What's the best food for kittens? A big and very important question indeed.
The best kitten foods are carefully formulated to provide young and growing cats with the nutrition they need to thrive. Often packed with protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, these foods give kittens the best possible start in life.
The challenge for many new pet parents is figuring out which pet food is best suited to their kitten’s requirements.
Our Top 3 Picks
We chose our 3 top options for the best kitten foods of 2022 by assessing the unique formula offered by top vendors.
We prioritized health weight maintenance, eye, skin, and bone development, as well as the protein content in each food source.
1. Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Kitten Food: Best Overall Pick
The Purina ONE Health Kitten formula is a wet food specially designed for younger cats. This product features real meat as the number one ingredient.
The high-quality protein formula is designed to support strong bones, strong muscles, and healthy growth for every type of kitten.
Purina ONE comes with added vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, chosen by experts to ensure great development.
For instance, there’s DHA for brain and vision development, as well as optimal levels of both calcium and fat. The solution even comes with vitamins to promote a strong immune system.
2. Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Cat Food, Kitten Turkey & Chicken Liver (Premium Choice)
Available in a popular pate style, the Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free recipe canned food features animal protein as the number one ingredient from turkey and chicken liver.
This product is fortified with vitamins and minerals to support wellness, with a unique blend of flax omega and fish components for a healthy coat and skin.
Wellness Core products come with no added soy, artificial flavors or preservatives which might interfere with kitten digestion.
Each recipe is also carefully crafted by experts to enhance energy, maintain strong teeth and healthy eyes, and preserve immunity.
3. IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Dry Kitten Cat Food Chicken Recipe: Value Choice
For kittens who prefer the crunchy appeal of kibble, IAMS Proactive Health could be a perfect dry cat food choice.
Custom-made for kittens, this product comes with chicken as the number one ingredient, to ensure your cat gets plenty of animal-based protein.
The solution also features Omega-3 fatty acids DHA (fish oil, salmon, etc) to help promote healthy brain development.
These dry kitten foods are packed full of the same nutrients your kitten would get from its mother’s milk, as well as extra Vitamin E for immune defense.
Plus, the product is made in the USA with carefully-sourced ingredients for peace of mind.
If your cats aren’t fans of the three options mentioned above, there are still a multitude of great kitten-focused foods on the market.
We chose the following additional picks based on their excellent value and high-quality formula.
4. Royal Canin Feline Care Nutrition Digest Sensitive Loaf in Sauce Canned Cat Food
Made for both mother and baby cats, this unique Royal Canin food is perfect for the needs of a growing kitten.
The loaf comes in an ultra-soft mousse formula, to make it easier to eat for kittens with developing teeth. Protein is the number one ingredient, but Royal Canin has also infused the food with various vitamins and antioxidants.
Highly digestible proteins and prebiotics assist with phenomenal digestive support, while DHA supplements help to provide a strong foundation for brain development.
5. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Kitten Pate
Another pate-based food for kittens with sensitive teeth, Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness High Protein food is excellent for younger cats.
This food is packed with grain-free chicken as the number one ingredient and comes with added DHA for cognitive development.
The Blue Buffalo Cat food features no wheat or by-product meals, as well as no corn and soy substances that might harm cat digestion.
The high moisture content is also excellent for protecting your cat against urinary tract issues.
6. Instinct Grain Free Kitten Food
Instinct Original is a grain-free kitten food packed with ingredients to give your young cat the best start in life.
The formula includes a great balance of real meat, vegetables, fruits, and added vitamins and minerals. The solution also comes with natural DHA for eye and brain development.
With absolutely no fillers or by-products to worry about, you shouldn’t have to stress about food sensitivities.
This food also comes in a fantastic pate style, so it’s easier to digest for kittens with developing teeth and stomachs.
7. Purina Fancy Feast Kitten Canned Wet Cat Food
A popular choice among pet parents, Purina Fancy Feast kitten comes in a variety of flavors, and includes real milk for calcium.
The food features animal protein as the number one ingredient and has been blended into a smooth pate for easier weaning.
This product comes with essential vitamins and minerals to support kitten health and avoids added wheat, grains, and other substances which may cause intolerances.
Added vitamins and minerals contain everything from Vitamin E to Taurine and Folic Acid.
Are Kittens’ Nutritional Needs Different from Adults?
Nutritionally, kittens have slightly different needs than older, adult cats. Most importantly, kittens require nutrient-dense foods with plenty of easily-digestible protein.
Most kitten foods need to be higher in calories than adult foods because kittens are using significant amounts of energy to play, grow, and develop.
In general, you may also find most kitten foods come with extra minerals, nutrients, and vitamins to assist with development. DHA and similar substances can help with brain development, while Vitamin E assists with immunity.
