- What is the Best Food for Kittens?
- Should you feed a Dry or Wet Kitten Food
- How long do you continue to feed your kitty a kitten food?
- How much and often should you feed a kitten?
- Our 2023 Picks for Best Kitten Foods
- Best Premium Kitten Food
- Most Affordable Kitten Food
- Premium Dry Kitten Food
- Grain-Free Dry Kitten Food
- Best Canned Kitten Food
- 5 Star Canned Kitten Foods
- Earthborn Holistic Monterey Medley Grain-Free Natural Canned Cat & Kitten Food
- Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food (Chicken & Chicken Liver)
- Nutro Kitten Soft Loaf Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
- Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Kitten Dinner Pate Canned Cat Food (Chicken Recipe)
- Instinct by Nature’s Variety Kitten Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food
- Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Healthy Kitten Pate Recipe Canned Cat Food
Most people bring a new kitten home when they’re about 8 weeks old.
By this time a kitten has been weaned from his mother’s milk and is eating solid food. Now it’s up to you to provide your new kitty with a diet that will help him grow into a healthy adult cat.
But, what should you feed? Dry food? Canned food? All life stage food? Food made for kittens? Cheap food? The most expensive food? That’s where we can help you.
We’ll tell you about the 11 best kitten foods and give you a most affordable pick in our 2023 guide to kitten foods.
What is the Best Food for Kittens?
- Smalls Smooth Fish Human Grade Cat Food – The Healthiest
- American Journey Duck Grain-Free All Life Stages Cat Food
- Orijen Free Run Chicken & Turkey Kitten Food
- Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food
- Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Kitten Food
- Earthborn Holistic Monterey Medley Grain-Free Natural Canned Cat & Kitten Food
Should you feed a Dry or Wet Kitten Food
Cat experts and veterinary sources generally say that very young kittens need to have at least some canned food as part of their diet. Young kittens have tiny teeth (even if they are very sharp) and they can’t chew hard, dry food very well. Without some canned food in their diet they won’t get enough calories and nutrition to grow the way they should.
Cat experts today recommend that cats and kittens should eat a good canned food for several reasons:
- Canned foods have more meat protein, which cats need.
- Canned foods have more moisture, which is also important for cats because they are prone to developing urinary tract problems if they don’t get enough moisture in their diet.
- Canned foods have fewer carbohydrates. Foods high in carbohydrates have been associated with weight gain and diabetes in cats in recent years.
The primary reason most people feed a dry cat or kitten food is for convenience. Dry foods can be nutritious but they are still not recommended as highly for cats and kittens as canned/wet foods. So, if possible, we recommend feeding your kitten primarily a wet food.
The food you buy for your kitten should have a nutritional adequacy statement that says it’s suitable for your kitten’s life stage. Lots of kitten foods are all life stage foods. This means that they have the correct nutrients for both adult cats and for kittens. The label may say “cat and kitten food.” Some foods will say they are for growth and reproduction – also fine for kittens. You should avoid buying any food that says it’s for “maintenance.” This kind of food is formulated only for adult cats and it won’t have the nutrients your growing kitten needs. Normally, if a food says on the label that it’s made for kittens, it should have the nutrients your kitten needs, but it’s always a good idea to check. Somewhere on the label the food should also say that it’s “complete and balanced” for your kitten’s life stage.
How long do you continue to feed your kitty a kitten food?
You should continue to feed your kitten a kitten food until he’s about a year old. This is true unless you have a cat of a larger breed such as a Maine Coon Cat. These cats can continue to grow for a long time, not reaching physical maturity until they are 18-24 months of age. With these big breeds, you can continue to feed a kitten food while they go on growing.
After your kitten has reached physical maturity you can switch his food to an adult cat food. It often helps to feed the same brand or recipe you have been feeding but buy an adult formula instead of the kitten formula. The less your cat notices any change, the better, so he won’t refuse to eat the food.
How much and often should you feed a kitten?
How much to feed your kitten depends on several factors, especially his size and age. Young kittens grow fast – very fast. They can double or triple in weight in their first few weeks. This means that how much to feed your kitten can change all the time. They need a lot of nutrients but they have small stomachs. This means that you will need to feed your kitten three or four small meals per day for the first few weeks.
If you are feeding some dry food along with canned food, you might want to leave some sitting out (yes, free feeding) so your kitten can snack on it when he gets hungry. After your kitten gets a little older you can cut back to two or three meals per day and then to two meals per day for an adult cat – and no free feeding. Free feeding an adult cat can lead to obesity so it’s not advised, but it can be helpful for kittens.
