Kittens feeding schedule

  • By:

    Dr. Edele Grey
    Dr. Edele Grey

    Author: Dr. Edele Grey

    Dr. Edele Grey is a veterinary surgeon with seven years of experience. She professionally works mostly with horses but has treated pets of all sizes including terrapins, llamas, and others. Dr. Grey graduated with honors from the University College Dublin, Ireland, has completed further education in Equine Sports Medicine. In her free time, she enjoys writing about pet ownership and educating people about veterinary care of animals and preventing disease.

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  • Updated on: 17/04/2020

Kittens! Adorable balls of fluff and spiky nails that leave us blissfully covered in loving scratches. The first year of their lives full of novel experiences that need proper nutrition to give them the energy and good health for a long and happy nine-lives.

@hmelevo4ka / FreePik

Frequency of feeding your kitten will depend on what age the kitten

Neonates

Neonatal kittens are from birth up to 4 weeks of age. At this age, kittens tend to eat and sleep. These kittens will be close to mum and siblings with mum’s milk providing all their nutritional needs.  The most important milk for kittens at this age is the colostrum or “first milk” produced by their mum in the first 18-24 hours after birth. This milk is rich in antibodies and protein to give these babies the best start in life.

In these first weeks of life, kittens start with meals of 3-4ml up to approximately 15ml  of milk meals every 2-4 hours. Newborn kittens will feed 8-12 times per day which reduces to approximately 6 meals per day by 4 weeks of age.

Weaning

From 4 weeks of age, kittens start to explore other food options and are generally weaned by approximately 8 weeks old. Each kitten is developing at an incredibly rapid pace with a huge learning curve. At approximately 2 weeks, kittens’ first teeth come in and by 4 weeks old are showing interest in solid foods entering their transition from a milk-based diet to their adult diet. You should provide highly digestible and soft foods for your kitten to test out their new teeth.

Kittens will start feeding on their mum approximately 3 times per day with soft meals in between from a bowl. You can start adding dry food to your kitten’s diet from this age also.

Rapid growth

Between the ages of 2-4 months, kittens have a rapid spurt of growth needing specific nutrients to support their brain and muscle development and growth. At this age, your kitten needs high energy food to meet their growing needs. Your kitten will be fully weaned at approximately 8 weeks of age and rely solely on the food you provide them for their needs. 3-4 meals per day are suitable for your growing little ball of fur at this stage in their development.

Maintaining growth

Your kitten’s growth slows down from around 4 months of age but they continue to grow and develop until approximately 1 year old when they will reach their full adult weight and size. At this point, your kitten’s nutritional and energy requirements will stabilize and depend on their size, whether they are indoor or outdoor cats and if your kitten has been neutered or is entire at this point in their life. Your kitten will thrive on 3 meals per day but as they near 12 months of age this can be reduced to two larger feedings per day. Remember to make all these dietary changes over 7-10 days to prevent tummy upsets.

How much wet and dry food should I feed per day?

There are pros and cons to both wet and dry diets for cats and kittens do well on either or a mixture of both types. The most important part of your kitten’s diet is that they are designed for their specific life stage and meet all the nutritional requirements of your active and growing kitten. Once all the vitamins, minerals and energy requirements are met in your kittens’ diet the amount of wet or dry is up to your preference. Wet food provides more moisture than dry food, however, it spoils much quicker and should be discarded if not eaten within 20-30 minutes. Conversely, dry food is convenient and can be left available much longer for your kitten to graze if this is your preference.

@milasi / FreePik

Now is a good time to start developing a feeding schedule for your kitten. This is particularly important if you have multiple cats in your household as this helps to ensure that everyone eat’s their fair share and using appropriate portions at specified times can help reduce over-eating and future obesity problems. Obesity is the leading cause of many nutritional diseases we see in pet cats nowadays and as the old adage states: “Prevention is better than cure”.

What can I feed my kitten?

We all like treats and kittens are no different. Once you provide a well balanced, nutritionally complete diet for your kitten in sufficient quantities to meet their energy needs then treats should be kept to a minimum but it’s impossible to say no to those adorable whiskers!!

Some human foods that your kitten can try include cooked fish or plain meats with no flavoring. Small amounts of a scrambled egg can also be a tasty treat for your kitten while providing a little extra protein. The most important thing to remember if you give your kitten human food is that there is no extra flavors or spices added. Garlic, onion, and spices are actually toxic to pets and should never be given. Raw eggs, meats, and fish can cause upset tummies in kittens so shouldn’t be given as treats. Milk and cheeses are high in lactose which kittens and cat’s find very difficult to digest which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, bloating and a sore tummy for your kitten so should be avoided where possible. 

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