Keep in mind, adult foods are intended to maintain the healthy weight of your adult cats, which may mean they don’t contain the high nutrient content your kitten needs.
Notably, certain breeds of cats may have unique requirements, so it might be helpful to seek guidance from a veterinarian or breeder if you’re not sure exactly what your feline friend needs.
How much protein do kittens need?
Kittens, like cats, are obligate carnivores. This means the most important ingredient in their diet will be a source of animal-based protein.
During the initial weaning stage, when your kitten is moving from their mother’s milk to solid foods, their protein needs will be particularly high.
On a dry matter basis, the recommended protein range for a healthy kitten is between 35-50%.
At least 9% of your cat’s protein needs to come from animal sources. The higher the protein content, the better your chosen food will be at supporting healthy growth.
What Protein should a kitten eat?
Crucially, it’s not just the amount of protein that matters when you’re feeding your kitten a healthy diet.
You’ll also need to ensure the type of protein is correct too.
Kittens needs access to the specific amino acids and nutrients found in animal protein. It’s not possible to give a cat a healthy diet with plant-based proteins alone.
Although some protein from plants is suitable for kittens, it must always be combined with a highly digestible source of animal protein.
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Compared to animal-based protein, protein from plants, like that found in brown rice, peas, carrots beans, and corn gluten meal are harder for young kittens to digest
This means you should always check the label on the food products to ensure animal foods are present at the top of the ingredients list.
Look for high quality ingredients like “rabbit”, “turkey”, or “chicken”. Avoid soy, pea, and similar proteins, as these are often more “filler” than necessary nutrition.
Kitten food needs to be high in Calories
While it’s important to ensure your kitten doesn’t become overweight, it’s also worth noting growing kittens require a lot more calories than the average adult cat.
Kittens burn a lot of calories very quickly, so it’s important to choose a dense food made up of plenty of natural ingredients.
Higher calories will give your kitten the energy it needs to play, explore, and grow its muscles.
The right calorie intake will also ensure you can fuel your cat’s immune system, brain, vital organs, and nervous system.
You can begin to cut down on calories as your kitten reaches adulthood.
What vitamins and minerals do Kittens need?
As mentioned above, many kitten foods will also come with added ingredients containing nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to support healthy development.
Compared to most adult cats, kittens generally have different vitamins and mineral needs.
For instance, kittens need more calcium and phosphorus than an adult cat.
A kitten may also need higher amounts of certain other substances, like DHA for brain development, amino acids such as lysine and tryptophan, and Vitamin A.
Wet kitten food is easier for kittens to eat
While it’s possible to feed your kitten both wet and dry food, it’s worth noting most kittens will find wet foods easier to eat when they’re still young.
Softer foods like pate and mousse are particularly popular among kittens still developing their adult teeth.
After the first six months or so of your kitten’s life, you can begin to introduce more challenging and chewier foods, to put their teeth to the test.
Kibble can also be a good tool for keeping your cat’s teeth clean from plaque and other substances.
When do kittens start eating cat food?
Kittens will start eating solid food relatively quickly as they wean from their mothers. Usually, a young kitten can start eating soft food at around 4 weeks old. Kittens can then transition from kitten-based meals to adult cat foods at around 1 year of age.
How often should you feed your kitten?
There’s no one-size-fits-all method to the perfect kitten feeding routine. However, since kittens use a lot of energy in quick bursts, they often prefer small meals, delivered often. You may start by serving your kitten three to four meals per day, before gradually cutting down to two meals per day.
Can adults cat eat kitten food?
Technically, adult cats can eat kitten food, but it’s not always a good choice for ensuring good health. Kitten food generally has different levels of certain micronutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. These minerals could prove to be too excessive for adult cats.
Additionally, kitten food is packed with extra calories to help address the high energy demands of kittens. Feeding your cat kitten foods could cause it to gain weight more rapidly.
How much should you feed a kitten?
It’s best to check with your vet if you have a specific breed of kitten, and pay attention to the instructions given on the cat food you purchase. In general, kittens will eat around a quarter to a half of a cup of food at a time. Keep a close eye on the calorie requirements of your kitten based on their weight and age as you feed.
When do you stop feeding kittens food?
Kitten food is intended specifically for the earliest stages of your kitten’s life, as they’re developing into an adult cat. When your cat reaches around 1 year of age, it’s usually time to switch them onto an adult-based diet. You can get advice from your vet on how to manage the transition.
Best Kitten Food: The Verdict
If you’re looking for the best kitten foods for 2022, our top recommendation is the Purina ONE healthy kitten formula.
This fantastic product is brimming with moisture, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to help kittens develop healthy bodies. It’s also packed full of great animal-based proteins.
If you’re not sure which food to give your cat, you can always speak to your vet.
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