Today’s blog is written by Heather Martin. Heather is a preliminary veterinary student at Nottingham University. She is very interested in feline medicine and has fostered cats for Cat’s Protection for many years. She has 3 cats of her own- all of whom are rescues!
So you’ve just brought home your adorable new kitten and are unsure of what nutrition this cute little ball of fluff needs?
Kittens have a lot of growing to do and they do this very quickly! By 6 months your kitten would have reached 75% of its total body mass, and this is why feeding them a nutritionally rich kitten food is important.
What do I look for in a good kitten food?
Any ‘complete’ kitten food contains all the necessary nutrients for them to grow up big and strong. Protein is one of the most important nutrients because it is the building block of the body, and kitten food contains high levels of this. The higher the level of protein, the better, but good kitten foods also contain high levels of essential minerals to help build strong bones and teeth.
What type of food should I feed kitten?
There are many types of kitten food on the market for you to choose from, from pouches, foiled trays and tinned food to dry boxes and bags. It is completely down to your and your kitten’s preference.
How many meals a day should she or he be getting?
Although kittens may only be small and have small stomachs they have a surprisingly large appetite! This means it is best to feed them small amounts of food on a frequent basis. Your kitten should be on 4 meals a day after she has been weaned, as this provides a steady source of energy. As she gets older decrease your kitten’s meals to 3 meals per day and by the time she is 6 months old your kitten should only be on 2 meals a day.
Dos and don’ts when feeding your kitten:
- Store food correctly
Open wet kitten food should be kept in the fridge to keep it fresh, but ensure it is brought to room temperature before serving as it will smell and taste more appealing to your kitten. As opened wet food can go stale very quickly it is important not to leave it out for too long, it is important not to keep open wet food for any longer than 24 hours even when refrigerated.
Store dry food in a clean, dry environment. Airtight containers are good for sealing in the aroma of the food to make it more appealing to your kitten and they are easy to clean! Keep to feeding dry food dry, as cats prefer to crunch on their dry food. Crunchy dry food is also good for helping to keep their teeth clean.
- Create a suitable routine
Cats do like habit, so try and feed your kitten at the same place and time every day.
- Set up a suitable location
It is best to feed your kitten in a quiet area of your home. Set up the food bowls on a surface which can be easily cleaned, like a mat or tiled floor. If you have more than one cat, set up their food bowls far apart to avoid confrontation or bullying.
- Time for rest
Once your kitten has eaten or used the litter tray, leave your kitten to rest for an hour or so to allow them to digest before playing.
- Change their foods slowly
A cat’s digestive system is very sensitive and can be easily upset when changing types of food, whether it’s from canned to dry or between different brands. If you do change their diet, it is best to introduce the new food slowly and gradually increase the amount of new food over a period of at least 5 days, to allow them to adjust. But it is not unusual for there to be a tummy upset in the beginning. (We will talk about this later in this article).
- Feed dangerous foods
Don’t feed your kitten ‘kitten milk’. Even though it says it is made for kittens it can actually give them digestive upsets. Some human foods and household items are toxic to cats. These include chocolate, grapes and onions. Plants can also be extremely toxic to cats; don’t let them chew on the leaves of Poinsettia or the spadix (yellow part) of Lilies. Antifreeze, slug pellets, rodenticides… the list goes on and on! It is also important not to feed cats bones from meat as these can splinter or get stuck in their throat, or even pierce through the walls of the stomach and intestines.
- Mix pet foods: Cat food is for cats and dog food is for dogs
Do not feed dog food to your cat! If they get in and eat a little bit they won’t die, but there’s a reason they’re different. Cat food is specially made to meet your cat’s nutritional needs and contains specific vitamins and minerals your dog doesn’t need.
- Over feeding
Only feed your kitten the given amount, which is clearly stated on the back of cat food boxes and packets. Use a measuring cup with dry food to ensure the right amount is served on a daily basis. By feeding your cat to the guidelines you will avoid obesity and other related health problems.
- No table scraps
Do not feed your kitten table scraps. Human food is rich, high in calories and does not contain your feline’s necessary nutrients. You also risk overfeeding, upsetting the balance of your kittens diet and causing digestive upsets.
What should I do if my kitten has an upset stomach?
Lots of cats suffer from vomiting and diahorrea from time to time, but here I will tell you some causes and top tips of what to do with your cat.
Most of the time stomach upsets are caused from things like: over eating, eating the wrong kind of food or eating something they have had a reaction to. With the right help your cat will be able to get over a stomach upset relatively quickly. If your cat has a prolonged problem, it might help to keep a diary of when your cat first started having problems, the signs that have been shown and what they have eaten in the days leading up to the upset.
– If your cat is suffering with vomiting or diarrhoea, then remove all access to food and only allow sips of water for 24 hours.
– If your cat seems unwell and not herself and continues to vomit or has blood in the vomit or diahorrea, contact your vet.
– If the vomiting and diahorrea begins to settle after 24hours then only feed small amounts of bland food such as plain boiled chicken or white fish. Continue to feed the plain diet for a maximum of 5 days.
– Once their digestive system has settled begin to add your cat’s normal food slowly, and gradually increase the amount of food over the next 7 days.