Veterinarian Reviewed on June 17, 2012 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Like children and puppies, kittens have unique dietary requirements. Protein, vitamins, and minerals are important aspects of a kitten’s diets so you will want to look for foods that are formulated specifically for kittens. Often a mixture of water and dry kitten food (1:4) will make eating easier for your kitten but you should always try to use the feeding guidelines recommended by your veterinarian. The amount and frequency with which a kitten eats depends on the individual kitten; pay special attention to their habits to develop an ideal diet and feeding schedule. More active kittens will likely eat more but you’ll need to be careful to avoid overfeeding leading to cat obesity. Kittens eat occasionally and will usually meet their own feeding needs independently so don’t be concerned that your cat is not eating enough. If you are particularly worried, consult a veterinarian.
Eating habits are ultimately learned when a cat is a kitten. Thus, it is very important for you to establish the kinds of food your kitten will have access to and those it will not. Picky eaters are taught to be picky eaters and it’s important to remember that cats are very intermittent eaters. They’ll usually eat small amounts on several occasions daily. If you start to believe your cat doesn’t like the food you’re giving it and substitute it for more expensive or “fancy” foods, then your cat will likely develop picky habits.
When feeding your kitten, if you find a particular type of food that your kitten enjoys, stick with it until you are ready to introduce an adult cat food. This transition, by the way, needs to be made gradually. Digestive problems can occur when you quickly introduce a new diet. Instead, give a small amount of adult cat food daily and gradually increase the amount until the transition is complete.
The traditional imagery of a cat involves it standing over a bowl lapping milk. Many people are confused about whether cats need or even enjoy eating milk. The fact of the matter is, there are no other mammals (except humans) that drink the milk of another mammal. Cats, like humans, can be lactose intolerant and drinking milk can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. There is no good reason to feed your kittens milk. In fact, a good kitten food should have all the dietary requirements for their healthy development.
Chocolate and onions can be poisonous for kittens (and adult cats alike) and will cause digestive problems and even death. Most human foods can be tolerated by cats but eating them may cause your kitten/cat to become a picky eater. Instead, stick to a well known cat food that is developed specifically for kittens or adult cats (depending on the age of your cat).
Finally, remember that as your cat grows its dietary requirements will change. They will eat more depending on their activity level but gradually less as they grow older. Never be afraid to consult your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your cat’s diet.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan