Cats require quite a bit of water and when they eat a diet that is largely dry food, it can be difficult to get all their hygiene needs. This is why wet food is so important to a healthy indoor cat – it provides that extra push of water. But when can kittens have wet food? Adult cats (particularly seniors) usually have a certain amount of wet food per day or per week, but how early can you start this food plan? When can kittens have wet food?
Raising Kittens from Birth
We are assuming here that your adult cat gave birth and you are doing the work to make sure the babies have the best start possible. For the first week, kittens should be getting their nutrition from their mother, as long as the mom hasn’t rejected the kitten or has severe health issues. If the kitten cannot nurse, then you may have to feed them kitten formula which is entirely liquid.
After about a month, kittens can start the transition from nursing and formula to liquid kitten food and by weeks six, start mixing formula or milk with dry and canned food and water. After eight weeks of age, kittens are usually ready for kitten food, either wet or dry or both.
So, the short answer is, kittens usually start nibbling at liquid kitten food at about month one and canned kitten food by week six or so. Canned food is usually better than dry food for the first year of life as it helps to prevent dehydration. If you cannot get canned kitten food, then mix dry kitten food with water to create a soft food with plenty of fluid in it.
Getting the Right Kitten Food
Kittens have very different nutritional needs compared to adult or senior cats. With that in mind, it’s important to purchase food that has been specially formulated for a kitten (much like getting the right formula for a toddler versus an infant).
In particular, kitten food should have everything they need to help them grow well, including of course plenty of meat. Canned food also has the advantage of being lower on carbohydrates compared to dry food which means your kitten will have less risk of becoming obese.
If you are trying out a kitten food, monitor your kitten for a few days to make sure that he isn’t going to have an allergic reaction to it. Sometimes you have to juggle brands and flavor to find ones that your kitten likes and can handle and will eat. And don’t fall prey to assumptions!
The cat I had when I was growing up was allergic to all brands of food except for one or two and they couldn’t have any fish in them and my current cat loathes seafood and doesn’t care for chicken and so will only eat beef wet food and dry food that is of the ‘grilled’ flavor variety!
What sort of ingredients should you look for in high-quality kitten food?
- Quality protein. All cats are carnivores and require a lot of protein and meat to be healthy. This can come from meat, poultry, or fish, depending on the preferences of your cat. (Remember my cat that won’t eat fish!)
- Taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that helps cats stay healthy, particularly in the heart, reproductive organs, and retinal system, as well as helps kittens, develop properly.
- Fats and healthy oils help to provide insulation and protection for a cat’s organs and comfort. You’re looking for linoleic acid, arachidonic acid (omega 6 fatty acid), and Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in general.
- Vitamins. All vitamins are important for normal growth and metabolism
- Avoid fillers like corn, cereal, soy, straw, citrus pulp, etc. If these ingredients are too high on the list, you should avoid that food as they are too high in carbs and crowd out good proteins and fats that kittens need to grow, and cats need to stay healthy
Does Your Kitten Need a Feeding Schedule?
Cats generally prefer to feed via grazing (ie, whenever and wherever they like) and as long as you aren’t constantly refilling the bowl, they are pretty good at regulating their own weight through a combination of play, exercise, and nibbling rather than gorging. Still, it’s important for kittens to build that good habit and you can help by doing the following:
- Feed your cat three times a day-morning, afternoon, and evening. For a kitten, splitting up a portion into three equal parts is usually sufficient. Then you can adjust the food portions as your kitten needs, based on weight gain or loss.
- Helping kittens exercise regularly by providing toys, things to climb on, and feeding puzzles to let kittens work out how to get treats.
- Make sure your kitten always has access to fresh water
Canned food can be left out for about twenty to thirty minutes and then any leftovers should be tossed. Once your cat can have dry food, it can of course be left out longer.
How to Introduce Wet Food to Your Kitten
It can take a bit of time for some cats to get used to new or different food. For kittens, soft, wet food should be scooped into a small, low dish and served at room temperature. Serve just a small amount as small kittens don’t eat much and will step all over some of it anyway!
When kittens start eating solids, they may only eat a tablespoon at a time, so don’t give them too much or you’ll end up wasting most of it. And as said before, you may have to try a couple of brands before finding one that your kitten will enjoy.
It’s important to make sure that if you are raising kittens from birth not to start weaning them too early. Momma cat and kittens will naturally wean on their own and trying to force it can have hugely detrimental effects on both mom and the babies. Be patient, be willing to clean up a lot of messes, and enjoy watching the kittens enjoy their new food as they grow up!