Feeding Kittens

Because they grow and develop quickly, kittens require a diet of high-energy food. When choosing the right food for you kittens, check out the nutrition label on the back of the package. If this isn”t readily available on the package, your pet food manufacturer will gladly provide the nutritional value of the food. You”ll have a much better chance of raising a happy, healthy cat if you pay close attention to your kitten”s nutrient intake from the start.

Kitten Dietary Needs

Here is a break down of the nutritional needs a kitten needs based on her age:

Protein: 35 to 50 percent of daily calories should consist of protein

Fat: 17 to 35 percent of daily calories should come from fat

Energy/Calories:

  • at two months old: 175kcal/ per day
  • at three months old: 260kcal/per day
  • at six months old: 280kcal/per day.

Kittens and a bowl of food.Kittens can be fed on demand. Unlike adult cats, kittens will stop eating once they become full. This method allows your young kitten to eat as much as she needs in order to grow into a healthy adult cat.

Keep in mind that cow”s milk isn”t healthy for kittens, even though you see it all time on TV. In fact, felines lack the enzymes needed to properly digest dairy products. Rather than giving them milk, provide kittens (and adult cats, for that matter) with easy access to fresh water.

Weaning Kittens

Weaning is the process of moving a kitten off of mother”s milk to solid food. This is a gradual change and should vary with your kitten”s advancing age.

Even though kittens can digest solid foods by the time they are three to four weeks old, kittens” teeth aren”t ready to fully transition to a solid-food diet until they are five to six weeks old. Much of the transition depends on the mother cat. While some allow their kittens to nurse up to three or four months, others avoid nursing once the kittens develop teeth and begin to eat solid food.

Use the mother”s contact with her kittens as an indicator of whether the kittens are ready to ingest solid foods. If you notice that the mother reacts negatively to kittens (hissing or batting at them) as they try to suckle, start the weaning process immediately. While your veterinarian can give you the best advice regarding the proper steps to follow when weaning your kitten, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be patient.
  • Continue to bottle feed or allow the kitten to nurse during the process.
  • Don”t use dry food unless it is completely moistened (put a few drops of water over the top of dry food to soften it).
  • Place a little food on the kitten”s mouth to stimulate appetite.
  • Use a bowl that is easy for the kitten to access.
  • Use only quality cat food.

Most kittens make the transition from nursing to canned food quickly and easily between six and eight weeks of age.

Never remove a kitten from its mother before they are six weeks old unless health issues or neglect make feeding difficult or impossible. Kittens who are weaned too early may attempt to nurse from their human caregivers and will often knead items such as blankets, pillows and towels. This can continue for the rest of the cat”s life.

To gradually wean a kitten, follow these steps:

  1. At three to five weeks, feed the kitten canned kitten food blended with small amounts of water.
  2. At five to six weeks, begin the transition to canned food without mixing in water.
  3. At six to eight weeks, gradually increase the portions of food.
  4. At eight weeks, begin mixing in small and soft kitten kibble.

Orphaned Kittens

At times, you may have to take over the feeding of a newborn kitten. If the mother is neglectful, doesn”t produce enough milk or isn”t around, the feeding will be up to you. You can buy appropriate bottles and supplies at your local pet store.

Colostrum and Immunity

Because cats are born without immunity to fight infectious diseases, they need at least one meal of their mother”s colostrum (the first milk produced after giving birth) to provide them with essential antibodies.

However, if this is not possible, it”s important for you to take precautionary measures. Keep the kitten in a clean environment away from other cats with the exception of their littermates. Although there is no perfect substitute for mother”s milk, several good commercial alternatives have been designed for nursing kittens, including bovine colostrum.

Homemade Colostrum Recipes for Short-Term Use

A simple recipe:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons of Karo syrup.

You might prefer this more complex recipe:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon Karo syrup or maple syrup per pint mixture
  • 1 teaspoon brewer”s yeast or bee pollen per pint mixture
  • a vitamin-mineral supplement.

Bottle-Feeding Technique for Kittens

While most kittens can be fed with a bottle, some may experience problems swallowing if they”re weak suckers. These kittens may require a little more help.

Feed kittens with bottles that are designed for premature human babies, an eyedropper or specially made curved kitten bottles. Check with your veterinarian in order to find out what”s best for your kitten. Don”t forget to sterilize all equipment prior to use to keep the kitten safe from infection.

The Feeding Schedule

The feeding schedule of kittens is very similar to that of human babies. As kittens age, the amount and timing of feedings changes:

  • Birth to seven days: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of formula every 2 hours.
  • One week to three weeks: 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of formula every two hours during the day, and every four hours during the night.
  • Three weeks: 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of formula every two hours, but only once between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.

After each feeding session, wipe the kitten”s anal and genital area with a moist cloth. This simulates the mother cat licking this area, encouraging the kittens to urinate and defecate. Also, keep the kitten clean and dry in these areas to prevent rashes.

Take Care with Heat

Keep your orphaned kitten in a warm box with a heating lamp and a blanket. Some people make a “mother substitute” by wrapping a hot water bottle in a soft blanket.

Be very cautious with heat sources near your kitten. Along with heating pads, avoid using a sun lamp. Animals placed directly on heating pads could be at high risk of thermal burns. If you must use a heating pad, turn it to the lowest setting and cover it with a towel or blanket to prevent direct contact with your kitten.

Related Cat Sites

Orphan Kitten Feeding