If you’re looking for specific calorie amounts, the National Research Council (NRC) provides some answers, Table 7: Daily Maintenance Energy Requirements for Dogs and Cats (Healthy Kittens).
For example, if you have a kitten that weighs 5 pounds this means he would need about 200 kcal/day. At 10 weeks, he might need as much as 100 kcal per pound of body weight or about 250 kcal.
You would have to look at the food you are feeding to see how many calories it contains. Then you would know how much of the food to feed. Some kitten foods have more calories than others. Labels are now required to include calorie information so this can help you know how much to feed. For example, a 3-ounce can of one kitten food contains 95 kcal; another brand in a 3-ounce can has 78 kcal; and a third brand has 122 kcal. These differences may not seem great to us but they make a big difference to a 5-pound kitten only eating 200 calories per day!
Let’s say you have a kitten that’s five months old and he weighs about 6 pounds. How much do you feed him if you’re giving him two meals of canned food? If you’re feeding a 3-ounce can of food that contains 90-100 calories, you should give him ½ to 1 whole can of food per 2 pounds of body weight, served in two meals. So, you could give your 6-pound kitten up to three little cans of kitten food, divided into two meals. But it all depends on how many calories are in the can, how big the can is, and how much your kitten weighs, etc.
If all of this worry about calories seems too complicated, you can also check the label to see the feeding guidelines. Pet food guidelines are based on the same NRC and AAFCO guidelines that we have just described. They can be easier to use but they are not as precise since they don’t take into consideration your kitten’s exact weight. Use the guidelines as a starting point and pay attention to your kitten’s weight and growth. If he’s getting chubby, cut back on the food. If he seems too skinny, give him more canned food.
Remember that you can free feed kittens, leaving down some dry food to make sure your kitten can eat when he’s hungry. If you do this, we would recommend that you do it in addition to feeding your cat canned food at meal time. That way your kitten will be getting plenty of meat protein in his diet, along with moisture in his food, and you’ll be making sure that he’s getting plenty of food to snack on if he gets hungry between meals. (Remember that free feeding is just for kittens – not adult cats.)
Our 2023 Picks for Best Kitten Foods
|Smalls Smooth Fish – Human-Grade Cat Food
|American Journey Duck Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
|Orijen Free Run Chicken & Turkey Kitten Food
|Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food
|Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Kitten Food
Best Premium Kitten Food
To start your kitten off on the right foot, Smalls is a great choice! Smalls foods contain human grade, restaurant-quality ingredients and are made in human food processing facilities in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Everyone who works in the Smalls kitchens has earned a state-issued food safety certificate and is educated in food safety and quality control for human food consumption.
Smalls is more than a human grade cat food brand—it’s a personalized cat food meal delivery service. When you order your first batch of Smalls cat food, you’ll input information about your cat’s health, weight, and weight goals. The Smalls staff prepares small batches of fresh food and portions it out according to your cat’s calorie needs, then ships a week’s or month’s (you get to decide!) supply in a refrigerated box.
The price of Smalls varies based on how many cats you have and your delivery schedule of choice. Although it’s more expensive than the average cat food, you know that your kitten is getting top-notch nutrition made especially for him or her.
Most Affordable Kitten Food
First Five Ingredients: Deboned Duck, Chicken Meal, Duck Meal, Tapioca Starch, Dried Egg Product
If you’re looking for a good, affordable dry food for your kitten, why not try American Journey Duck Recipe Grain Free Dry Cat Food? This is an all life stage formula so it’s formulated to feed kittens as well as adult cats. It’s high in protein with 40 percent protein. The carb content is 22-24 percent (DMB) which is low for a dry food.
The first ingredients are Deboned Duck, Chicken Meal, and Duck Meal so it has lots of poultry protein that cats love. Grain free with no corn, wheat, or soy. It has no poultry by-products meal or artificial preservatives. Also comes in other flavors that cats love. Over 200 reviews on Chewy.com and most of them are great.
Premium Dry Kitten Food
First Five Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Salmon, Whole Herring, Chicken Liver
Enormously popular, both cats and their owners love Orijen. Their Free Run Dry Cat Food is a highly rated for its biologically appropriate nutrition. The first ingredient is chicken and the food has 40 percent protein. It has 90 percent animal protein. It has 19 percent carbohydrates – low for a dry food. No grain, gluten, wheat, filler, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Chewy.com has this food available in 4 pound bags.
