Contents of Article
- The Top-Rated Dry, Wet, & Frozen Foods For Kittens
- Choosing the best foods for your kitten in 2021
- Best Dry Foods for Kittens
- Best Canned Foods for Kittens
- Best Frozen/Freeze-Dried Kitten Food
The Top-Rated Dry, Wet, & Frozen Foods For Kittens
Kittens grow incredibly fast. That cute little ball of fur can double or even triple his weight in the first few weeks he’s alive.
Not only is he growing but his energy levels are off the charts as he runs, plays, and pounces in all directions. Kittens have have as much as three times the energy needs of an adult cat.
So, what do you feed your kitten during the first few months to make sure he has plenty of energy and reaches his full growth? As usual, there are several things to consider, and not just whether to feed canned or dry food.
Quick Look : Top 3 Best Kitten Foods By Type
|Dry||Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Dry Food w/ Real Chicken|
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|Canned||Wellness CORE Grain Free Kitten Formula|
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|$2.14/5.5 oz can|
|Frozen||The Honest Kitchen Grace Dehydrated Cat Food|
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Kitten Food vs. Cat Food
You can buy kitten food that is specially formulated for kittens; or you can buy a good all life stage cat food. You should look for AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) approval on these foods, preferably foods that have been approved through feeding trials instead of nutrient profiles. While this can eliminate some popular brands, many nutritionists believe that feeding trials provide a better look at how a food performs when it’s fed to an animal. It’s true that AAFCO and their feeding trials leave a lot to be desired, but they at least provide minimal standards.
You can see the current nutrient recommendations for kittens here in Table 4. (Figures given in dry matter basis.) Information for kittens is listed as “Growth and Reproduction.” As you can see, it is recommended that growing kittens have a minimum of 30 percent protein in their food, compared to a minimum of 26 percent protein for adult cats. Both kittens and adult cats are recommended to have 9 percent fat in their diets. It is recommended that kittens have a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1.0 to 0.8, while adult cats can have a ratio that is nearly equal (0.6 to 0.5). Kittens also need almost double the Vitamin A that adult cats need – and Vitamin A is an important vitamin for cats. Kittens also require slightly more of the amino acids Lysine and Tryptophan than adult cats.
Most pet nutritionists recommend that if you are feeding your kitten a good quality food you do not add supplements such as vitamins, minerals, or other additives to his diet. Excesses of some vitamins and minerals, or other additives, can be harmful to cats. Anything that causes the diet to be unbalanced can potentially lead to health problems even if you have good intentions when adding them. You should consult with a pet nutritionist or your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your kitten’s diet.
Likewise, if you are feeding a homemade diet, it’s best to have it formulated by a pet nutritionist. Many homemade diets are unbalanced or low in certain minerals. Hyperparathyroidism, for example, is particularly common in rapidly growing kittens and can be due to a mineral imbalance that results from low calcium.
You can continue to feed your kitten a kitten food until he’s about a year old and then switch to an adult maintenance diet. If you are feeding your kitten an all life stage food you won’t have to make any changes.
Buy good quality food for your kitten
Per the Merck Veterinary Manual, “Growing kittens are more sensitive to the quality of dietary protein and amino acid balance than are adult cats.” This means that it’s especially important to consider the source of ingredients when feeding kittens. You want to make sure you buy cat food that uses good quality ingredients, especially good quality meat proteins and ingredients that are properly balanced. While most of us have to consider our budgets, you should try to buy the best quality food for your kitten that you can afford. The food that he eats while he is growing will help determine his health throughout his life.
While you can find good quality dry cat foods as well as good quality canned foods (along with frozen and freeze-dried cat foods), canned foods typically have a higher meat protein content than dry foods. This is largely because dry cat foods require starches for their recipes for a variety of reasons – they need starches to make a batter/dough to go through the extrusion machinery, for example. Canned cat food is slightly less processed and it doesn’t require the same amount of carbs/starches in its formulation. You will often find good quality cat foods with very high protein percentages by their dry matter basis. Growing kittens can benefit from eating good quality protein in canned form, especially if the food is designed for kittens or all life stages and meets their nutritional requirements.
Very young kittens have small (but sharp) teeth and they can have difficulty chewing dry foods. It’s a good idea to feed these young kittens a canned food. If you want to introduce a dry food you can do so once your kitten starts to get his adult teeth. Kittens start to get their adult teeth when they are about 3-4 months of age. They should have all of their adult teeth by the time they are about 7 months old. It’s actually a good idea to introduce your kitten to a variety of foods – different flavors and textures, canned and dry – when he’s young. Kittens form their taste preferences at a young age so letting your kitten try different foods is a good way to help him avoid being a picky eater as an adult cat.
