by Jenna Yarosh
Let’s face it, there are few things cuter than a tiny kitten. Though they look like teeny stuffed animals, they are actually baby carnivores, and it is important to keep this in mind when deciding what to feed kittens!
No matter how cute tiny kittens are, it is very important for a their long-term health for him or her to stay with their mom for as long as possible after birth, ideally until 10-12 weeks. This way they can get all of the nutrition from the mom’s milk, as well.
If a kitten is orphaned or abandoned, when it comes to what to feed kittens, it is vital to replicate as closely as possible a mother’s nutrition. Colostrum, which is passed through mother’s milk within the first 72 hours, contains important antibodies that help build the kitten’s immunity. If a kitten does not get this from his or her mom they are susceptible to illness and disease. If you find a newborn cat without its mother, you need to find a way to replace the colostrum, either from another mama kitty or from a colostrum donor through their blood. Bovine colostrum can also be used in extreme cases.
If the kitten must be fed for several weeks before weaning, there are a variety of commercial feline milk replacements that can be used until the kitten is old enough to eat solid foods. NEVER use cow’s or human’s milk or formula. A little bit of yogurt can be added to the milk replacer to help with digestion.
Kittens begin weaning (transitioning from mother’s milk to solid food) around 4 weeks of age, and are usually on a solid diet at 8 weeks. During this time, it is important to find a high-quality food to help the kitten grow big and strong. Cats are obligate carnivores, descended from desert animals and designed to eat mice and other small animals. Because of their evolution, cats/kittens do best on high protein, high moisture, and low carbohydrate foods.
Raw meat is the ideal diet for a cat, and the younger you introduce a cat to it, the more likely they will be to enjoy it. After raw, canned diets are the next best food, with kibble being the most convenient and least expensive but also the least appropriate food for a cat. Make sure any food you choose is specifically for “Growth” or for “All Life Stages” to ensure that there is an appropriate amount of nutrients to help the kitten grow healthily!
These tips on what to feed kittens were provided by Jenna Yarosh. She is the owner of Patton Avenue Pet Company, a pet supply store that does more than provide goods for the companion animal. They aim to be a resource center for Asheville’s pet-loving community.