How to Choose the Best Kitten Food

With so many cat foods on the market, it’s hard enough to tell which foods are best for your cat. If you have a kitten, though, there are even more things to consider. From what nutrients your kitten needs to what foods will keep up with their high energy levels, choosing the best kitten food for your new addition can be overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve narrowed down the things to be on the lookout for when picking a food for your little one.

As always, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to identify any unique health and nutrition needs of your kitten and to determine if any underlying health conditions may require specific dietary needs.

The Best Wet and Dry Kitten Food

When your kitten is little, their nutritional needs and feeding schedule vary from those of an adult cat. Typically, a healthy kitten will be able to start eating wet food when they’re between three and four weeks old. If you’re looking for the best wet kitten food for your new addition, Dr. Anne, Earthborn Holistic’s Director of Nutrition Services, explains that the protein and fat levels will be considerably lower for wet food than dry food due to the high moisture content but it’s still important to look for protein at 10% or higher and fat at 3% or higher. Our Catalina Catch and Chicken Jumble with Liver recipes are some of our best canned kitten food recommendations. These formulas are created for all life stages and are made with high quality proteins like real chicken with chicken broth and mackerel topped with shrimp. If you’re looking for the best kitten food for sensitive stomachs, Chicken Jumble with Liver is a great single meat protein option for this as well.

As your kitten becomes older, switching to dry cat food may be more convenient. The crunchiness of dry kibble also helps keep your kitten’s teeth healthy by reducing plaque and tartar build-up. Softening dry kibbles with water can also help your kitten overcome texture differences between wet and dry food when transitioning to dry kibbles. 

According to Dr. Anne, the best dry kitten food is typically a food formulated for kittens with a protein content of 35% or higher and a fat content of 15% or higher. Our grain free Wild Sea Catch and Primitive Feline recipes both fit the bill for these specifications and are formulated for all life stages, meaning your kitten (and adult cat) can have their nutritional needs met by these recipes without the need for supplemental food. That being said, Dr. Anne notes that very young kittens also have very small teeth so eating only dry food can be difficult—supplementing wet food is sometimes physically easier for kittens to ingest and can help ensure adequate nutrition at a very young age. 

Kitten feeding schedules are typically pretty different from adult cat feeding schedules. If you’re feeding only wet food, it’s important to offer more meals per day due to the reduced protein and fat content and higher water content in wet foods compared to dry. Feeding wet food also helps ensure proper hydration, but always make sure your kitten’s water bowl is fresh and full. 

A kitten licks out of a can of Earthborn Holistic Monterey Medley kitten food

When to Switch from Kitten to Cat Food

As mentioned earlier, a kitten can typically be introduced to wet cat food or softened dry food at about four weeks old. After that, your kitten should remain on a kitten or all life stages cat food formula until they are ready to transition to an adult cat food around 9-12 months of age. When it comes to exactly how long kittens should eat kitten food, this is a topic that is best decided between you and your kittens vet.

Are you trying to understand why feed kitten food vs cat food? The difference between kitten and cat food is the protein and fat levels and how those levels affect your kitty’s energy. Dr. Anne explains that, “given the high energy requirements of kittens, adult cat food may not supply sufficient protein and fat to ensure proper growth and development of your growing kitten.” So if you’re wondering if your kitten can eat adult cat food, the answer is generally no.

A small kitten stands next to a bag of Wild Sea Catch kitten food and two cans of Earthborn Holistic wet kitten food

Foods Your Cat Shouldn’t Eat

We’ve talked about what your kitten should eat, but there’s also a whole list of things you should avoid feeding your kitten as well. 

Your tiny kitten had their mom’s milk for meals until they were three weeks old, so there’s no way milk is bad for cats… Right? Wrong! In fact, most cats are actually lactose intolerant. This is because the milk humans drink comes from cows, which has different nutrients and makes cats dehydrated. Also, even though your cat drinks milk when they’re first born, once they are weaned off of milk their digestive systems lose the ability to process it.

