Providing your kitten with the proper nutrition goes way beyond just putting fresh food in a clean bowl. Your kitten’s nutritional needs will change as their body develops through adolescence and into adulthood. Proper nutrition during these critical growth periods will help your kitten mature into a strong, healthy adult cat.
The nutritional needs of kittens and cats are vastly different, and it’s critical to give your pet premium age-appropriate nutrition. Here’s everything you need to know about kitten food vs. cat food and how to feed your growing kitten.
What to Feed a Kitten at Each Stage of Development
Rapid Growth Stage: 2 to 6 Months
After kittens are weaned, they enter a stage of rapid growth, which lasts until they’re 6 months old. They need a high-quality, balanced diet with every bite packed with the nutrients and energy needed to sustain such rapid development. The best choice is a premium kitten food with animal-based proteins. It should be highly digestible, nutrient-dense and designed to meet kittens’ unique nutritional needs, such as Opens a new windowIAMS™ PROACTIVE HEALTH™ Healthy Kitten with Chicken.
Kittens require twice as much energy as adult cats on a per-pound basis. But their smaller mouths, teeth and stomachs limit the amount of food they can digest during a single meal. It’s best to divide the total daily food amount recommended on the kitten food packaging into three or four smaller meals.
Adolescence Stage: 6 to 12 Months
As kittens approach adult size, their nutritional requirements begin to change again. Their rate of growth begins to slow, activity levels may decline and they can start eating fewer, larger meals each day. During this stage, kittens begin to look like adults, but they are still growing and need the special nutrition found in kitten food. Continue feeding your adolescent kitten a high-quality kitten food, such as Opens a new windowIAMS™ ProActive Health™ Healthy Kitten with Chicken.
During the adolescent growth stage, many cat owners are tempted to change a kitten’s food for variety. But cats do not get bored with a consistent diet of high-quality dry food, and giving a kitten “human food” and table scraps can lead to undesirable behaviors, such as begging or stealing food.
Additionally, feeding homemade diets, food formulated for adult cats (especially formulas designed for weight loss) or supplementing an already complete and balanced diet with vitamins could cause nutritional disorders. You can, however, supplement your kitten’s dry food with a nutrient-dense Opens a new windowwet kitten or all-life-stages food for a nutritious — and tasty —
Adult Stage: 12 Months and Beyond
At about 12 months of age, your kitten will reach their full adult size. Your young adult cat no longer needs calorie-dense kitten food to fuel growth and is ready for a diet of adult cat food.
When to Stop Feeding Your Cat Kitten Food
When your cat is about 12 months old, it’s time to switch to a maintenance formula adult cat food, such as Opens a new windowIAMS™ ProActive Health™ Adult Original with Chicken. At this age, cats no longer need the extra calories and nutrients found in kitten food. As with any change in a cat’s diet, remember to gradually transition from kitten food to adult food over a period of several days.
How to Transition from Kitten to Adult Cat Food
To avoid intestinal upsets, make the change from a kitten formula to an adult diet over a period of four days with the following method:
- Day One: Fill your cat’s dish with 75% kitten food and 25% adult food.
- Day Two: Mix adult and kitten food in a 50/50 ratio.
- Day Three: Feed your cat a mixture that's 75% adult food and 25% kitten food.
- Day Four: Switch to 100% adult formula.
Because cats generally eat only what they need, free-choice feeding is fine for most cats. (With free-choice feeding, you can provide food to your cat around the clock and let them eat when and how much they need.) Indoor cats that don’t get much exercise, however, may overeat if fed free-choice. For them, portion-controlled feeding twice a day is a better routine.
To determine how much food to give your cat, check the recommendations of the pet food manufacturer on the label. Use the guidelines, monitor your cat’s weight and body condition during the transition, and adjust feeding portions if necessary. If your cat is gaining or losing weight and shouldn’t be, slightly adjust their daily intake and weigh them again the following week.
How to Choose an Adult Cat Food
Make sure to choose an adult cat food that provides the same high-quality nutrition as a premium kitten food. Downgrading to a basic nutrition brand at this stage of your cat’s life may upset their digestive system and won’t provide them with the same type of nutrition they were raised on. Premium foods like IAMS™ are formulated to meet all of your cat’s needs and provide additional benefits. They’re specifically designed to provide your cat with a formula that features:
- High-quality ingredients
- Complete and balanced levels of protein, fat, moderately fermentable fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which make costly supplements unnecessary
- High-quality recipes and great taste
- Standards that meet or exceed Association of American Feed Control Officials standards
- Nutrient-dense formulas that are right for each life stage
- Product guarantees
All of these premium features add up to a happy, healthy cat. With premium dry cat food, you can expect to see these important indicators of good health:
- Exceptional muscle tone
- A shiny, luxurious coat
- Healthy skin and bones
- Clear, bright eyes and clean teeth
- Small, firm stools
Founded on decades of research, premium formulas from IAMS™ help maintain your cat’s health and help provide her with the nutrition she needs for a long life.
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Introducing a new cat into your home and life is a rewarding and fulfilling decision, one that requires some thought before you head to the shelter. So what should you consider before adopting a cat? Follow our tips to prepare for the best.
- What to Consider before Adopting a Cat
- Choosing the Right Cat for You
- Where to Adopt a Cat
- The Cat Adoption Process
What to Consider before Adopting a Cat
First, let’s explore some of the commitments you’ll need to make to ensure your new cat is content (and that you are, too!).
