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Sacred Birman kitten eating wet food in black and white on a white background

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.

Nutrients for healthy growth

There are a range of important nutrients that your kitten needs during the first months of life to grow and develop into a strong, happy cat. Kitten diets must provide enough energy and quality proteins to support growth, nourish their immune system, and be easily digestible. ROYAL CANIN® diets are nutritionally balanced to offer a complete, tailored diet to meet the growth needs of kittens of all lifestyles and breeds.
Kitten range of cat food

Our Kitten Ranges

ROYAL CANIN® kitten nutrition supports growth and development by providing all the nutrients essential to a kitten's needs in the first year of life.

Mother and Babycat: Formulated for kittens and their nursing mothers, our range includes a soft and easy-to-digest mousse Mother and Babycat Ultra Soft Mousse in Sauce and Mother and Babycat Dry Cat food. We recommend kittens eat from this range from the start of weaning (4-4.5 weeks) until 4 months.

Kitten: We've developed a range of wet and dry foods to meet all your kitten's growth and developmental needs from 4 months to 1 year - when most kittens become adult cats. Our range includes dry cat food, as well as a canned Kitten Loaf in Sauce, and Kitten Slices in Gravy. We also provide foods for specific breeds of kittens who mature later, such as our Maine Coon Kitten Dry Cat Food - which supports Maine Coon kittens up to 15 months.

Explore Kitten Range

Before bringing your kitten home, check the food they're used to and the quantity they're fed daily. Any sudden dietary changes can upset your kitten's stomach and they'll adapt more easily to their new home if their food is familiar.

Keep an eye on your kitten's weight to ensure they're neither losing weight nor becoming overweight – both of which can cause health issues. Follow the recommended feeding quantities on your kitten's food packaging and contact your vet for advice if you're concerned about their weight or growth. Find out more about how much to feed a kitten.


There are three common feeding methods for kittens and cats.

  1. Self-service - This is the most natural style as, when cats have free access to food, they usually eat several small meals a day – as many as 16 in 24 hours. This is not, however, free feeding. You should only put out the recommended daily amount for your kitten. This feeding style is suitable for kittens who aren't overweight or likely to overeat.
  2. Meal feeding - This is when you feed your kitten meals at specific times during the day. It's not as well-suited to their natural grazing tendencies, so it's best to divide their overall daily ration into smaller amounts offered several times a day.
  3. Combination feeding - For this feeding method, you provide kibble on a self-service basis and wet food at set times. If you use this approach, it's important to control the amount of food provided overall to prevent your kitten from becoming overweight.

After being spayed or neutered, a kitten's appetite tends to increase but they also become less active. Without careful management of their diet and exercise, this can lead them to become overweight.

Ask your veterinarian for advice on adjusting your kitten's diet after neutering or spaying. You may need to switch to a food specially designed so you can provide the same quantity of food but with fewer calories.

Grey and white kitten standing inside eating from a white feeding bowl

Create the right environment for feeding your kitten

Cats are very sensitive and a variety of factors can create food aversion. They prefer to eat somewhere calm, out of sight, and with an easy escape route. They don't like their food bowl being near their litter box. And, keep your kitten's food bowl away from their water bowl, too, to prevent the water from becoming contaminated with food. It's best to create their feeding area away from your own dining area so they're not tempted to nibble at your meals.

Events such as strangers arriving, changes in lighting and sudden noises may all affect how much your kitten eats, so keep disturbances to a minimum.

What are food puzzles and should I use one?

Food puzzles are toys that hold food and only release it when your kitten interacts with it in the right way.

There are two main types:

  • Stationary puzzles, including mazes, slow-feeder bowls, and boards.
  • Mobile puzzles, including foraging cups, eggs, and balls.

Grey and white kitten laying down on top of a feeding puzzle

Should I use a food puzzle?

Food puzzles are great at stimulating your cat both mentally and physically. They bring out your kitten's inner hunter, helping them to problem solve to find their meal.

By giving them treats or dry cat food in a food puzzle, they'll burn more energy, meals will last longer and they'll always have something to keep them occupied. Just make sure you factor any food you use in puzzles into their daily recommended food amount to avoid overfeeding.

Grey tabby kitten standing on a cat tree by a window

How much should my kitten drink?

Cats generally need to consume around 60 mL or 2 ounces of water per kilogram of their body weight. . They do so either by drinking water directly or by obtaining moisture from their food. The temperature in your home, how much your kitten exercises and their physical condition can all affect how much they need to drink. Their diet is important too - a kitten fed dry kibble (which contains around 10% water) will need to drink more than one fed with wet food (which contains around 80% water) to stay hydrated.

Make sure clean water is always available

Regularly top up their water bowl when it's running low and change it at least daily to keep it fresh. Wash water bowls daily, too, to prevent them from getting dirty.

Tabby kitten sitting down next to a white bowl

How to encourage kittens to drink

Cats are opportunistic drinkers so place a few bowls around the house, making sure each one is in a calm place, away from food bowls and litter trays. Also try:

  • Using glass, porcelain, or metal bowls – many cats don't like the taste of water from a plastic bowl.
  • A wide, shallow bowl filled to the brim so your kitten can keep an eye on their surroundings while drinking.
  • Letting your kitten drink from a water fountain or tap – some prefer running water.
Sacred Birman kitten standing on a sink drinking from a tap

Why can mixed feeding be good for kittens?

Mixed feeding is when you feed your kitten a combination of wet and dry food – either at the same meal or at separate meals. It can help to provide balanced nutrition and offer a variety of other health benefits, too.


Canned wet food can provide a significant portion of your kitten's recommended daily water intake.

Weight management

Wet food’s high moisture content means you can serve a larger portion for the same number of calories.

Dental hygiene

Dry kibbles can help to keep your kitten’s teeth clean thanks to the brushing effect on their teeth as they chew.

Natural grazing

Providing dry food to nibble on throughout the day enables your kitten to follow their natural instinct to eat several small meals daily.

Kitten standing indoors eating from a stainless steel bowl

When should I begin mixed feeding?

A cat's dietary preferences are influenced by the routines established in their first year. So it's good to offer your kitten a variety of foods early in life, while always introducing new foods gradually. An ideal time to start mixed feeding is between the ages of two and three months.

how to transition onto new food illustration

How to change your kitten’s food


After four weeks, your kitten will begin to show an interest in solid food—normally its mother’s! From this point, you can rehydrate dry kibble in water or kitten milk replacer to a softer consistency, and allow the kitten to smell, nudge and eat this.

Any sudden changes in diet can cause digestive upsets and may make your kitten wary of their food. So it’s important to introduce new foods slowly during a week-long transition – whether you’re switching to adult food, changing products, or introducing mixed feeding.

If you’re unsure about the best dietary option for your kitten, consult your veterinarian who will be able to advise you further. For further information, check out our guide on changing your cat's food.


Kitten range of cat food

Our Kitten Ranges

ROYAL CANIN® kitten nutrition supports growth and development by providing all the nutrients essential to a kitten's needs in the first year of life.

Further reading