Kittens need special kitten food. You can’t feed them regular cat food. But unless you’ve raised kittens before, you might not know that it takes time for your kitten to transition from milk to food.
What do you feed a kitten? It should start life with milk from its mother. After it’s weaned at four weeks old, give them wet/moist food mixed with a small amount of milk. Make sure the food is soft. Between five and six weeks, they may start eating dry food if you’ve moistened it first. At six weeks, they can eat solid food, preferably specially formulated.
Below is our guide on what to feed a kitten and when. Follow it and you can’t go wrong.
Once your kitten’s finally been weaned, it’s time to get them onto real food. But you shouldn’t just give them regular old cat food. After all, you wouldn’t start a newborn baby on sushi and burritos, right? You have to pick the best kitten food that’s formulated for their age, and gives them a good nutritional balance.
Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of choice. There are a bunch of brands out there which offer both wet kitten food and dry kitten food. There are also cheaper and more expensive options for you to choose from. In our guide below, you can find out everything you need to know about kitten nutrition, wet or dry food for kittens, and the best brands you can choose from.
What to Feed a 3 Week Old Kitten
Your kitten can double, or even triple in size during their first weeks. During this time, as you might expect, they’ll need lots of food. More than you might expect. For these first four weeks your kitten should be drinking milk. Cat’s milk, to be precise. It’s much better for them than a milk replacement.
What to Feed a 4 Week Old Kitten
Once they hit four weeks, it’s time to wean your kitten. If you’re hand-rearing them, you can tell that it’s time when they start to bite on the bottle. Between four and five weeks, you can start to give them wet or moist food mixed with a little formula. It should be nice and soft–think of what a human baby would eat!
What to Feed a 5 Week Old Kitten
Between weeks five and six, you should notice that your kitten is nibbling more and more. At this point, you could give them moistened dry kitten food if you like. Moisten the food with water instead of formula, to help the weaning process.
What to Feed a 6 Week Old Kitten
At this point your kitten should be comfortably weaned. Between weeks six and seven, they should be able to eat regular solid food. That being said, they can still benefit from eating a specialist kitten food. This food doesn’t have to just be meat: cats need a diet varied in carbs, protein and more.
So: let’s take a look at what kind of wet food for kittens you can choose from.
Wet Kitten Food
Because kittens have very small teeth, they can’t chew food as well, which is why you should always start them on wet/canned food. If they can’t have canned kitten food, they won’t be able to eat anything else, which will stunt their growth (remember–this is a critical time for kitten growth).
So, what are wet cat foods made of? Let’s take a look:
- Meat, typically offal (off-cuts and parts that people won’t eat)
- Gravy, often made thicker with gel or thickener
- Additives like wheat or corn to make the food more substantial
- Vitamins and minerals added in to meet guidelines
Not all wet food is the same, though. High quality wet cat food is made from ‘real’ meat: better cuts, and unprocessed too. Whole chunks or strips of white meat or fish are always going to be popular with your feline friend.
When Can Kittens Eat Soft Food?
Like we said above, your kitten should drink milk for the first four weeks of their life. Wet food for kittens is best for when your cat is between four and six weeks old. It’s the closest thing to natural food you can get without giving them, well, actually natural food like raw meat. The best kitten foods are those that contain real meat or fish. The cheaper stuff often doesn’t.
Once you’ve weaned your cat, you actually shouldn’t feed them milk. After they’re weaned, cats quickly become lactose intolerant. That’s because in the wild, once an animal is weaned, it never drinks milk again. The only exception is humans! Cats are perfectly happy drinking just water instead, like nature intended.
Dry Kitten Food
Dry kitten food: kibble. Cats love their kibble. Kibble cat food is the easiest to buy in bulk and the simplest to feed to your cat (or dog, too). While it’s designed to give your pet a good balance of minerals and nutrients, it’s not exactly natural, and it can make them ill if it’s all they eat.
What’s Actually In Cat Kibble?
Example ingredients lists for dry cat food include:
- “Chicken by-product meal”, which is processed unwanted chicken. More flavor is provided by chicken fat.
- Brown rice, brewers rice, wheat gluten and corn: lots of bulking ingredients.
- “Egg product” and various oils to help form the dry biscuit texture.
- Lots of vitamins and minerals to boost the nutritional content of your cat’s diet.
The best dry kitten food uses better quality ingredients, like less chicken by-products and more real chicken. Bear in mind, though, that food for kittens should be varied. Even if you feed them top quality dry kitten food, if that’s all they eat for the rest of their life, they’re likely to develop kidney problems from dehydration. A good mix of cheap dry cat food and quality wet cat food is the best.
When Can Kittens Eat Hard Food?
The short answer? Your kitten will tell you when they’re ready. While cats and kittens are definitely fussy–we don’t need to tell you that, do we?–your kitten will start eating dry food eventually if you give them the option. They’ll start at about 6 or 7 weeks.
The reason behind why kittens love kibble is simple. They’re natural snackers. Throughout the day, your kitten will need to eat multiple times, especially during their initial growth phase. Dry food is the best kitten food for them to snack on.
Best Kitten Food Brands
So, it’s that time again: let’s take a look at the best kitten food brands on the market today. By the end, you should be able to make a real informed choice about the best food for your little furry pal. Let’s start by looking at the best wet food for kittens, getting off the mark with everybody’s friend, Blue Buffalo.
Blue Buffalo Kitten Food
Blue Buffalo are well-known for their natural and healthful cat food. They also make food just for kittens, in all sorts of great flavors. Part of their “brand identity” is to only make wet food using real meat. According to their site and their ingredients list, that means no by-products, no corn, no wheat, no soy and no preservatives, colors and flavors. So far, so good.