Next is dog food. If you’re wondering if cats can eat dog food, the answer is no. Should there be an accidental feeding mix-up, there’s no cause for alarm. However, because dogs and cats have unique nutritional needs and digestive systems, their foods are made with those requirements in mind. Dogs should only eat dog recipes and cats eat cat recipes to ensure that all of their nutritional needs are being met.

This scenario is similar to the question of whether or not cats can eat tuna. The tuna we as humans eat is tasty for cats, but not necessarily good for them. Tuna alone lacks many of the essential nutrients kittens need to be healthy, but as they transition into becoming adult cats our moist cat food pouches are formulated with tasty tuna and other essential ingredients to ensure your cat’s nutritional needs are properly met!

As far as whether or not cats can eat chocolate, the answer is also no as chocolate can be lethal to cats. It contains an ingredient called theobromine which cat’s can’t process like humans can, causing liver and heart problems. Make sure you stick to kitty-approved cat treats instead of human sweets when treating your cat.

If you’re a houseplant person, you might be surprised to learn there are several houseplant species that aren’t safe for cats and kittens. While this isn’t a comprehensive list (you can find one on ASPCA’s website!) common plants toxic to cats include:

  • Hyacinth
  • Hydrangea 
  • Lilies (especially Easter lilies)
  • Monstera
  • Pothos
  • Snake plants
  • Tulips
A kitten reaches up at a can of Earthborn Holistic Chicken Jumble wet kitten food

Introducing Your Kitten to New Food and a New Home

Bringing home a kitten can be an overwhelming experience, especially if your kitten is only a few weeks old. Getting them started on the most nutritious kitten food possible will get you started in the right direction. But how much cat food should you actually feed your kitten? On any kitten or cat food packaging should be a feeding chart near the ingredient list. If a formula is for all life stages, it will have both an adult and kitten feeding chart so you can be sure you’re feeding the right amount of food as your kitten grows. 

If you’re feeding wet food, there will usually be a feeding instructions paragraph instead of a whole chart that will look something like this:

Taking care of your cat’s overall health starts by feeding them properly.

  • Feed adult cats two to three cans (3 oz. can) or one to two cans (5.5 oz can) per 4.5 pounds of body weight daily.
  • Kittens eat up to twice as much per pound of body weight as an adult.
  • Refrigerate unused portion.
  • Your cat should have access to clean, fresh water daily.

Be sure to properly handle and store wet foods—do not let wet food set out for more than 2 hours and store opened wet food in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

When it comes to how often you should feed your new kitten, Dr. Anne explains, “whether you feed wet or dry cat food, kittens have high energy needs and it can be difficult for kittens to get enough calories in one meal, so feeding multiple meals (3-5) per day can help ensure adequate calories are ingested.”

If you’re wondering how to introduce a kitten to a new home beyond getting their food ready, there are several things to keep in mind. If you’re going to be introducing your kitten to a cat or introducing your kitten to a dog, there are a few things you’ll need to plan for before your kitten comes home. First, make sure that you introduce the kitten very slowly and reward your dog and cat for positive experiences. You might consider keeping your kitten in a separate room for a while and slowly introduce things with the kitten’s scent on it to your dog or cat to get them used to it before they meet. When they do meet, make sure to pay attention to everyone’s body language and if you notice your dog or cat getting agitated, redirect the kitten’s attention and reward everyone with treats or toys. 

If you’re looking for kitten treats to reward your newest addition for positive interactions, our favorite hack is to make frozen treats using wet kitten food like Catalina Catch or Chicken Jumble with Liver. Simply scoop some food into a silicone tray and freeze them overnight!

Bringing home a new kitten is exciting and sometimes overwhelming, but these tips and tricks for feeding your kitten and introducing them to a new home is a great start to giving your kitten a long, healthy life!