By Jill Keith for The Daily Cat
Your kitten's day is jam-packed with activity, so it needs the right amount of nutrition to fuel its playful pursuits. Not only that, but your kitten is also growing, seemingly by the minute. Every bite of its meals must include highly digestible protein to support this growth. Your kitten, therefore, has different dietary needs than a grown, less active adult feline. To help ensure that your little powerhouse is eating correctly, try following these dos and don'ts.
Don't judge your kitten by its cover
While your kitten may appear full-grown at about six months of age, it is still growing and maturing on the inside. The most rapid growth actually occurs during your kitten's first nine to 12 months. In fact, your kitten has twice the energy needs and nutrient requirements of an adult cat on a pound-per-pound basis.
Do feed three or four small meals daily
Your kitten might seem to have a lion's appetite, but its smaller mouth, teeth and stomach limit the amount of food that it can digest in a single meal. It may be best to divide its daily intake into at least three or four meals. Be sure to provide fresh water at all times.
Do remember that your kitten is a tiny carnivore
All cats, including kittens, are true carnivores, which means that they need meat in order to survive. This is especially true for the energetic kitten that depends on the essential amino acids provided by meat-based protein sources to fuel their activity and rapid tissue growth.
Do learn how to read pet food labels
Cats have a higher minimum requirement for protein in their food than dogs (26% to 30% vs. 18% to 22%), and these figures hold true for kittens as well as for adult cats. Besides protein, there are other important nutrients and ingredients vital to your kitten's diet:
These are important building blocks of nutrition. Look for them whether you choose dry or canned cat food and when you select treats.
Don't feed your kitten these foods:
Do switch to adult food at around 12 months
Your kitten enters adolescence at approximately 6 months, so, like a hungry teenager, it's still growing and in need of kitten food. As its rate of growth declines, your cat is able to eat fewer, larger meals. When your cat is about 12 months old, gradually switch to adult food. Start by mixing 25% new food with 75% kitten food, adding more and more adult food over the next week until your cat is accustomed to eating 100% adult chow. During and after this transitional phase it is not necessary to change your kitten's food for variety. If you wish to supplement its diet, serve a nutrient-dense wet food for a nutritious change of pace.
is a freelance writer and editor on subjects ranging from cat care to feline fun.