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Kitten nutrition guide

Kitten nutrition is at the core of what we do at Royal Canin. We select ingredients according to their nutritional profile, quality, and sustainability when formulating our diets. Those ingredients help make sure kittens get the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and development.
Adult cat sitting down drinking from a white bowl.

Like a complex puzzle, a complete and nutritionally balanced diet offers the precise combination of nutrients that a kitten needs for healthy development throughout their 12-month growth period.

Kitten nutrition to support growth

The needs of growing kittens are very different from those of adult cats. Their diet must provide them with the nutrients needed to maintain ideal body condition, and with the right nutrient combination to develop their bodies and ensure proper growth.

To support this growth, kittens need higher proportions of protein in their diet. Proteins are important for building muscle, bone, and other tissues. An unbalanced diet can cause serious problems such as bone and joint issues.

Kitten nutrition must also take into account their immature digestion, immunity, and baby teeth. As well as having the right nutritional balance, their food needs to be easy to eat and digest. Find out more in our guide to feeding your kitten.

Why do kittens need kitten food?

At this critical period of their development, kittens require a tailored diet to help their body and mind develop. Their kitten diet will need to change as they transition from kitten to cat. Through decades of research, Royal Canin understands that the nutritional needs of kittens change as they go through that first year. As a result, we provide different formulas tailor-made to each stage of kittenhood. It is usually recommended to keep your kitten on a kitten diet until 12 months of age, after which they enter their adult life stage. Once an adult, their diet changes to focus, among other things, on their needs as well as maintaining an ideal weight.

Some breeds such as Maine Coon kittens may need to take kitten food for longer as they reach adult size and weight later - at 15 months.

Find out more about when a cat becomes an adult.

What to feed a kitten to receive the right nutrients?

Thankfully, there are fantastic kitten foods out there that cater to every nutritional requirement your new kitten has. From birth, your kitten will get all the right nutrients from its mother's milk or a kitten milk replacer. When your kitten transitions to solid foods, it's important you find foods that are tailored to meet their needs as they grow.

If you're concerned about your kitten's nutrition, your veterinarian should be able to give you advice and answer the questions you may have.

Wet food vs dry food

As they transition to solid food, you may decide to feed your kitten wet or dry food - or a combination of both. Wet foods like our Mother and Babycat Ultra Soft Mousse are naturally soft and easy for kittens to eat. They are the perfect complement to dry foods such as our Mother and Babycat Dry Cat Food. In their early months, you may need to mix dry food with water or a kitten milk replacer to moisten and make it easier to chew. All of our wet and dry foods are completely balanced and formulated for the specific needs of growing baby kittens.

Key requirements for kitten nutrition

  • Quality proteins to aid growth
  • Supports immature immune system
  • Easily digestible
  • Tailored to mouth size and dental structure
  • Aids cognitive, skeletal and cell growth

The role of key nutrients

Different nutrients play different roles in your kitten’s first weeks and months of life. Over the last 50 years, our nutritional and research teams have spent countless hours researching the nutritional needs of kittens and the role they play in healthy growth and development.

Newborn cat sitting down drinking from a feeding bottle.

Each stage of a cat’s life brings unique dietary requirements which you can support them with. So, in order to give them the best possible start in life, your kitten’s diet should be tailored to the specific needs of their life stage.

Nutrition for your kitten from birth to four months

During this period, your kitten is going through an intense growth spurt. To fuel the development of their skeleton, muscles and organs, they have specific nutritional needs.

In the early weeks, they’ll suckle from their mother and receive colostrum – a milk-like fluid which supports their immunity – followed by milk. Starting at around four weeks, you can begin to transition them to a solid food as they start to show interest in it and their ability to digest lactose wanes.

During this time, you can give them a food specifically designed for kittens with the right mix of required nutrients, including the 11 essential amino acids which support muscle and cell growth, as well as healthy skin, hair and claws. Cats can’t synthesise these elements internally, so it’s essential their food provides them with ‘complete’ nutrition.

Until 12 - 16 weeks old, depending on their breed, kittens are growing and gaining weight rapidly, and therefore have extremely high energy requirements; it’s around three times that of an adult cat. But as a kitten’s digestive system is not yet mature, they need an energy-dense food which doesn’t include unnecessary bulk, as this can cause digestive distress.

Your kitten’s diet from four to 12 months

At this stage in their development, your kitten’s energy needs will be reducing gradually, although they still need much more than an adult cat. During this period, adult teeth replace your cat’s milk teeth and their digestive system matures, so they’re now able to crunch, chew and eat solid foods more easily.

However, a cat’s digestive system still only accounts for 3% of their bodyweight – compared to 11% of a human’s – which means it can be quick to become aggravated from a new food or stress. Your kitten’s food and feeding at this time should be consistent: the same food, in the same place, in a peaceful and stress-free environment.

Over this period your kitten is at the peak of its weight gain, increasing in size by 100g a week at the age of four to five months. It’s important to monitor their weight closely so they don’t increase in size too rapidly and risk becoming obese. You can help prevent this by making sure you only give them the recommended portion of kibble or wet food each day.

Your cat and their diet from one year onwards

As a fully-matured adult, your cat now has very different nutritional needs from their early days. Their energy requirements are much lower, and several other factors should be considered: their lifestyle, such as whether they’re an indoor or outdoor cat, their breed, gender, and whether they are neutered or not.

Every cat still has nutritional needs which must come from their diet. This includes the essential amino acid, taurine, which is only available from animal sources, and vitamin A and D which continue to support your cat’s health.

Your cat’s nutritional needs will change significantly over its lifetime, but if you’re ever unsure of the best feed for them, ask your vet who’ll be happy to help.

Find a vet

If you have any concerns about your cat’s health, consult a vet for professional advice.
kitten product pack shot

Tailored nutrition for your kitten

Nutritional formulas that help to build your kitten's natural defences, support healthy growth, and aid in digestive system development.

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