Little house cats discovering the world are constantly on the move – and consequently have a high energy metabolism and a constant hunger. As long as mummy’s milk bar is available, a kitten will satisfy its appetite there at regular intervals.
How long do kittens need different food?
In the first weeks and months of life, it is essential to provide a kitten with exactly the right food. Under adverse circumstances you have to start even earlier: If the mother cat has too little milk or you have to care for orphaned kittens, use special cat replacement milk.
Between the fourth and eighth week of life, the slow transition between formula and solid food takes place. The kittens begin to take an interest in their mother’s bowl and alternate between breast milk and solid food for a while, while the mother’s milk flow slowly decreases.
Between about the eighth and tenth week, the kitten can be switched completely to cat food. First offer him high-quality junior complete food. The trade has a wide range of such special baby food.
At about seven months of age, the kitten will have grown up enough to be gradually switched from kitten food to adult food. Do not feed the kitten adult food before then: this can lead to severe malnutrition, as explained below. You should use the period of transition to solid food to introduce the kitten to as many different flavours as possible, including different brands: Variety experienced early on will prevent food aversions in the adult animal. However, some cats react sensitively and with diarrhoea to constant change. If this happens you should ask your vet for advice.
What is special about kitten food?
The first phase of a kitten’s life consists mainly of two things: Exploring the world and growing. Within a few months, a tiny, helpless animal becomes an energetic, agile creature that keeps its owner on its toes. The body weight multiplies and the relaxed pacing increases to breathtaking fitness and athletic performance. All this can only develop healthily if the kitten is fed a diet that contains all the important ingredients in a ratio appropriate to its age. A kitten has about twice the energy requirements of an adult cat; kitten food has correspondingly higher nutritional values.
A kitten’s small stomach is designed to eat smaller portions of food; there simply isn’t enough room yet for an “adult portion”. So, unlike the adult cat, the animal needs many small rations, evenly distributed throughout the day. Kitten food should contain highly digestible proteins; such highly digestible food takes into account the rapid metabolism of the kitten and allows the absorption of as many amino acids as possible. Since only a little food can be absorbed at a time, but the kitten’s energy needs are very high, you should make sure that the kitten food is particularly high in energy. The kitten should also have dry food freely available from the beginning: Crunching up the hard food crumbs strengthens the chewing muscles and prevents tartar. Make sure that fresh water is always available. If kittens are fed only wet food during the first weeks of life, the development of their jaws may be weakened.
A good kitten food contains in the appropriate dosage:
– Main nutrients: high quality animal protein and fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6).
– Quantitative and trace elements (e.g. calcium, selenium, magnesium)
– Amino acids (e.g. taurine, arginine)
How does my kitten learn to eat from the bowl?
Kittens learn to eat from the bowl from their mother through observation and imitation. But just as human babies initially have difficulty switching from bottle to plate and cutlery, the bowl can confuse many a kitten at first. There is a simple reason for this: as long as the kitten drinks at the teat or has to be fed with the bottle, the food source is horizontally in front of its mouth – or slightly elevated above it. In order to eat from the bowl, however, the kitten must now lower its head and lift the chunks of food. This needs to be learned and requires some coordination. If you have to raise a kitten without the assistance of the mother, a trick and a little patience is needed. Take cat food on a spoon and hold it in front of the kitten’s face so that it can eat from the spoon at nose level. If this works, lower the spoon further and further until the animal has internalised eating food “from below” and uses the bowl on its own.
What should be considered when feeding seniors?
A cat is considered a senior from about the age of eight. Since a healthy cat has a life expectancy of fifteen to twenty years in otherwise complication-free circumstances, the time for senior food lasts quite long. But after the age of eight, the cat’s organism changes: even if the animal is still fit and agile, the digestion becomes sluggish and the metabolism slows down. The organs also no longer function as well.
The composition of senior food takes this into account: It contains less protein and phosphorus and thus relieves the kidney function. A lower energy content and easily digestible ingredients are good for the animal, which becomes calmer overall. A supportive administration of food supplements in certain life situations, for example during the change of coat, can be useful, but should be discussed with the vet.
Nutrition of kittens at a glance
View by years:
– 4th – 8th week of life: Slow transition between milk food and solid food
– 8-10 weeks of life: Complete changeover to cat food
– Approx. 7 months: Changeover from kitten food to adult food
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