Ensuring you feed your kitten the right sort of food in their youth is just an important as ensuring a human baby receives the right nutrition in their early days. Kittens have different requirements from adult cats, just as human babies do from adults, so you will need to make sure you are providing them with the right nutrients to grow strong and healthy. Kittens are constantly growing so they need more proteins and fats to help develop their tissues and organs, and carbohydrates should be minimized. The best kitten food is one that takes this into account.
The prospect of ensuring your kitten gets the exact nutrition they need can be daunting to a new pet owner, which is why we have created this buying guide. Below you will find all the information you need on the right food for your little feline friend, along with some of our favorite kitten foods out there on the market today.
Why Does My Kitten Need Special Food?
Kittens need different food to adult cats simply because they are at a different life stage. Kittens are constantly growing. They are born weighing only a few ounces but in a few months weigh more than triple their birth weight. This means they are using a lot of energy and, of course, their food needs to be the source of this energy.
Your kitten will also need special food because of the nutrition they need. Not only does this also relate to their energy, but it also relates to their developing bodies that aren’t quite up to handling adult food yet. They have more of a fragile immune system than adult cats, just as human babies have a weaker immune system than adults. They also have smaller teeth which can make chewing on harder, tough things more difficult. This is why purchasing a kitten food for your young furry friend is so important.
Things To Consider When Buying Kitten Food
As we have mentioned above, there are things kittens need in their diet more than adult cats do. We have laid these out below and the reasons why they are so important.
High Calorie Content
Kittens need more calories simply because they need more energy. Just like human toddlers and young children, your kitten may be bouncing off the walls with energy, wanting to play with everything and running everywhere. Half the calories they consume will go into this type of energy, ensuring they can play with toys and explore their new environment.
The other half of the calories they consume will go into their physical development. Kittens are obviously still growing and need energy for this. The calories they consume will help them build healthy muscles, organs and tissue, which continue to develop as they get older. This development involves a lot of chemical process which takes a lot of energy. This is why they need to have a high calorie content food.
High Animal Protein Content
The majority of the calories that kittens need should come from animal protein and fats, and not carbohydrates. We will go into more detail about carbohydrates below, but this is primarily because cats are carnivorous and require primarily animal-based proteins to survive. This is because their bodies digest animal protein better than anything else. Real animal protein is very important for building tissues, especially in young kittens. This protein can come from a range of animals, such as chicken, beef, eggs, venison, lamb, salmon, sardines, mussels and duck. Organ meat, such as chicken or beef liver, is also a bonus.
Some pet owners like to give their cats protein from plants and this is fine too, but there should still be a good amount of animal-based protein in your kitten food. This is because, although plants do contain animo acids, they do not contain all the amino acids needed by cats to develop properly.
Are You Giving Them Enough?
If you are unsure whether you are feeding your kitten enough animal protein, as a general rule, you should look for the first five ingredients on the label of the cat food as these are the ones that matter the most and make up most of the cat food. Some manufacturers will include vegetables in the fist five ingredients which is fine, but at least three out of the five ingredients should be animal products.
One thing you should definitely steer clear of are ingredients that are sourced from a cheap location or are vague or nondescript as they may be unhealthy. This includes ingredients that are simply labelled as “poultry” or “fish”, because the label should state what type of poultry or what type of fish is included. The same goes for any ingredient that is labelled as “meal” — a “chicken meal” is going to be safer than “poultry meal”, because “poultry meal” doesn’t give you much indication of what type of poultry is included.
The best option is to stick to US-based companies to be sure. You should look for certain words on the label of the food too, like “grass-fed,” “free-range” and “organic”, as only certain companies can use these words so you can be sure they are safe.
A low carbohydrate diet is important for kittens because they need all the energy they can get, which means the majority of the ingredients in their food should be proteins. In an ideal world, cat food manufacturers would create a food that was 100% protein and nothing else. However, this would make for a very expensive food that the majority of pet owners would not be able to afford. This is why they choose to include some carbohydrates into their food as well.
Carbohydrates, in the form of fruit and vegetables, are not all bad. As cats eat living prey in the wild, evolution has not taught them to eat so many vegetables, even though they are also living organisms. However, there are many nutrients like antioxidants, minerals and vitamins in vegetables and therefore they can be beneficial in kitten food. That being said, these vegetables should be ones that you can find in your fridge such as sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, apples and berries, so you can be sure that these carbohydrates are safe and nutritious for your feline friend.
