Feeding your kitten

When you bring your kitten home for the first time, it's best to carry on feeding her the food she's been used to.

Not all kitten foods are the same - some have much better quality ingredients than others, for example. Which is why you might want to change your kitten's food to one recommended by your vet. You'll need to do this over a period of 5 to 7 days; your vet will advise you on this. Mix the new food into her usual food, and gradually increase the amounts until only the new food is in your kitten's bowl.

As you can imagine, a kitten's stomach is tiny, so to begin with, she'll need small but frequent meals. This means putting out fresh food in a clean bowl, up to 4 times a day until she's 6 months old.

Choose carefully
A "complete" kitten food will provide all the vitamins and minerals your kitten needs in an easy-to-serve form, either as dry food, or wet in cans or pouches. If you're unsure which to buy, your vet will advise you about which is best for your pet. But whatever food you choose, follow the feeding guide on the pack, and be careful not to over feed your kitten.

Thirsty kittens
Believe it or not, kittens don't need milk. And for some cats, cows' milk can actually cause diarrhoea. So if you want to give your kitten some milk, specially formulated cat milk is available. Notwithstanding that, please make sure your kitten has a bowl of fresh clean water at all times. If you suspect she's not drinking enough, it may be she can taste chemicals in it, so give her still bottled water. Some cats even prefer to drink from flowing water sources, like fountains or dripping taps so you can buy water fountains designed especially for cats. And don't forget that if she's eating dry, crunchy food, it's essential you give her plenty of water.

Don't worry, being sick sometimes is normal
If your kitten has a minor digestive problem, or needs to bring up a hairball, she will make herself sick by eating grass. This is quite natural and there's nothing to worry about. But if the vomiting persists and you spot other symptoms, you'll need to consult your vet.

How and when to feed your kitten
It's important to feed your kitten the right amount of food at proper intervals, but this can be tricky -- feeding requirements vary greatly from one kitten to another. Feeding guides on the food can or bag are just a starting point. It's critical to your kitten's health that her physical condition is monitored regularly and the feeding amount adjusted as needed.

To help keep your kitten healthy, Hill's recommends following the simple steps in this cycle:

  • Weigh your kitten
  • Feed her based on feeding guide and veterinary recommendations
  • Evaluate your kitten's physical condition using our on line growth tracker chart. Simply enter the date, your pet's weight, and using the slider you can set your kitten's condition score
  • Adjust the amount you feed accordingly as your kitten grows

Switching food
If switching your kitten to Hill's Science Plan Kitten, gradually introduce it over a 7-day period. Do this by mixing your kitten's former food with increasing proportions of the new food, until only Science Plan is being fed. She will then be able to fully enjoy the taste and benefits of the superior nutrition provided by Science Plan Kitten.

You and your vet
Your vet is the best source of information about the health and well-being of your kitten. Ask your vet to advise regularly on your kitten's weight because achieving and maintaining a pet's ideal weight not only reduces certain health risks, but can lead to your kitten having a more energetic, longer and healthier life.

Ask your veterinarian which of these three feeding methods is best for your kitten:

Free Choice: Food is available to your kitten at all times.

Time-Limited Feeding: Food is available to your kitten for a limited time.

Meal Feeding: A measured amount of food is available to your kitten at specific meal times each day.

Your kitten must have an adequate supply of fresh water at all times. Not having water to drink for a sustained length of time will harm your kitten's health.

Treats & titbits
Although it is tempting to give them table scraps they do not provide your kitten with the correct balance of nutrients. Try to be sparing with treats, as giving too many can lead to weight gain or nutritional imbalance.

The next step
When your cat reaches maturity at a year old, her nutritional needs will be different. She'll need to move on to an adult food that will provide her with specific vitamins and minerals in a balance that's correct for her age. Hill's Science Plan can provide exactly that. The lifestage range is tailored to keep your cat in the best health throughout her whole life, whatever her breed or lifestyle.

How a kitten's nutritional needs differ from ours?
In a study of homemade pet foods, more than 90 percent of foods were found to be nutritionally unbalanced and incomplete for pets.*

Each species has very different nutritional requirements. Cooking for your kitten is not the same as cooking for your children or yourself. Kittens have nutritional requirements that are quite different from humans.
Foods that are not properly balanced to meet a kitten's needs can lead to health problems. For example, calcium and phosphorus must be balanced to ensure that a careful ratio of more calcium than phosphorus is maintained for a healthy metabolism.**
Kittens have a very critical need for much more taurine than humans require. Too little taurine can lead to heart and eye disorders.†
Never feed raw meat to your kitten. The handling of raw meat is always a critical part of cooking our human foods. It is also important in pets' foods. Raw meats often contain bacteria like salmonella, listeria and even E. coli, which can be very dangerous to pets and the humans who care for them. Kittens and other pets fed raw meat can pass bacteria on to the humans who come in contact with them. Small children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems may become seriously ill.††
*Small Animal Clinical Nutrition IV Edition, page 169.
**Small Animal Clinical Nutrition IV Edition, page 310.
† Small Animal Clinical Nutrition IV Edition, page 30.
†† FDA Notice December 18, 2002.

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