Good quality protein and other nutrients are vital to your kitty’s development since their body is undergoing significant transformations. Kittens will double in size several times in a short period—just mere months. Kitten food is designed to support this rapid growth and development. It generally has more calories, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acid for brain and vision development, and vitamins and minerals in optimal ratios to support a growing kitty.
While there are considerable benefits to buying kitten-specific food, it’s also essential to eventually switch to an adult formula. Weight gain is the most significant risk associated with feeding kitten recipes to an adult cat. VCA Animal Hospitals estimates that almost 60 percent of domestic cats in North America are overweight. While we love a chonky cat, feline obesity increases the risk of developing other health problems, including diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.
Transitioning to a new food can be difficult—especially for picky eaters. Slowly transition to adult food over one to two weeks to avoid digestive upset. We share additional tips for transitioning from kitten to adult food from a veterinarian, including advice for larger cat breeds.
The Importance Of Kitten Food (A Vet’s Expert Opinion)
“A good quality, complete kitten food is crucial for healthy development,” says Dr. Sarah-Jane Molier, BSc, BVM&S, MRCVS. “After all, kittens have very different nutritional needs from adults! Kitten food contains higher levels of protein and fat for energy to support their growth. The higher levels of protein also support healthy muscle growth, so they grow up big and strong. Kittens also need specific levels of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous. This helps their organs, bones, and teeth to develop properly.”
When Can Kittens Eat Dry & Wet Food?
Kittens typically take four to six weeks to be weaned from their mother or a bottle (if orphaned). Your kitty can begin eating wet food and kibble at four weeks. At six to eight weeks, kitties are fully weaned and should be eating kitten food.
Kittens should eat four to five meals daily until they are three to four months old. At that time, you can reduce it to three meals a day. Solid and wet food can be reduced to two meals a day at six months old.
A popular method of feeding is free-feeding or free-choice—when you leave dry food in a bowl at all times so your furbaby can nibble whenever they’re hungry. This works well for people who are gone for long hours and can’t provide food throughout the day. It doesn’t work well for wet recipes because the food dries out too quickly and becomes unappetizing. If you’re practicing free-feeding, provide access to growth-formula food at all times during this period.
When To Switch From Kitten To Cat Food
“Most kittens will be ready to transition to adult food at around one year of age when they are fully grown,” says Molier. Continue feeding at least two meals per day with an adult recipe. If you’ve been using free-choice feeding, ensure your cat is eating successfully without any problems and is gaining the appropriate amount of weight.
“I usually advise that larger breed cats will benefit from staying on kitten food for a bit longer until they are around 18-24 months,” adds Molier. “This is because large breed cats, such as Main Coons, take longer to fully develop.”
Free Feeding Vs Scheduled Feeding
Although free-feeding is a popular method, cats can quickly gain weight gain on this diet if not provided enough environmental enrichment and mental engagement. If your cat is the correct weight and is thriving on free-choice feeding, then by all means, continue with this approach. If you have an overweight kitty, consider switching to scheduled feeding.
Scheduled feeding works best for wet-recipe eaters, cats who tend to overeat, and multi-cat households where one feline requires a special diet. Scheduled meals offer bonding opportunities for you and your cat since you will be identified as the food provider. It also works better for training purposes. If food isn’t readily available 24/7, you can better use it as a reinforcer. It can be a valuable tool to prevent or fix behavioral problems.
How To Transition From Kitten To Adult Food
Around your feline’s first birthday, you’ll switch to an adult formula (this timeline varies for larger breeds).
“When your kitten is ready to transition onto adult food, the most important thing is to take it slowly, otherwise, your kitten may well suffer with diarrhea,” says Molier. “I recommend spending 1 to 2 weeks mixing in the new food in gradually increasing amounts.”
Here is an example of a 10-day transition schedule to avoid causing digestive upset:
- Days 1-2: Mix 3/4 kitten food with 1/4 adult cat food.
- Days 3-4: Use half kitten food and half adult food.
- Days 5-7: Serve 1/4 kitten food with 3/4 adult cat food.
- Days 8-10: Switch to adult cat food only.
If your cat hesitates to eat adult food, consult your veterinarian.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Are Cats Considered Kittens?
Most kittens are considered adults when they reach their first birthday. This is when they reach their full size and can transition to adult food. For larger breeds, like Maine Coons, it could take up to two years to reach maturity. (View our top picks for best kitten and adult cat food for Maine Coons.)
Can Kittens Eat Adult Cat Food?
Yes, kittens can eat adult cat food. Look for a recipe that says it’s formulated “for all life stages.” This means it’s safe for both kittens and adult cats. You may also wish to supplement with additional fish oil (DHA omega-3 fatty acid).
Is It Bad For An Adult Cat To Eat Kitten Food?
Eating kitten food won’t harm your adult feline besides consuming extra calories. If your cat is gaining weight, you must reduce portion size or switch to an adult formula. If your cat needs to lose weight, consult with your veterinarian. Rapid weight loss can be dangerous for felines, so a veterinarian should monitor any diet.
One of the very best ways to care for our companions is by feeding them quality food that provides all the nutrients they need. This includes buying food specific to your cat’s age and lifestyle (such as an indoor cat formula). Curious about other ways to care for your new kitten? We share our top picks for brushes, nail clippers, slow feeders, and hammocks. Or, view some of the top cat food brands, including Open Farm, Smalls, and Acana. Finally, don’t forget to cat-proof your home and familiarize yourself with human foods that are safe for cats.