Remember, you should always read the label of the cat food you are buying so you can double check the ingredients. You should always avoid byproduct meals and look for ingredients that can be found in your fridge so you know they are healthy and nutritious. You will also want to stay away from artificial colors or flavorings. The best foods will have only minimal, natural ingredients.
Wet Vs. Dry Food
There is a big debate between cat owners as to whether wet food or dry food is better for cats. Often, the argument is that wet food is better for kittens simply because it is softer on their developing teeth compared to dry food. We will take a more detailed look below though.
Wet food is also known as canned cat food and it contains more water and moisture than nutrients per weight of food. Although cats need a lot of water, they are not wired to recognize thirst within their bodies and therefore do not drink as much as they require. Unless your kitten can finish their water bowl every day, vets often recommend you should look for a wet cat food rather than dry kibbles. Kittens particularly need water because they are growing and the chemical processes happening in their bodies require a lot of water, so a wet cat food may give your little feline the moisture they need while growing.
Wet cat food can also be much more palatable to cats, which may be useful if you are trying to transition your kitten from one food or weaning them from milk.
However, there are also downsides to wet cat food. Because the water content is so high, it means there are less nutrients in a can of wet cat food. This will mean you have to read the label very carefully to ensure your kitten is still getting the right levels of proteins are fats, alongside the moisture.
Dry cat food is the complete opposite of wet cat food, because it is not only hard but it also contains very little moisture. A dry cat food usually comes in the form of kibbles. The biggest upside to dry food is that it is packed with proteins. Due to the way it is made, their is very little nutritional value lost when the ingredients are dehydrated and made into kibbles, which can be very beneficial to a growing kitten.
However, the downside, as mentioned above, is that it has very little moisture. This is not an issue if your kitten drinks their water bowl, but it may be if they do not as you would have to find other ways for them to get the moisture they need. Also, kibble can be very hard. You will need to make sure it doesn’t hurt your cat’s mouth or damage their softer, growing teeth.
If you’re ready to find the right kitten food for your little feline friend, take a look at the best kitten food we reckoned below, all available to you on Amazon.
The Best Kitten Food Reviews
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness grain free kitten food is made with the ingredients to help promote your kitten’s healthy development including DHA and ARA (fatty acids found in mother’s milk) and taurine to help support cognitive development and retinal health. With high-quality protein from deboned chicken, chicken meal and fish meal, this food helps to encourage healthy muscle development and to give your cat all the energy they need for playing. There are also healthy complex carbohydrates such as peas, potatoes and sweet potatoes and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetable such as carrots, blueberries and cranberries to support a strong immune system.
Also included in this food are BLUE’s exclusive LifeSource Bits — a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help with your kitten’s life-stage requirements. To help healthy heart and eye development taurine is present, alongside omega-3 and 6 fatty acids that ensure your kitty has a shiny coat and healthy skin. This food does not contain by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives.
IAMS Healthy Kitten wet cat food is 100% complete and balanced nutrition for feline growth with 0% fillers, and includes essential minerals like calcium for strong bones. This high-quality formula supports your kitten’s critical nutritional needs with Vitamin E to help build a strong immune system and is also made with omega-3 DHA to promote healthy brain development. Made with chicken broth, chicken, salmon and chicken liver, this high-protein pate is not only tasty to your cat but also ensures they get the optimal energy they need to help develop strung muscles and organs.
Taurine is also included in this food to promote healthy heart and eye development. This food is grain free and there are no artificial preservatives present. It comes in packs of twenty four with twin pack trays, giving your forty eight servings per pack. If your kitten doesn’t like the pate texture, this food is also available in a cuts in gravy texture.
The Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health for kittens is a dry food that contains protein from chicken, duck meal and salmon meal. This high-protein food is formulated to help encourage strong muscle development and the key nutrients help to support all the needs of your growing kitten. With optimal levels of EPA and DHA from marine sources, it helps an active and healthy brain and added taurine supports healthy eye and heart function.
Using multiple layers of fiber sources, this food helps to maintain healthy digestion and the antioxidant nutrients help with a strong immune system. There are also proper calcium and phosphorus levels for strengthening bones and teeth and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for a strong skin and coat. With no artificial colors or flavors, the size of this kibble is specially designed to fit into your kitten’s small mouth.
In the Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula food, real chicken is the number one ingredient. This high protein ingredient helps your kitten to build strong muscles and gives them the energy they need to play and explore. Wholesome grains included in this food are also a great source of energy for your cat, and help to provide essential nutrients. DHA, a nutrient found in mother’s milk, is present for vision and brain development and an antioxidant rich blend of vitamins E and A help to build a strong immune system.
