Feeding your kitten: what are their essential needs?

From the moment it is born until it is about 4 weeks old, a kitten is fed exclusively by its mother. As it gets older, the kitten will start eating other things as well, like food it finds in its mother’s bowl. Since a kitten has different nutritional needs than an adult cat, keep the following information in mind to make sure that your kitten eats well from the very beginning.

1 – Sufficient amount of calories

Kittens need higher levels of calories every day to support their physical activity and rapid growth. In fact, the caloric needs of a kitten are almost double that of a grown adult cat. In this case, it is acceptable to leave food available at all times.

2 –Protein

Since cats are carnivores by nature, a large portion of their daily ration must consist of proteins. Proteins are of high nutritional value, provided that these proteins are of good quality and easily digestible. Pet foods recommended by your veterinarian are more likely to satisfy this need than those available in other stores where their composition might be less clear. Your veterinarian can also show you how to read pet food labels to clarify which would be better for your kitten.

3 – Phosphorous and Calcium

Phosphorous and calcium are minerals that play a large role in bone development, maintaining healthy bone and joints. These essential minerals must be included in proper amounts.

4 – Essential Fatty Acids

Just as in people, kittens must consume some fats and the essential fatty acids fats provide. Omega-3 fatty acids will help your kitten’s immune system fight off diseases.

Did you know that kittens are particularly vulnerable to illness between the ages of 4 and 8 weeks? This “black hole” coincides with the period where kittens begin to be weaned from their mother, and before their first vaccinations. Combining the loss of immune protection provided through mother’s milk (which contains many antibodies against infection) with the fact that the kitten has not yet been vaccinated makes the kitten all the more vulnerable to disease during these four weeks. Providing a balanced diet rich in omega-3’s will help your kitten better defend itself against illness.

5 – A balanced diet

Nothing can be left to chance when it comes to choosing a diet for your kitten. A well-balanced kitten food must contain important nutrients, minerals and vitamins (like vitamin A, B, C, and D). Copper, zinc, and magnesium are also important minerals.

A few more recommendations

Generally speaking, most kitten foods avoid some common ingredients like eggs, dairy products, certain grains, and beef. Diets formulated for adult cats are not adapted for the needs of growing kittens. To avoid the possibility of kittens stealing mom’s food, you may have to feed a kitten diet to all members of your feline family. The nursing mother will benefit from the added nutrients, while the kittens are weaned safely.

As kittens grow, try to avoid offering table food, even if they seem to enjoy it. Keep a close eye on your kitten’s growth and weight, since lack of weight gain can be an early sign of developmental problems. Kittens reach adult size by the time they are 6 to 8 months old.

Do not hesitate to bring your kitten to visit your veterinarian to verify its overall health. Your veterinarian will also be able to offer advice as to your particular kitten’s proper nutrition based on its breed and lifestyle.