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What should I feed my kitten?

Kittens are essentially baby carnivores with specialised needs. Kittens naturally wean off their mother’s milk at around 8-12 weeks of age. When young cats are old enough (around 8 weeks old) they start to eat food on their own whilst simultaneously decreasing the amount of milk they suckle from their mother.

Basic kitten feeding guide

The following information is general advice, but as each kitten is an individual, seek veterinary advice, particularly if your kitten has any special dietary needs or has a reaction to a standard diet.

The basis of your kitten’s diet should be a high quality balanced premium commercial kitten food that is appropriate for their life stage and health status. By reading the label, you can check that it complies with the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food AS 5812:2017 [1]. It is best to start feeding wet kitten food and introducing dry kitten food as your kitten grows [2]. Never feed puppy or dog food to your kitten as it will be deficient in taurine, an essential protein that cats can only obtain through food.

You can also offer some natural foods to provide variety. Natural foods include fresh human-grade raw meat such as diced up raw lamb meat or pieces of raw chicken meat. You should check with your vet first that raw meaty bones are suitable for your particular kitten (e.g. some kittens with misshapen jaws may have difficulty chewing on raw bones).

Raw food offered to kittens should always be fresh. Avoid feeding too much raw meat until the kitten is 20 weeks of age (unless the meat is on the bone e.g. raw chicken wing.) This is important to help avoid certain nutritional deficiencies during growth.

We recommend you choose only human-grade raw meat and raw meaty bones because some raw meat products marketed as pet food (pet meat/pet mince/pet rolls and bone products) contain preservatives to keep them looking fresh, but these can be detrimental to the kitten’s health. There have been many pet food safety incidents linked to sulphite preservative-induced thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency, which can be fatal. You should avoid sausages, sausage meat and cooked manufactured meats as they can also contain sulphite preservatives. Provide some moist foods in the diet regularly e.g. wet can food.

Kittens should be offered food at least 4 times per day.

Take care not to overfeed or underfeed your kitten. Your vet will be able to weigh your kitten, assess your kitten’s body condition score and provide advice.

Please ensure clean fresh drinking water is available at all times but do not provide milk as this can cause gastrointestinal upsets.

Feeding bones

Between four to six months of age, kittens the permanent teeth appear and grow rapidly. Introducing raw meaty bones (such as raw chicken necks and wings) at around 12 weeks of age ensures they are chewing actively around the time their permanent teeth are erupting. This chewing is important to alleviate “teething” issues and also provides several important health benefits including healthy teeth and gums.

Bones must always be raw (uncooked). Never feed your kitten cooked bones as these can splinter, causing potentially fatal internal damage or intestinal obstruction.

Raw bones should be introduced gradually. The bone must be large enough so that the kitten cannot fit the whole bone in its mouth or swallow the bone whole. Avoid large marrow bones, large knuckle bones or bones sawn lengthwise as cats may crack their teeth on these.

Too many raw bones can cause constipation. One raw bone per week is generally well-tolerated.

Always supervise your kitten when eating raw bones.

Other foods

Different types of fish such as tinned fish in springwater (e.g. sardines, tuna and salmon), may also be offered as a treat occasionally (take care with any fish bones) but please avoid feeding fish constantly because this is not a complete diet. Cooked meat such as boiled chicken can also be fed occasionally. Please ensure there are no cooked bones, onions/onion sauces or other toxic substances present (see below).

A small amount of finely-cut vegetable matter may be offered. It is important to remember that cats are ‘obligate carnivores’, which means they require meat in their diet, so their nutritional needs cannot be met by a vegetarian diet.

Provide access to grass (avoid chemically treated grass and toxic plants). Kittens will sometimes eat grass, which may be a source of vegetable matter and nutrients. Be aware that large amounts of certain types of ‘cat grass’ can cause high levels of vitamin D, which may lead to symptoms of poisoning such as vomiting, weakness, loss of appetite, increased drinking and urination, bloody faeces, weight loss, constipation, internal bleeding, seizures or abdominal pain.

Calcium powder supplements should not be given (unless directed by a veterinarian).

Toxic foods

Do not ever feed the following substances as they are toxic to cats (note this is not an exhaustive list): alcohol, onions, onion powder, garlic, chocolate, coffee or caffeine products, mouldy or spoiled foods or compost, avocado, bread dough, yeast dough, grapes, raisins, sultanas (including in Christmas cakes etc), currants, nuts (including macadamia nuts), fruit stones or ‘pits’ (eg. mango seeds, apricot stones, avocado stones), fruit seeds, corncobs, tomatoes, mushrooms, cooked bones, small pieces of raw bone, fatty trimmings/ fatty foods, salt and roughly-cut vegetables.

Also ensure your pet cat doesn’t have access to string wrappings around rolled roasts or absorbent pads found under meat when wrapped on trays.

References

[1] Standards Australia (2017) Manufacturing and marketing of pet food, AS 5812:2017. (accessed on Oct 8 2019)

[2] International Cat Care (2017) Feeding your cat or kitten. (accessed on Oct 8 2019)

Also Read

Updated on October 8, 2019
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https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-should-i-feed-my-kitten/

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