Omega-6 fatty acids support a healthy skin and coat too, and accents of real vegetables from carrots and peas ensure your kitten gets all the nutrients they need. With no filler ingredients, you can be sure that every ingredient included in this food has a purpose and is aiding your cat’s development. The crunchy kibble pieces also help to reduce plaque buildup and whiten teeth as your kitten chews.
Hill’s Science Diet Indoor Kitten dry food is specially formulated to fuel the energy needs of kittens with an indoor lifestyle so they get the best start in life. This cat food is made with natural ingredients and uses DHA from fish oil to support brain health and eye development. There are also balanced minerals to promote strong teeth and bones, while natural fibers promote healthy digestion for your young cat, and an easier litter box clean-up for you! In this chicken and rice recipe, chicken is the number one ingredient, ensuring your kitten gets all the protein they need for energy to grow.
With only natural ingredients and no chicken by-product meals, this formula contains vitamin C and E antioxidants that are proven to help with your cat’s immune system. This food is made in the USA with global ingredients you can trust.
This wet cat food from Purina comes in a multi-pack with four different flavors — Ocean Whitefish, Turkey, Chicken and Salmon formulas with a touch of real milk. Specially formulated to provide 100% complete and balanced nutrition for your kitten during their first year of life, the high-protein recipes of these Fancy Feast cans provide high-quality protein to help support your kittens growing muscles.
Each recipe features real poultry or seafood as the number one ingredient, so you can feel confident you’re providing your growing feline with the wholesome nutrition they need to thrive. This canned food comes in a soft pate texture that’s just right for your kitten’s small mouth. It also comes in pull-tab cans for convenient serving and storage.
The Instinct Original Kitten cat food is made with 81% real animal ingredients and nutritious oils, with cage free chicken as the number one ingredient for energy to grow and play. The other 19% of this food is made up of vegetables, fruits and other wholesome ingredients, providing your kitten with well-balanced nutrition. This dry food is made with probiotics and antioxidants for digestive and immune health and omegas for healthy skin and soft fur. There is also DHA from eggs for brain and eye development. There are no grains, potato, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meals, artificial colors or preservatives.
Each piece of kibble is coated in freeze dried raw for nutrition and taste, meaning it is natural, made from real meat and whole food ingredients and is minimally processed. This food is made in the USA with ingredients from around the world.
This grain-free food from Blue Buffalo is a recipe with delicious, real chicken as the first ingredient. This dry kitten food features the high-quality ingredients you can feel good about feeding your feline friend without the grains that contain gluten, especially if you suspect they might be intolerant. Alongside the chicken in the food is chicken meal, fish meal and egg, giving your cat the protein they need for energy and there is taurine for heart and eye development and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to help develop a shiny skin coat and healthy skin. Blue Freedom food is made with DHA and ARA, to help support your kitten’s cognitive and retinal development.
Also included, as with the other Blue Buffalo kitten food above, are Blue’s exclusive LifeSource Bits which give your kitten both antioxidants and minerals that they need to support immune health. Whole peas, sweet potatoes and carrots alongside blueberries and cranberries are present in this food too. There are no by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives in this food, so you can be sure you are feeding your kitten only what they need.
Royal Canin Kitten dry cat food is formulated for the second stage of kittenhood (between 4 months and 1 year). With intensifying energy levels, developing bones, growing muscles, and emerging teeth, older kittens need a different kind of nutrition than a younger baby cat. With a combination of highly digestible proteins, fibers and prebiotics, this food helps aid older kittens’ developing digestive systems and also supports your kitten’s developing immune system with an exclusive blend of antioxidants and vitamins.
Delivering a mix of proteins, minerals and vitamins to meet the high-energy needs of your cat, chicken meal, brown rice and chicken fat are present, giving a great taste that your cat will love. The kibble size and shape is specially formulated to fit into a small kittens mouth, too, as well as being softer and easier to chew for your cat’s emerging teeth.
The Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe is a dry cat food made with 100% all-natural ingredients including high-quality proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables designed to keep your kitten healthy and providing them with all the nutrients they need to grow. With real chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal and chicken fat, this food is high in protein and ensures your cat gets all the energy they need to grow healthy muscles and to help with organ development.
