The addition of a new kitten in your life is an exhilarating one, whether she's a tiny newborn or an energetic 6-month old. In the midst of your excitement, however, it's crucial to remember that kittens' feeding demands are not the same as those of fully mature cats.
If your new kitty is truly "new," then she may not be completely weaned. If a newborn kitten is still under the care of her mama cat, then feeding frequencies lie mostly in her paws rather than your hands. Straight after birth, mother cats generally feed their little ones seemingly nonstop -- every one to two hours or so. Brand new kittens generally require a maximum of 10 nursing sessions every day. This feverish pace slows down gradually, and by the time kittens are about a month old, they only need around four to six daily meals -- think increased portion sizes and less frequent feeding. If the nursing mother cat isn't available and you don't have a foster cat mother, feeding duties fall to you -- as long as you purchase a suitable kitten formula and kitten milk replacer from your nearest pet supplies retailer. Never feed a newborn kitten anything other than kitten formula. Cow's milk, for example, is a major no-no.
Several Weeks in Age
Kittens usually nurse until they're roughly 2 months old. However, weaning generally starts at approximately 4 weeks. If the queen is in the picture, however, nursing is at her discretion. When your wee kitty is between 6 weeks and 3 months in age, she only needs to eat four to six times daily, although her mother may continue to nurse on and off. If mama isn't there, you can continue to offer kitten formula, as long as you place it into a shallow bowl. When you start feeding a kitten bona-fide solid food after the weaning process starts, make sure it's a commercial formula labeled for kitten consumption -- no adult cat food yet. At first, make eating solids easy on the youngster by mixing them into a soft-textured, easy-to-manage gruel.
If your precious new kitten is anywhere between 3 and 6 months in age, then she's well past her nursing and weaning days -- success. During this period, she only needs to eat three meals each day. As with before, it's crucial to feed her only foods that are designed for kittens' specific, energy-craving nutritional needs, whether wet or dry.
On the Path to Adult Cat Food
When a kitten gets to the 6-month milestone, she's practically a big girl -- halfway to "adult cat food" status. At this time, you can feed your new kitty two times each day. When she's a year old, she can continue to eat twice daily. By this age, kittens' growing bodies are fully prepared to eat like adult cats, with the same frequency. Switch all of your dry and wet kitten food supplies to adult varieties. If you have any questions or concerns regarding feeding kittens of any age, speak to a veterinarian before you do anything. Treats are acceptable on a once-in-a-while basis, although they should consist of less than 5 percent of your pet's food consumption. Never allow your kitten or adult cat any treats unless you are 100 percent certain of their feline safety. Remember, the vet is there to answer all of your questions, and your furball is more than worth the effort.
- The Merck Manual for Pet Health: Kitten Care
- ASPCA: Newborn Kitten Care
- Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: Nutrition for the Growing Kitten
- CatChannel.com: Kitten Feeding Tips
- Austin Humane Society: Kitten Care Handbook
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Hand Rearing Kittens
- ASPCA: Weaning
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