Many first-time pet owners don’t have an extensive knowledge on how to feed their newly arrived cat. This is normal however it is important that once a decision has been made to purchase or adopt a cat we thoroughly research the best diet plan to follow based on its age. There are generally three life stages for which vets will recommend a specific diet based on the pet’s energy levels: kitten, adult and senior.
In particular, if we are preparing to welcome a young kitten that has just completed the weaning process (generally, around 4-6 weeks old) there will be a requirement to closely monitor its eating behaviour as well as physical and mental growth.
As all young pets, kittens will continue to grow and develop their bones, muscles and brain on a daily basis up until they reach one year of age. This is why it is so important that a juvenile cat’s diet is tailored to sustain the high energy levels and constant growth.
The moment we take our new furry friend home, we will be faced with a variety of responsibilities among which a vital one is to ensure our kitty is eating a healthy and nutritious diet to help its ever changing body.
Usually, cat breeders will be able to recommend a specific food or even provide a small amount of what the kitten was weaned on. If this is the case, we must monitor how our pet responds to said food and ensure it is growing up healthy and in good shape. Some owners may decide to do some research by asking other people who have a cat or better by consulting with an experience vet after the kitty has had its first checkup.
Cats are nibblers by nature and may prefer to have access to their meal throughout the day. Kittens especially require food that is high in protein, fats, vitamins and minerals as these all work together in the growing process.
You may decide to feed your cat numerous times during the day. If so, be sure to follow the feeding guide on the cat food label or the advice of your vet. Other owners may be working during the day and unable to fill the food bowl multiple times. This is also ok, however the portions should be adjusted accordingly so that your kitty is still getting all of the necessary nutrients it needs to develop its bones and muscles without overeating.
Monitor your pet’s weight on a regular basis and follow the vet’s advice to know if your kitty is not growing fast enough or if it may be facing overweight issues.
Animal associations and veterinarians recommend beginning the switch to adult cat food around 12 months of age, with the exception of larger breeds such as the Maine Coon which reaches the adult phase around 2 years old. From the moment you welcome your kitten into your home and up until it turns 1 year old, it is essential that you keep a close eye on how your pet is growing and interacting in order to understand if it is healthy and fit. Weigh your kitten every week in the first six months, then gradually move to a monthly weigh-in. Inspect the coat and make sure it is shiny and smooth. Always observe your kitten’s behaviour: when your pet is young it should be always very active, curious and playful.
Once your cat turns one year of age, choose the best adult cat food based on vet recommendation and slowly transition over a period of 7-10 days. When you are adding the new food to your kitten's meal start with about 75% kitten formula and 25% adult food, and proceed to gradually increase the percentage until you reach 100% adult food.
Cats are carnivores and unlike dogs, they depend on a meat-based diet to grow healthy and survive.
You may decide to raise your cat on dry-food, wet-food or even a home-cooked meals (although this option requires experience and deep knowledge of the correct ratio). Do some research, consult with the vet or even the breeder and maybe even ask other pet owners but always prefer high-quality food and natural ingredients. Once you’ve made your choice make sure to follow a feeding schedule and stick with it to prevent your pet from overeating or becoming a bit fussy.
Whichever type of formula you feed your cat, make sure it contains all of the necessary ingredients required for such a unique animal. A cat’s diet should absolutely include the following ingredients:
Proteins - at least one main protein should be the main ingredient in the formula (i.e salmon, chicken or other meat, eggs)
Carbohydrates - cats require smaller amounts than dogs or humans in order to build energy
Fats - fish oil or chicken fat are extremely important for your kitty to maintain a healthy coat and for a healthy functioning of the brain and spinal cord
Fiber - fruits and vegetables will help your cat maintain a good digestion process
Regardless of the brand and type of food you have picked for your furry friend, remember you have a responsibility to ensure your cat is not ingesting any harmful ingredient. For example, many owners believe that cats should have milk on a regular basis however studies have proven that adult kitties develop an intolerance to lactose which can be extremely dangerous to their health. So read, get involved with feline associations and most of all ask your veterinarian for advice and never improvise when taking care of your kitty.
When it’s time to change your cat’s diet best to contact the vet to get the advice of an expert and prevent any potential damage to your pet’s wellbeing.
You may also want to read our article on How to Feed your Cat.