There is also protein from peas to give them energy to run and play. Other ingredients include alfalfa and potatoes as a natural carbohydrate as well as salmon oil, with added vitamins and mineral for a well-rounded diet. This food is made in the USA and is very safe, and contains no grains, poultry by-products, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
Nutro Max’s dry kitten food is made using high-quality ingredients and is tailored to the nutritional needs of young cats to help support proper healthy growth and development. The number one ingredient in this kitten food is chicken meal, made with real chicken but with most of the water and fat removed. With this high protein, alongside calcium and zinc, this food helps with muscle growth as well as teeth and bone development. Fortified with DHA to help brain development and vitamin E, C, taurine and cranberries and blueberries to support immune system, this food gives your kitten the nutrients necessary for a long life.
Taurine also helps with your kitten’s vision and heart function. It is also rich in omega-6 fatty acids to support a healthy coat and skin. This food uses easy to digest brewers rice and there is no ground corn, artificial colors, artificial flavors or artificial sweeteners.
In the Merrick Purrfect Bistro dry cat food, 74% of the recipe is made with protein and fat ingredients, while the other 26% is made up with carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. With the number one ingredient being natural, deboned chicken, this high protein food is perfect for supporting your cats growth and energy needs. DHA is present to support brain and eye development and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids nourish your kittens skin and fur, leaving them both healthy and shiny. There are also added vitamins and minerals as well as added antioxidants which help to support a health immune system.
This food is perfect for ensuring your kitten stays at an optimal weight as they grow and the easily-digestible ingredients make this food easy on your cat’s stomach. There are no poultry by-product meals, no artificial preservatives and no corn, wheat, soy or gluten. It is also cooked in the USA.
The Wellness Core wet cat food is made with turkey, chicken, chicken liver, chicken meal, turkey broth and herring, providing a perfect protein-rich diet for your kitten and ensuring they get all the energy they need to grow and play. Designed for healthy development, there is DHA from salmon oil included in this food to support eye and brain health, and it is also fortified with vitamins, minerals and probiotics to support a healthy immune system. Alongside the meat are ingredients like flaxseed and cranberries to create a pate that your kitten will not only love the taste of but also the texture.
This food is 100% natural and grain and gluten free, as well as free from wheat, meat by-products, corn, soy and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. You can feed a can as a whole meal, or you can add it on top of your cat’s existing meal as a protein-rich extra.
Another product from Blue Buffalo, this natural kitten food is a canned cat food and comes in the form of a pate. There is high-quality protein from real chicken, chicken liver and chicken broth to support healthy muscle development, plus DHA from fish oil to support cognitive development. Also present are eggs as well as rice, carrots and sweet potatoes that give your cat all the carbs they need. The cranberries provide essential antioxidants and the food is enhanced with vitamins and minerals to provide a well-rounded diet.
With a smooth texture and gravy taste, this food will be very palatable to your cat and also give them the moisture they need. There are no chicken or poultry by-product meals, no corn, no wheat or soy and no artificial flavors or preservatives.
This wet cat food from Wellness Complete gives your kitten complete and balanced nutrition every day of their early stages in the form of pate which they will love. Made with high-quality chicken as the primary form of protein, alongside chicken liver and chicken broth this food helps your cat to grow strong muscles while also giving them the energy they need to explore. Carrots which are present are a great source of fiber and antioxidants, and cranberries also included, which are Vitamin C rich and a natural source of tannins, support urinary health by preventing harmful bacteria from thriving in the urinary tract.
Flaxseed is a perfect source of fatty acids and ensures your kitten has great skin and coat health. There is also taurine present in the ingredients list for healthy eye and heart development. This food is grain-free and contains only natural ingredients. There are no meat by-products or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health canned kitten food nourishes your kitten’s complete well-being by taking an entire body approach. With protein-rich chicken, salmon and duck as the main ingredients, this food is perfect for helping your cat develop strong and healthy muscles, organs and tissue which also giving them the energy they need to be a kitten. This gluten-free diet aids with a strong immune function while also helping to develop the nervous system.
With calcium to help develop strong bones and teeth, this food also helps to maintain digestive health so you can be sure you are giving your kitten the best start in life. DHA is also present to support eye and brain health. This food comes in a pack of 24.
This wet cat food from Blue Wilderness prides itself in being high in protein, containing more of the chicken and trout kittens love to support healthy muscle growth. There is also chicken broth to enhance the flavor and chicken liver that also give a source of vitamins and minerals. In a flaked texture, this food contains real flakes of chicken and trout that not only give a great taste but also mirror the diet your cat would be eating in the wild. There is also gravy included to ensure your cat loves the flavor, while also providing them with moisture.
DHA is also present to promote healthy cognitive development in your kitten. This Blue food promises not to contain chicken or poultry by-product meals, no corn, no wheat or soy and no artificial colors, flavors preservatives. It is also 100% grain free.
