Providing your kitten with the proper nutrition goes way beyond just putting fresh food in a clean bowl. Your kitten’s nutritional needs will change as her body develops through adolescence. Proper nutrition during these critical growth periods will help your kitten mature into a strong, healthy adult cat. Discover four essential kitten-feeding tips you need to know in your kitten’s first year.
Tip 1: Know Your Kitten’s Development Milestones
Learning what development milestones your kitten will experience in her first year will help you decide what and when to feed her.
Rapid Growth Stage: 2 to 6 Months
After kittens are weaned, they enter a stage of rapid growth, which lasts through the sixth month of life. They need a balanced diet to deliver the nutrients and energy to sustain such rapid development.
Kittens have twice the energy needs of adult cats on a pound-per-pound basis. But their smaller mouths, teeth and stomachs limit the amount of food they can digest during a single meal. Therefore, it may be best to divide their total daily food amount into three or four smaller meals.
Because every bite must be packed with nutrition, kittens require a diet specifically formulated for growth. The best choice is a food with animal-based proteins that is highly digestible, nutrient dense and designed to meet kittens’ unique nutritional needs.
Adolescence Stage: 6 to 12 Months
As kittens approach adult size, their nutritional requirements begin to change again. Their rate of growth begins to slow, activity levels may decline and they can start eating fewer, larger meals each day. During this stage, kittens begin to look like adults, but they are still growing and need the special nutrition found in kitten food.
The adolescent growth stage is a time when many cat owners are tempted to change a kitten’s food for variety. But cats do not get bored with a consistent diet of high-quality dry food. You can supplement your kitten’s dry food with a nutrient-dense canned food for a nutritious change of pace.
Tip 2: Know When to Transition from Kitten to Adult Cat Food
When your cat is about 12 months old, it’s time to switch to a maintenance formula adult cat food, such as IAMS™ Proactive Health™ Healthy Adult with Chicken. At this age, cats no longer need the extra calories and nutrients for growth supplied by kitten food. As with any change in a cat’s diet, remember to gradually transition from kitten food to adult food over a period of several days.
Monitor your cat’s weight and body condition during the transition, and adjust feeding portions if necessary. Because cats generally eat only what they need, free-choice feeding is fine for most cats. However, some indoor cats that don’t exercise much may overeat if fed free choice. In this situation, portion-controlled feeding twice a day is a good alternative.
Tip 3: Avoid Feeding Human Foods
Giving a kitten “human food” and table scraps can lead to undesirable behaviors, such as begging or stealing food. Feeding homemade diets or food formulated for adult cats (especially those designed for weight loss), or supplementing a complete and balanced diet with vitamins could cause nutritional disorders.
Tip 4: Make Sure Your Kitten Gets the Nutrients She Needs
Kittens and cats are strict carnivores and need the nutrients found in meat. For example, sufficient amounts of taurine, an essential amino acid provided naturally through meat, help cats maintain healthy eyes, heart and reproduction. All IAMS kitten and cat food formulas have optimal levels of taurine for every life stage.