Cat-proofing Your Home
Make sure your home is cat-safe by eliminating or hiding away anything that could harm or poison your newbie. This includes:
- Household cleaners and chemicals
- Toxic plants, including aloe vera, azalea, rhododendron, lilies, chrysanthemum, mistletoe, philodendron, poinsettias and tulips
- Toxic foods, including chocolate, coffee and tea, dairy, raw meat, grapes and raisins, carrots, onions, garlic and alcohol
Cat Supplies You’ll Need
You’ll need a cat bed or hideout, toys, scratching mats, a cat tree or climbing tower, food and water bowls, litter and boxes, and, of course, well-balanced, nutritious cat food. IAMS™ provides a wide range of tailored, nutritional cat food to promote the health of your new cat.
Cost of Cat Care
Plan to budget for an annual exam (older cats or those with special conditions may need more frequent visits), medication and parasite preventives. It’s smart to save for emergency care, too.
Cat Exercise and Playtime
Providing daily play and exercise opportunities can keep your cat physically and psychologically healthy, and help strengthen your bond. Toys, feather wands and cat trees should be part of your regular rotation! And believe it or not, many cats can be trained to walk on a leash.
Not all cats are solitary or antisocial; however, they can become this way if they aren’t introduced properly to new experiences. Strange sounds, smells and even appliances in your home might make a new cat anxious, as can other family members and pets (more on this later). So be sure to help your new cat get accustomed to unfamiliar people, places and things, and reward and praise them when doing so.
Litter and Litterboxes
Make sure you have the necessary box, scoop and other supplies to keep things tidy. If you have a multiple-cat household, provide one box per cat, plus one additional box, to help quell territorial issues.
A Lifetime Commitment
Keep in mind that cats often live into their teens and maybe even a second decade if you’re lucky. Know that you’re adopting a true family member for the extent of their lifetime.
Choosing the Right Cat for You
A cat match made in heaven starts by asking some questions about yourself.
What Is Your Lifestyle Like?
If you are not home regularly or gone for extended amounts of time, a cat’s independent nature can be a great fit. If your life includes other people or pets, make sure their behaviors, personalities and lifestyles suit having a cat family member — both for their sake and the cat’s. Allergies can be a dealbreaker, so take note of anyone in your home with cat allergies and their or your willingness to take allergy medication, vacuum constantly and groom the cat regularly to alleviate symptoms.
Your home should also have the space for play and exercise and shouldn’t harbor anything dangerous to your cat.
What Cat Personality Suits You?
Cats offer a variety of distinctive personality types, ranging from puppy-like cuddliness to feigned disinterest. Some cats are constantly on the go, exploring and poking into this and that, while others are certified nap ninjas. Vocally, they can be chatty catties or more taciturn souls. In short, you have a wide spectrum of personality types to choose from — which is what makes cats such fascinating and easy-to-love pets.
Do You Want to Adopt a Kitten or an Adult Cat?
Kittens will need a lot of attention, direction and a fair amount of patience. Their size, energy and inquisitive nature means you’ll need to supervise them closely.
Adult cats often will settle more quickly into a routine once introduced to their new home. An older or senior adult cat may be even more comfortable interacting with children and furniture. And providing a real home for a cat in their golden years is a rewarding and noble gesture you can feel good about.
Fur Better or Fur Worse
All cats shed. This will affect anyone with allergies and could also cause health issues for your cat, like hairballs or matting. Long-haired cats need to be brushed more regularly, and not all cats love this, so you may have to train yours to sit through this daily ritual.
Where to Adopt a Cat
There are several reasons adopting a cat from a shelter or rescue organization is preferable to buying. More effort goes into matchmaking when you adopt, because shelters and rescues generally have more information about their cats. Plus, adopting your cat from a shelter or a rescue actually helps two cats: the one you adopt and the homeless cat who takes your cat’s place.
In contrast, buying can be much more expensive than adopting, and the practice encourages cat mills and increases the number of pets who need homes.
Adopting a Cat from a Shelter
At shelters you can often visit with more than one cat and breed. The screening process can be easier (many shelters allow you to take a cat home that day), and adoption fees can be lower than at a rescue. However, the vet services might not cover all that your cat needs.
Adopting a Cat from a Rescue
Rescues have some advantages over shelters. They often know more about candidate cats because they may be placed in foster homes and even trained for a home. So you could adopt a cat that is already litterbox trained, socialized with other pets and with kids, trained to keep off furniture, etc.
Depending on the rescue’s screening process, you might have to make an appointment to see one cat at a time. While the screening might take longer, it’s designed to match you to the right cat. Adoption fees might be a little higher with a rescue, but they often cover more vet care, too.
The Cat Adoption Process
While rescues and shelters have similar adoption processes, they do vary depending on the organization. But you can count on these basic steps:
Make sure to have a valid ID to verify age (most organizations require adopters be adults) and address. You might also need references, so it’s a good idea to email or call ahead of time and ask about the application and overall adoption process.
Some of the cat adoption questions you might be asked include:
- Do you own or rent?
- Have you had a cat before?
- Do you currently have pets? Are they spayed or neutered? How are they with other animals?
- Do you have children at home? Are they good with pets?
- Does everyone residing in your home approve of adopting a cat?
- Where will your cat be kept during the day and in the evening?
- What are your care plans for when you have to leave home for an extended period of time, such as for a work trip or vacation?
They might also ask questions about your health, occupation and personal life to help match the right cat to the right parent.
2. Home Inspection
A home and family meet-and-greet might be required to see how everyone, including other pets, gets along with your prospective new cat. And the organization will want to ensure your residence will be a comfortable and safe home.
3. Adoption Fees
As we mentioned, cat adoption costs can vary, with rescues often being higher than shelters. Fortunately, the adoption fee will take care of basic veterinary services you will need anyway, including vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and microchipping.
Adopting a new cat isn’t just rewarding — it can be life-changing. Taking stock of the commitments of cat ownership, and taking the time to find your perfect feline match, will help set you both up for years of joy.
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