This Purina Fancy Feast wet cat food for kittens comes in an ocean whitefish flavor. In a pate formula, this food is made with real ocean whitefish, providing the protein they need to grow muscles and tissues as well as giving them energy they need to run, pounce and play. In this food there is also liver, fish broth and chicken for added protein. Taurine is present to help healthy heart, eye and cognitive development and so is calcium, to promote strong bones and teeth. It is also made with real milk — a classic that cats love.
The pate formula not only makes for a tasty dinner for your kitten, but also gives them moisture they need while being easy on their small mouths and delicate teeth. This food is 100% complete and balanced so you do not need to worry about any ingredients that could harm your kitty. This food also comes in a range of other flavors, such as chicken, salmon and turkey.
Another kitten food from Instinct, this recipe is a grain-free wet kitten food made with real cage free chicken, vegetables, fruits and other wholesome ingredients. This is a high protein kitten food with responsibly sourced cage free chicken as the number one ingredient, providing your cat with all the nutrients they need to grow strong muscles and organs and giving them as much energy as they need. Included is natural DHA for brain and eye development to support your kitten’s health and there are no grains, potato, corn, wheat, soy, carrageenan, by-product meals or artificial colors or preservatives.
You can serve this pate texture as a whole meal to your cat, or you can use it as a meal topper for their regular food, providing extra protein they need as well as great taste. It is made in the USA with ingredients from around the world.
Foods You Should Never Feed Your Kitten
While there are foods that you really need to feed your kitten to ensure they are growing healthily, there are, of course, foods that you should never feed your kitten.
You may already know that chocolate is harmful for dogs. It is also harmful to kittens and cats, too. This is because it contains theobromine and caffeine, which increase heart rate and can then lead to heart failure. It can also cause muscle twitching and tremors. The darker and stronger the chocolate is, the more dangerous it is.
We have just mentioned above that caffeine in chocolate can be very dangerous. Other caffeinated products can also be dangerous to kittens. This is because it can cause fast breathing, heart palpitations and tremors.
Raw Meat, Eggs and Fat Trimmings
Raw meat and eggs should be stayed away from because of the risk of salmonella and E. coli in these raw products. Fat trimmings can lead to acute pancreatitis.
Milk and dairy products are generally fine to give to your kitten. An issue may arise though if your cat is lactose intolerant, because this can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore, you should always proceed with caution when feeding dairy products to your kitten for the first time.
This is a fairly obvious one, but you should never feed your kitten alcohol. It can cause brain damage and severe liver problems in felines.
Garlic and Onions
The effect garlic and onions may have on your cat is related to the amount they consume. Some research shows that garlic and onions can lead to anemia, which limits the amount of oxygen that is passed around the body.
Raisins and Grapes
There is not much hard evidence that raisins and grapes can cause acute kidney failure. However, we thought we would put it in here just so you can be aware that some owners have reported it.
Best Kitten Food FAQ’s
How long should my cat eat kitten food for?
According to vets and animal experts, cats are considered kittens until they are one year old. From one year onwards you can transition your cat to adult food.
What’s the best way to transition my cat from one food to another?
Every manufacturer of cat food will have a slightly different way of transitioning from one food to their brand. As a general rule, the best way to transition any food is to do it gradually. For example, you should start by giving your cat 75% of the old food and 25% of the new food for the first three to five days and see how they take to the new food, watching out for any bad reactions. Then you can slowly transition this to 50% of the old food and 50% of the new food over the next few days, then 75% of the new food and 25% of the old, until your kitten is comfortable just eating the new food.
When should I begin giving kitten food to my cat?
Weaning your kitten off her mother’s milk should usually happen at around four weeks old. This is normally when the kitten tries to eat some of their mother’s food or starts biting on things. Over a few weeks you should integrate moistened dry food or wet food with formula into your kitten’s diet. By seven weeks, your cat should be weaned and eating kitten food.
When should I transition my cat to adult food?
Your cat is no longer considered a kitten from one year old. After this, you can transition them to adult food. Remember to do it carefully and to check there are no adverse reactions to the new food.
Specially designed kitten food is extremely important to your young cat’s development. They need a lot of energy to not only run, play and explore, but they need the energy for growing and building muscles and organs, as well as tissues. Your kitten food should be primarily protein based from animals and animal fats, ensuring they get the right balance of amino acids to grow properly. Stay away from any vague ingredients and go for wholesome, natural food when possible. It is your decision whether you choose to put your cat on wet or dry food, but either way, we know you will find one you love in the list above.