Getting a brand new baby cat to raise and care for and provide with a lifelong home is hugely rewarding and exciting, and it often surprises people how much love they begin to feel for their little fur ball from within just a couple of days of bringing them home!
However, getting a new kitten that is just three or so months old and that will be leaving their queen and littermates for the very first time can also be very daunting, and most new kitten owners are very anxious to get their little cat off to the right start, and make good choices for them!
One of the most obvious and important areas in which this becomes apparent is when it comes to feeding the newly independent kitten-generally, when you pick your new kitten up, you will be provided with a couple of days of food for them or told what they have been eating to date, and then the rest of it is up to you!
Whether you choose to continue feeding them the same stuff that they have always had (and what will likely have been the only non-milk food that they have ever known) or change over to something else, making sure that you manage your kitten’s diet in the right way during their first year is vital, and can have a direct impact on everything from their growth rate to activity levels to health.
In this article, we will share some tips and advice on how to feed your kitten the right way during their first year of life.
Before you bring your new kitten home, talk to the breeder about what they have been fed so far, and buy in enough of it to feed your kitten for at least the first couple of weeks of their life. Even if you are not overly keen on their current diet, it is important to keep this consistent during your kitten’s first couple of weeks with you, before making any changes.
If you decide to continue to feed your kitten the diet that they were supplied with previously, this makes things easy-but if not, spend the first couple of weeks deciding on the diet that you wish to provide for them, and why.
There are a huge range of different options out there when it comes to feeding cats under a year old, and choosing wet, dry or a combination, which brand, the quality, and everything else about the choice can take some time-and there is no right or wrong answer, assuming that you provide a complete, age-appropriate diet.
If you want to change your kitten over onto a new diet, wait at least a couple of weeks after you have brought them home, and then make the change very gradually. Remember that your kitten will likely have only ever eaten one food in their lives so far, and so giving them something new needs to be managed carefully. Schedule a couple of weeks to make the change, and gradually phase in more of the new food whilst phasing out the old, keeping an eye out for any problems along the way.
Some cats suffer from allergies and sensitivities to certain foods or ingredients, and this may well become apparent when you first start feeding your kitten a new diet.
Keep a close eye out for signs of allergies, which can be wide and varied, affecting anything from the coat to the digestive system-and speak to your vet if you think you have spotted a problem.
It is a good idea to measure how much food your kitten is eating each day, which will increase gradually as they age-but do not feed them at set mealtimes and remove their food in the interim. Cats need to free-feed and so, eat little and often, and will rarely overeat and become overweight, so unless there is a good reason to restrict your kitten’s mealtimes, let them graze naturally.
Your kitten’s size and weight should increase gradually during their first year of life, until they become fully grown-and providing a food that both provides day to day energy and supports growth is important. Weigh your young cat every month or so, to ensure that they are growing as they should and so, eating the right diet to support this.
Your kitten’s coat should be sleek, clean and well kept, and if their coat is dull, patchy, or otherwise not quite right, this may indicate a food allergy, or a food that is not filling all of your kitten’s needs.
Kittens and juvenile cats have two basic settings-full speed, or fast asleep! Young cats do sleep a lot, but they should also be very active at times too-if your cat is not lively or seems to be continually lethargic, talk to your vet about a potential dietary anomaly.
Finally, don’t forget that when your cat reaches around a year old, you will need to swap them over to adult food-which means going through the whole assessment, decision and selection process all over again!