This Is How Much You Should Really Be Feeding Your Kitten

Count those calories!

How much to feed a kitten

You just got a case of kitten food for your new best friend, and now you want to figure out how much your kitten actually needs to eat in a day.

This is important — because too much food can lead to obesity and too little can lead to malnutrition and poor development.

To find out how much to feed your kitten, The Dodo reached out to Dr. Liz Bales, a veterinarian and founder of Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co., who shared her dietary recommendations for every stage of your kitten’s development.

Figure out how many calories your kitten needs

As a general rule, “kittens should eat 2 tablespoons (or 30 cubic centimeters) of kitten-specific formula per 4 ounces of body weight within a 24-hour period,” Dr. Bales told The Dodo.

But kitten food can vary in terms of calories. So to find out exactly how much kitten food you should be feeding your specific kitten, you need to determine your kitten’s recommended caloric intake.

To do this, check out this kitten feeding chart from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). Look up your kitten’s weight, and the chart will suggest a range of calories to feed him a day.

Then, follow the instructions on the label of the food you’re using to find out how much wet or dry food that equates to.

So if your kitten weighs 5 and a half pounds, according to the chart, he should be eating about 180 to 190 calories a day — which would equal one 5.5-ounce can of Instinct wet kitten food, for example.

As a general rule, kittens should gain about a half an ounce per day. Daily weight checks are encouraged, especially early on, so you can know if your kitten is eating enough or not. A food scale or neonatal scale can be used to weigh your kitten.

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If you notice your kitten isn’t gaining the weight that he should, start feeding him more frequently, Dr. Bales said, and contact your vet if you still have concerns.

Tips for feeding kittens in the first year

Kittens grow up fast, and their nutritional needs change just as quickly. Dr. Bales shared some tips so you know how to feed your kitten at each stage:

Feeding kittens from birth to 2 weeks old

If you’ve rescued a newborn kitten and the mom isn’t around, you’ll need to learn how to bottle-feed a kitten.

If your kitten is younger than 2 weeks old, feed him with a milk replacer at least every two hours, following the feeding instructions on the product’s packaging.

According to Dr. Bales, you should never feed your kitten cow’s milk, because he can’t digest it properly.

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How you bottle feed your kitten is important. “Kittens do not nurse on their backs like a [human] baby,” Dr. Bales said. Instead, feed your kitten in a position that’s both natural and comfortable for him, like while he’s lying on his stomach in your lap.

Feeding kittens 2 to 4 weeks old

At this age, kittens should eat every three to four hours. “If they are sleeping for longer periods during the night, don’t wake them to feed,” Dr. Bales said.

Weaning your kitten

Most kittens are ready to wean onto solid food around 3 to 4 weeks of age.

“When a kitten bites the nipple often and forcefully, and is able to lick formula from fingers, [he] is ready to wean off of kitten milk replacement,” Dr. Bales said.

To wean your kitten, offer him canned kitten food mixed with warm water in a shallow saucer. “It’s messy!” Dr. Bales said. “Schedule extra time to keep them clean.”

And while weaning your kitten, don’t stop bottle-feeding him. You want to make sure he’s getting adequate calories during the weaning period as he figures out how to eat solid food.

Feeding kittens 4 to 8 weeks old

Once your kitten reaches 6 weeks of age, he should be able to eat canned food without extra water. But if not, you can continue adding water until about 8 weeks of age.

Feeding kittens from 8 weeks to 12 months old

An 8-week-old kitten should be able to eat both dry and wet kitten food without a problem. A mixture of the two is what’s usually recommended by veterinarians for a couple of reasons. For one, kittens have tiny stomachs and need to eat a lot of small meals a day, so you can serve wet food at mealtimes and leave dry food out for him during the day.

Also, serving both wet and dry food might also prevent picky eating later on in life.

Once your kitten reaches 10 months old, it might be time to finally switch to an adult cat food. Before making the switch, check with your veterinarian, since this transition age is different for every cat.

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