Their food comes in a huge variety of flavors, and mostly comes in multipacks. You can get salmon, ocean fish and tuna either in a pate or flakes. You can also get chicken and duck. There’s plenty to choose from, but your kitten should be happy with any of it–fresh, unprocessed food is appetizing for any cat.
Blue Buffalo kitten food reviews are generally positive. The majority of reviews mention that their cats prefer Blue Buffalo over processed meat foods. However, because they’re higher quality, they’re also a higher price. Still, it’s some of the best kitten food out there. Here’s a selection of the best we could find:
[table id=3 /]
Royal Canin Kitten Food
Royal Canin was originally for dogs… Hence the name. But Blue Buffalo isn’t just for buffalo (and isn’t made from buffalo, either) so your cat shouldn’t be too fussed. They were one of the first brands out there to start focusing on real nutrition; not just bloated, bulked out cereal foods. They make foods for different breeds as well as different ages, whereas Blue Buffalo focus solely on the age of your cat to formulate their products.
According to their own website, Royal Canin kitten food contains an “innovative mix” of different nutritional ingredients: “highly digestible proteins”, vitamins, minerals and more. They claim to have been researching cat nutrition for over fifty years now, which is actually true. They were founded in 1968 by a French veterinary surgeon who wasn’t happy with the food people could buy for their pets. He was convinced that many of the conditions affecting pets at his surgery–skin and coat conditions, heart conditions and so on–were caused by dietary issues. He promptly got to work on baking his own kibble in his garage.
Today, Royal Canin is owned by Mars Inc. but still has a heavy focus on innovation and nutrition. Royal Canin kitten food reviews are highly positive, even better than Blue Buffalo.
Our scores for Royal Canin are high too, simply because they seem to have won over most of the real reviewers–cats! Here are some of the best we could find, including a mix of wet vs dry cat food:
[table id=5 /]
Iams Kitten Food
Iams are another pet food brand owned by Mars Inc. (Mars own an incredible array of American food and drinks brands, and more besides). Iams actually have an incredibly similar history to Royal Canin, except they’re an American brand. Paul F. Iams was an animal nutritionist from Dayton, Ohio who couldn’t find a nutritional food for his dog.
To rectify the problem, he founded The Iams Company way back in 1946. They’ve been going strong ever since, generating an incredible $900 million of revenue in 1999 alone. The company was sold first to Proctor & Gamble and then Mars in 2014, for $2.9 billion (yes, billion).
Today, Iams make food for both cats and dogs. Like the other brands here, they have a focus on health, but are more price-conscious across the board. Even so, Iams kitten food reviews suggest they’re still high quality, and very popular.
Our scores for Iams are pretty high. That’s because theirs is some of the best kitten food in terms of both quality and price. Let’s take a look at some of the best prices we could find for Iams:
[table id=6 /]
Fancy Feast Kitten Food
Fancy Feast is a Nestlé creation introduced in 1982. It was originally run under their Carnation brand, but today is owned by Purina. It was marketed as one of the very first gourmet options on the market. Bear in mind that back in the day, all that cats and dogs had to eat was table scraps; the first kinds of cat food were little better, and just contained offcuts and offal.
Today, Fancy Feast is by far the most popular wet cat food brand. They aren’t as focused on nutrition as Blue Buffalo, Iams and Royal Canin; but either way, cats love them. If your cat’s fussy and turns her nose up at specially formulated cat food, Fancy Feast is your best bet to win her round.
Fancy Feast kitten food reviews are glowing: you can see for yourself by following the links below. If you’re looking for the best kitten food in terms of your cat’s preferences, you can’t go wrong here. Our scores are a little lower, which is solely because it’s not as nutritionally rich as the other brands in our list.
[table id=7 /]
Purina ONE Kitten Food
Last but not least, we have Purina ONE. Purina ONE is a premium line on offer by–you guessed it–Purina. If you didn’t know, Purina are owned by Nestlé, so they’re another big brand. Before their acquisition, they were known as the Ralston Purina Company, founded in 1894 as Purina Mills. They were one of the very first pet food companies, originally producing general animal feed. They made history (we call it ‘making history’, anyway) when they started marketing their pet food brands as ‘Chow’. It’s stuck ever since. Believe it or not, but at one point they even sold Purina Monkey Chow.
You can’t find Monkey Chow today, but you can find Purina ONE. Purina ONE kitten food reviews are generally positive, and they’re at a decent price point too. Bear in mind that price is less important when your kitten’s young: they don’t have to eat specially formulated food for long. You can then transfer them to whatever regular adult cat food you want. Either way, check out what we managed to find below:
[table id=8 /]
Homemade Kitten Food
Homemade kitten food is always an option. Maybe you don’t like the idea of paying over the odds for cat food. Maybe your kitten is the independent type, and doesn’t like big brands. They might be onto something: according to a study in Scientific Reports, a significant minority of brands don’t actually meet the nutritional guidelines they claim they do (1% of dry food manufacturers, and 17% of wet food manufacturers).
Either way, you’ve got plenty of options. You should check out our Catmart blog, where we have plenty of the best kitten food recipes and more besides. Just scroll down to the bottom of our homepage for all sorts of interesting cat info.
Top Rated Kitten Food
So, the part you’ve been waiting for: which is the best kitten food? Of all of the varieties listed above, these are our highest rated:
[table id=9 /]
We’ve included two from Royal Canin, simply because the reviews for both were absolutely excellent. We also thought Iams’ dry chicken food was worthy of being included, too. Overall, we thought that the best thing we could do is heed the ratings and reviews we could find for each product. That way, you can be sure you’re getting the best kitten food.
So pick one from the list above and let us know how your kitten gets on with it. Feel free to message us through our contact page, or get in touch through social media. We love to hear from the real cat owners out there, especially if they have a good or bad experience with something they found through our site. So get in touch and let us know!