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Feeding Kittens: A Guide


If you're thinking of adopting a kitten, whether three weeks old or six months old, he's going to require proper nutrition and care. Feeding grown cats can seem a simpler task since most do well on a good dry food with a little wet food thrown in. Feeding kittens can be a bit more complex.

From Birth To Four Weeks

Mama's Milk: Hopefully a kitten is still with his mother during this time. But, even so, there can be problems. If the mother cat refuses to nurse, have the vet check her out. She could have mastitis or something making nursing painful.

Hand-Feeding: If the mother cat refuses to take care of her kittens, you'll have to hand feed them with a bottle. One brand of kitten milk is KMR which can be found at major pet stores. Your vet may also have a suggestion for a formula. If at all possible, it is important for the kittens to nurse for at least the first two days.

From Four to Eight Weeks

Weaning: This is a gradual process. Give the kittens a mixture of dry kitten food (one part) mixed with cat milk replacement (three parts) or wet kitten food (one part) and milk replacement (two parts). Gradually reduce the liquid.

From Two Months To Three Months

Cat Food: Kittens should be feeding solely on kitten food by 10 weeks at the latest.

Type of food: During this time, kittens develop their food preferences which will stay with them for life. Dry or canned cat food is up to you. Only in special circumstances decided by your vet should you give a kitten supplements.

Frequency: Kittens this age should be fed at least four times a day because their stomachs are too small to contain the necessary amount of food for nutritional needs when less often. Wet food should be refrigerated between feedings and then warmed up. Dry food can be left out for kittens to free-feed. Mix a little water in the dry food if your kitten isn't drawn to it.

From Three Months to Six Months

Routine: Kittens start to really appreciate routine during this time. Make sure your kitten food is in a quiet, safe place and don't move it around.

Type Of Food: Check your kitten food label. It should have a guaranteed analysis of key ingredients including the minimum fat and protein and the maximum fiber and moisture. Cats and kittens can develop problems from too little protein in their diet. Keep your kitten's diet constant - don't switch foods unless necessary.

Frequency: Towards six months, you can begin feeding your kitten three times a day. It's best to weigh your cat every week and adjust amounts accordingly.

Amount: 1/3 to 1 cup at each feeding.

From Six Months to a Year

Feeding cats: Though your kitten may continue to grow after a year, they're generally considered cats by then.

Type of food: Your cat's food should, again, contain adequate protein as it highly digestible to cats. Also, look for Taurine and Arginine - these are essential amino acids. Most vets recommend against a vegetarian diet as cats are strict carnivores. As a grown cat, he has several choices for food:

Dry food: There are many brands on the market. There are also special foods for specific problems such as hairballs and urinary tract infections.

Wet food: Some cat owners feel this is best because it is lower in carbs than dry food. They also feel cats have less of a chance of obesity with wet food. But it has been found there's no real difference between a dry or wet food diet.

Raw diet: Proponents feel this best approximates a cat's diet in the wild. You can either make your own or buy a raw food diet. The key is to make certain your cat gets all the required nutrients. Some people add priobiotics (which help maintain intestinal health) and supplements (check with your vet).

Frequency: Twice a day.

Amount: Check food label recommendations.

Feeding kittens to insure their growth into healthy cats is essential. Watch their weight (an overweight cat or kitten will have a hanging stomach, ribs you can't feel and, perhaps, a double chin); watch their activity level; and watch their stools. By focusing on good nutrition from the start, you'll most likely have a healthy and strong cat.

Photo: Monastereo

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