extra water, which can help reduce the chance of kidney or urinary tract problems. Another advantage is that wet food has a stronger aroma that dry food, cats are more sensitive to smell than taste, so feeding wet food can actually improve their appetite – especially true in older cats.

Weighing up the pros and cons, it is recommended that cat owners feed a combination of wet and dry food in order to achieve an optimal balance between price, convenience and nutritional value.

In addition, veterinary surgeons may suggest changing diets due to illness e.g. wet food for urinary or dry food for gastro-intestinal issues, so getting young cats accustomed to different types of food early in life can reduce the chance of difficulty in switching diets later on. 

Discuss the Best Diet for your Kitten with your Veterinary Surgeon 

Given there is such a wide variety of options, it is highly recommended that owners consult with their veterinary surgeon regarding the best diet for their kitten. Vets can help to produce a customised dietary plan based on the kitten’s health and nutrition needs according to breed, activity level and size/age. 

In particular, if you decide to cook home-made food for your kitten, it is especially important to consult with your vet for advice. Studies show that it is very difficult to achieve adequate nutrition when providing homemade food, and many diet recipes available on the internet are not nutritionally balanced. Ideally owner’s should consider getting assistance from a specialist veterinary nutritionist to safeguard their kitten’s health if they want to go down this route! 

Is homemade cat food a healthy choice for my cat?

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