How often should you feed your kitten?
How often you feed your kitten depends on several factors such as how old your kitten is and what you are feeding him. Very young kittens need to be fed several times per day. We all know that kittens are very active – they burn up a lot of energy! They have to replace that energy every few hours so you should plan to feed a very young kitten at least three or four small meals per day, whether you are feeding dry or canned food. However, kittens are small and they can’t eat very much at a single meal, so don’t expect your kitten to eat huge meals. Some people who feed dry cat food do like to free feed kittens so they can snack whenever they get hungry. Most people don’t encourage free feeding of cats (or other pets) because of potential problems with obesity (one of the most common nutritional diseases seen in cats), but in the case of young kittens this should not be a problem. You can put your kitten on a feeding schedule when he gets a little older. Free feeding can also help kittens that are a little underweight or that are growing slowly. Of course, if you are feeding your kitten canned food then free feeding is not an option because you can’t leave canned food sitting out for more than a few minutes or it will spoil.
As your kitten gets a little older you can cut back dry meals to two or three times per day. If you are feeding canned food you should continue to feed three or four meals per day until your kitten is older. This is the best way to make sure your kitten is getting sufficient calories at each meal.
Make sure that your kitten has access to plenty of water at all times – and keep it fresh! Your kitten and your adult cat need plenty of water to stay healthy.
How do you know if your kitten is thriving on his food?
Many people wonder if they are feeding their kitten the “right” food or the “best” food. Foods do vary in quality and when you hear about a food online or a food that someone else is feeding, it can be tempting to try it. Before changing the food you are feeding your kitten you should assess how your kitten is doing on his current food.
- Is he healthy and alert?
- Is he gaining weight steadily?
- Is his coat clean and glossy?
- Is he active and playful?
- Are his eyes bright?
- Does he show any signs of illness?
If you are satisfied with the answers to all of these questions then there is probably no particular need to change foods. Your kitten’s current food is probably meeting his nutritional needs. Some kittens and cats can have an upset stomach if you make sudden changes to their diet so if you change foods, do so gradually. On the other hand, some cats like variety, so you can go ahead and try new flavors or textures with your kitten to see how he likes them.
Choosing the best foods for your kitten in 2021
Here are a few foods that we like for kittens. These are just a few suggestions. There are many other good foods that you could feed. For the sake of eliminating some foods with less desirable ingredients, we have cut out foods that contain glutens.
Best Dry Foods for Kittens
Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Dry Food w/ Real Chicken
Biologically-appropriate cat food. 43.5 percent crude protein, 20.5 percent crude fat, 3 percent crude fiber, 9 percent moisture. The first five ingredients are quality proteins including 4 meats: Chicken, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Chicken Eggs.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten Grain-Free Dry Chicken Recipe
No chicken by-product meals, grain, wheat, gluten or soy. 40 percent crude protein, 20 percent crude fat, 3.5 percent crude fiber, 10 percent moisture. First five ingredients are: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Menhaden Fish Meal.
Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Chicken Meal & Salmon Meal Dry Cat Formula
All life stage formula. 34 percent crude protein, 17 percent crude fat, 3 percent crude fiber, 10 percent moisture. First five ingredients are: Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Chicken, Oats, Chicken Liver.
Best Canned Foods for Kittens
|Wellness CORE Grain Free Kitten Formula|
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|$2.14/5.5 oz can|
|Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Canned Cat Food|
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|$2.42/6 oz can|
|Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain Free Chicken Formula Cat Food|
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|$2.10/5.5 oz can|
Wellness CORE Grain Free Kitten Formula
Wellness/CORE also has several canned foods that are all life stages that feature different meat proteins. This formula is formulated for growth. 12 percent crude protein, 7.5 percent crude fat, 0.5 percent crude fiber, 78 percent moisture. First five ingredients are: Turkey, Chicken Liver, Turkey Broth, Chicken, Herring. Does contain carrageenan if this is a concern for you.
Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken in Chicken Consomme Canned Cat Food
“Food with a nutrient profile that mimics the natural prey for cats and dogs, which is commonly referred to as Biologically Appropriate.” Tiki Cat foods are typically made for all life stages. The page for each food provides feeding information for kittens and pregnant/nursing cats. Whole human grade shredded or sliced meats and seafoods. Cans are supposed to be BPA-free. Crude Protein (min) 18.5%, Crude Fat (min) 2.3%, Crude Fiber (max) 0.0%, Moisture (max) 78.0%, Ash (max) 1.0%, Taurine DM (min) 0.20%. Ingredients: Shredded Chicken Breast, Chicken Consommé, Sunflower Seed Oil, vitamins and minerals, tuna fish oil. Tiki Cat is canned in Thailand but you should not let this put you off. Many pet foods use canneries in Thailand. Standards are extremely high as the products have to meet European Union standards. Canning is done in the same factories where human foods are canned. Regulations are very strict.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain Free Chicken Formula Cat Food
Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain Free canned formulas for cats are all life stage foods. 95% Chicken, Turkey and Liver, 5% Vegetables, Fruits and Wholesome Ingredients, 0% Grain and Gluten. 10 percent crude protein, 6.5 percent crude fat, 3 percent crude fiber, 78 percent moisture. First five ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Ground Flaxseed. Nature’s Variety Instinct suggests rotating their foods to give your cat different proteins.
Best Frozen/Freeze-Dried Kitten Food
Whether you want to feed your kitten a raw food diet on a long-term basis or not, you might want to try some small samples of these frozen/freeze-dried/dehydrated foods just to give your kitten some new tastes and textures to consider. Some cats like them more than others but it’s always good to have more food options.
The Honest Kitchen Grace Dehydrated Cat Food
AAFCO complete and balanced, grain free, high moisture, low carbs, higher calories. No corn, wheat, or soy. No by-products or preservatives. All ingredients are dehydrated. You add water. According to The Honest Kitchen, a 4-lb box equals about 16 dry-measured cups of food which can last a long time. (Feeding table on the site.) First five ingredients: Turkey, eggs, pumpkin, potatoes, parsley. The Honest Kitchen also has a formula called Prowl that is chicken-based. Nutrient profile for Grace (DMB): 40.45 percent protein; 35.94 percent fat; 2.17 percent fiber; 14.59 percent carbs. Contains 647.63 calories per cup.
Feline Primal Chicken and Salmon Formula Nuggets
Raw frozen formula with higher levels of amino acids and essential fatty acids. Organic vegetables. Includes finely ground, fresh chicken bones and cold water salmon. 13 percent crude protein, 10 percent crude fat, 1 percent crude fiber, 73 percent moisture. Only 2.4 percent carbohydrates. First five ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Necks, Chicken Gizzards, Salmon, Chicken Livers. This is an all life stage formula. Primal has other feline raw formulas along with feline versions of their freeze-dried formulas.
Stella & Chewy’s Yummy Lickin’ Salmon & Chicken Freeze Dried Dinner
Stella & Chewy’s is probably best-known for their freeze-dried and frozen dog foods – they’re very popular with dog lovers who feed raw – but they make cat food, too. You can choose from freeze-dried or frozen meals. (Be sure to read the nice chart to help you decide if you want freeze-dried or frozen foods.) Yummy Lickin’ Salmon & Chicken Freeze Dried Dinner is an all life stage food. Since it’s freeze-dried, you just add warm water to rehydrate. This meal features 98 percent wild-caught fish and cage-free chicken, organs and bone; added vitamins and minerals; taurine and probiotics. No added hormones or antibiotics; no grains or fillers; no gluten; no artificial preservatives or colors. 45 percent crude protein, 25 percent crude fat, 1 percent crude fiber, 5 percent moisture. This formula has 120 kcal/ounce. First five ingredients are: Salmon (Ground With Bone), Chicken (Ground With Bone), Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Pumpkin Seed.
Some people are nervous about feeding a raw diet to kittens. If you are making a raw/homemade/cooked diet yourself then, yes, this is scary. Diets have to be properly balanced to make sure your kitten is getting all of the nutrients he needs in the correct amounts and ratios. It’s not easy to do this yourself without some professional guidance or a lot of experience. However, if you are using a complete and balanced food that is AAFCO-approved for all life stages or for growth/reproduction/lactation, the food should be more than adequate to meet your kitten’s nutritional requirements. Companies that make frozen and freeze-dried raw pet foods are inspected the same way that other pet food manufacturers are inspected. Samples are taken periodically and tested. Recalls are issued when appropriate. So, you really don’t need to be any more fearful of feeding frozen/freeze-dried food to your cat than other foods.
Kittens are one of the great joys in life. Even people who don’t like cats seem to love kittens. We hope that you have fun with your kitten and that this look at kitten food helps you make some good choices. Remember: Lots of small meals at first with good quality meat protein; and always keep fresh water available!
Once your kitty moves on to adulthood be sure to check our recommendations for the best cat food on the market.