Grain-Free Dry Kitten Food
First Five Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Deboned Cod, Whole Peas
After looking at a lot of dry kitten foods, we think the best food for kittens available right now is Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food. It has lots of animal protein – 40 percent – and the first ingredients are Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, and Deboned Cod. According to Nulo, 83 percent of the protein in the food comes from animal sources so it’s not full of plant protein like some other foods. It’s also relatively low in carbs with 19.51 percent. It’s grain free, low-glycemic, and it has no potatoes or tapioca. This is an all life stage food so you can feed it to both kittens and adult cats. We think this is a great dry food for growing kittens.
Best Canned Kitten Food
First Five Ingredients: Turkey, Chicken Liver, Turkey Broth, Chicken, Chicken Meal
Wellness CORE makes lots of great pet foods. We think Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Kitten Food might be the best canned kitten food you can buy. It has 12 percent protein and the first ingredients are Turkey, Chicken Liver, Turkey Broth, Chicken, and Chicken Meal so it has lots of meat and organ meat that kittens need to grow.
It has DHA to support healthy brain and eye development. It’s grain free, gluten-free, and it has no corn, wheat, or soy. No carrageenan, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. And it doesn’t contain any by-products.
5 Star Canned Kitten Foods
Kittens are individuals. That’s not to say they’re picky! Here are 6 more really good foods that we can recommend for your kitten. Many people believe that feeding your kitten a variety of textures and flavors while he’s young can help him enjoy more foods when he gets older.
First Five Ingredients: Fish Broth, Skipjack Tuna, Mackerel, Potatoes, Sunflower Oil
There are lots of Earthborn Holistic cat and kitten foods on Chewy.com but Earthborn Holistic Monterey Medley Grain-Free Natural Canned Cat & Kitten Food is, by far, the highest rated. It’s high in protein (12 percent) with Fish Broth, Skipjack Tuna, and Mackerel as the first ingredients.
This food is grain free with no artificial ingredients added. If your kitten doesn’t like this tuna and mackerel recipe, we can recommend the other Earthborn Holistic canned grain free canned foods like Chicken Catcciatori.
First Five Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Carrots, Natural Flavor
Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain Free Canned Cat Food is always a favorite with kittens and their owners. The first ingredients are Chicken, Chicken Liver, and Chicken Broth so it provides lots of meat and organ meat that help kittens grow. It has 11 percent protein and a very low 0.57 percent carbs.
The new formula has also removed carrageenan. Fish oil provides a natural source of DHA for healthy brain and eye development. This is a pate.
First Five Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Pork Broth, Natural Flavors
We really like Nutro Kitten Soft Loaf Chicken Recipe Grain Free Canned Cat Food. This food is high in protein – 13 percent. And it has less than 1 percent carbohydrates.
The first ingredients are Chicken, Chicken Broth, and Chicken Liver. It has zero grains, corn, gluten meal, chicken by-product meals, wheat, or soy protein. And it has no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Nutro has several other good kitten recipes on Chewy.com if you want to let your kitten try some other flavors.
First Five Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Deboned Salmon, Natural Flavor
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Kitten Dinner Pate Canned Cat Food is another popular food for kittens – and with good reason. It has 9 percent protein and approximately 4.6 percent carbohydrates (as fed).
The first ingredients are Deboned Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, and Deboned Salmon so kittens get plenty of animal protein. No grains, glutens, wheat, corn, soy, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and contains yucca schidigera to promote gentle digestion. There are lots of other Merrick Purrfect Bistro recipes on the Chewy site if your kitten likes other flavors.
First Five Ingredients: Chicken, Beef Liver, Chicken Broth, Salmon (Source of DHA), Eggs
High in protein and low in carbohydrates, Instinct by Nature’s Variety Kitten Grain Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food is a great way to provide your kitten with lots of animal protein. The first ingredients are Chicken, Beef Liver, Chicken Broth, Salmon (Source of DHA), and Eggs. It has 12 percent protein and just 2 percent carbs. No grain, potato, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meal, artificial colors, or preservatives.
First Five Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Natural Flavor, Dried Egg Product
If you’re not familiar with Whole Earth Farms, it’s made by Merrick in Texas. They have been making this line of food for years. Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Healthy Kitten Pate Recipe Canned Cat Food is an all life stage formula that is designed for kittens. It has 9 percent protein and 3 percent carbohydrates by our calculations.
The first ingredients are Deboned Chicken, Chicken Broth, and Chicken Liver. Grain free, no corn, wheat, or soy.
Every playful kitten needs a good diet with plenty of meat protein to grow into a sleek, beautiful adult cat. Whether you feed a dry food or a canned food, we hope that the suggestions offered here help you choose the best kitten food for your kitty.
Remember to give your kitten several small meals per day for the first few months and then gradually make the portions larger and reduce the number of meals. And always provide your kitten with plenty of fresh water!