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What should I feed my kitten?

Article ID: 267
Last updated: 28 Oct, 2015
Revision: 12
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Kittens are essentially baby carnivores with specialised needs. Kittens naturally wean off their mother's milk at around 8-12 weeks of age. In the wild.  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:

  • Talk to your veterinarian for advice
  • Feed a high quality balanced premium commercial kitten food that is appropriate for the life stage and health status of your kitten. Check that it complies with the Australian Standard:Manufacturing and Marketing Pet Food AS5812:2011.
  • You can offer some natural foods to provide some variety
  • Natural foods include human-grade raw meat such as diced up raw lamb meat, pieces of raw chicken meat. Raw food offered to cats 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.
  • First check with your vet that raw meaty bones are suitable for your particular kitten (e.g. some kittens with misshapen jaws may have difficulty chewing on raw bones) 
  • Choose human-grade raw meat and raw meaty bones because some pet meat/pet mince/pet rolls/pet meat and bone products can contain preservatives that can be detrimental to the kitten's health (e.g. sulphite preservative induced thiamine deficiency which can be fatal). However avoid human sausages, sausage meat and cooked manufactured meats as these may contain sulphite preservatives.     
  • Provide some moist foods in the diet regularly e.g. wet can food
  • 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)
  • Between four to six months of age kittens cut their permanent teeth and grow rapidly
    • Introducing raw meaty bones such as raw chicken necks and raw chicken 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
    • Raw bones should be introduced gradually. The bone must be large enough so that the kitten cannot fit the whole bone in it's mouth or swallow the bone whole.
    • Too many raw bones can cause constipation. One raw bones per week is generally well-tolerated
    • Always supervise your kitten when eating raw bones.
    • Avoid large marrow bones, large knuckle bones or bones sawn lengthwise as cats may crack their teeth on these
    • Never feed cooked bones as these may splinter and cause internal damage or become an intestinal obstruction
  • Different types of fish such as tinned sardines in springwater, tinned tuna and tinned salmon may also be offered as a treat occasionally (care with any fish bones). Please avoid feeding fish constantly.
  • A small amount of vegetable matter may be offered
  • 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.
  • Calcium powder supplements should not be given (unless directed by a veterinarian)
  • Please ensure fresh drinking water is available at all times
  • 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
  • Do not feed the following (note this is not an exhaustive list): onions, onion powder, garlic, chocolate, coffee or caffeine products, mouldy or spoiled foods or compost, bread dough, yeast dough, avocado, grapes, raisins, sultanas (including those in Christmas cakes etc), currants, nuts including macadamia nuts, fruit stones (pits) e.g. mango seeds, apricot stones; fruit seeds, corncobs; tomatoes, mushrooms; fish constantly, cooked bones, Salt, small pieces of raw bone or fatty trimmings/fatty foods. Also ensure you pet cat does not have access to string wrappings around rolled roasts or the absorbent pad found under meat when wrapped on trays

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Also read
folder How do I care for my new kitten?
folder How do I care for newborn kittens and their mother?
folder How do I introduce my new kitten to my dog?
folder How do I introduce my new kitten to my rabbits?
folder What should I feed my cat?
folder How old should a kitten be before they are adopted/purchased?

Also listed in
folder Companion animals -> Cats -> Feeding

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What do I need to know before I get a new pet?       Basic care and cat health