Few things are as cute as a tiny little kitten. As adorable as they are, however, kittens can be a lot of work. Between prying his claws loose from your leather sofa and picking up shredded toilet paper, your new kitten is going to keep you very busy!
- Digestible & Grain-free
- Natural sources of taurine
As you and your kitten get to know each other, it is important to remember that you are more than just your kitten’s new best friend – you are also his caretaker. That means that your kitten’s health and wellness is your priority! To make sure your kitten grows up to be a healthy adult cat, you need to feed him a healthy and balanced diet from the start. Adult cats have slightly different nutritional requirements, so be sure to choose high-quality kitten food for your new feline friend.
In this article, we’ll explore the subject of kitten nutrition in greater depth to help you understand what your kitten actually needs in terms of diet. We’ll also teach you what to look for when you’re shopping for kitten food and provide you with our top 9 recommendations to consider if you need a little extra help choosing a recipe for your new kitten.
What is the Best Kitten Food in 2020?
- NomNomNow Fresh Cat Food Delivery
- Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Food
- American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- Holistic Select Ocean Fish & Tuna Pate Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat & Kitten Food
- Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Canned Food
- Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Kitten Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Food
- Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe Dry Food
- Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Kitten Dry Food
- Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Organic Kitten Recipe Dry Food
The Basics About Kitten Nutrition
When he was first born, your kitten would probably have fit in the palm of your hand. Within the first few weeks of life, your kitten’s weight doubled or even tripled. As he grew, his energy levels increased along with his size, making quality nutrition even more important. During this time, however, your kitten relied on his mother’s milk for nutrients. From the moment your kitten came home with you, though, he became your responsibility and it is your job to make sure he is fed well.
Here are some basic things you should know about kitten nutrition:
- Cats are obligate carnivores, so they have a biological need for meat in their diet – animal protein should be the foundation of your kitten’s diet.
- Kittens require at least 30% of their daily calories to come from protein and at least 9% from fat.
- Animal proteins are much more biologically valuable for kittens than plant proteins, so make sure the food you choose is rich in meat, poultry, or fish.
- Kittens need a blend of different amino acids, some of which their bodies are incapable of producing – these are called essential amino acids and they can be found in animal proteins.
- All cats require a certain balance of vitamins and minerals – AAFCO has created detailed cat food nutrient profiles to make it easy to find a food that provides for these needs.
- Kittens and cats have a limited ability to digest plant matter – no more than 10% of his daily calories should come from plants and any he does eat should be digestible (like whole grains and vegetables).
- Your kitten can benefit from a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in his diet to support healthy skin and coat as well as strong immunity.
What to Look for in a Good Kitten Food
Not all kitten foods are created equal. The thing you need to remember is that pet food companies are always looking to make a profit. Unfortunately, some companies take this to the extreme by cutting corners when it comes to the quality and safety of their ingredients. Because there are many low-quality kitten foods out there, you should know what you’re looking for before you start shopping.
Here are some things to look for in the best kitten food:
- It should be complete and balanced according to AAFCO food nutrient profiles for kittens or for all life stages (at least 30% protein and 9% fat)
- A high-quality source of animal protein (poultry, meat, or fish) should be the first ingredient.
- The main source of fat should ideally come from an animal (like chicken fat or salmon oil).
- It should be very low in carbohydrate ingredients and any it does include need to be nutritious and highly digestible (like whole grains and vegetables).
- Natural sources of vitamins and minerals (like fresh fruits and veggies) are better than supplements and chelated minerals are the most biologically valuable form.
- There should be no low-quality grains (like corn or wheat) and the recipe should be free from by-products and artificial additives.
Now that you have a better understanding of what makes a good kitten food, you’re probably eager to start shopping! If you don’t feel like you’re quite ready for that step yet, don’t worry! You’ll see our top 9 recommendations for the best kitten food below to help you start your search. Before we get to that, however, we want to explain how we make our recommendations.
How Do We Make Our Recommendations?
Here at Petsumer, it is our goal to help pet owners make the smartest choices for their pets. Quality nutrition is essential for all cats, but it is particularly important for a growing kitten. If your kitten doesn’t get the protein, fat, and essential nutrients he needs when he is young, he may develop health problems that will get worse in adulthood. The last thing you want is for your kitten to get sick, so it pays to choose a high-quality cat food from the start!
We’re here to provide you with recommendations for the best cat and kitten food, but we don’t want you to simply take us at our word. We encourage pet owners to do their own research so they can make an educated decision about what’s best for their pets. That being said, we also aim to provide recommendations for products and brands that we think are worthy of your consideration.
Here are some of our requirements for recommending a brand:
- A source of high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient
- At least 22.5% crude protein and 8.5% crude fat for kittens
- A balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, primarily from animal sources
- A rich blend of nutrients from natural sources and supplements, as needed
- Limited carbohydrate content from digestible sources (like whole grains and veggies)
- No low-quality fillers, by-products, or artificial additives (preservatives, dyes, or flavors)
In reviewing some of the best kitten food brands, we have taken all of these things into consideration on top of considering the basic nutritional needs of kittens compared to adult cats. Read on to see our top 9 picks for the best kitten food in different categories.
The 9 Best Kitten Foods
Now that you have a better understanding of your kitten’s nutritional needs, you’re ready to start shopping for the best kitten food. There are a wide variety of options out there and many of them would be a good choice. If you’re not sure which option to choose, you’ll be glad to know that we’ve done the hard work for you. After reading reviews and scouring ingredients lists, we’ve come up with a list of 9 different kitten foods that we heartily recommend.
Here’s our top pick for the best kitten food:
Overall Best Kitten Foods on the Market
|Our 2020 Picks: Overall Best Foods for Kittens|
|NomNomNow Fresh Cat Food
|Taste Of The Wild Canyon River
|American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free
|Holistic Select Ocean Fish & Tuna Pate Recipe
| Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula
|Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Kitten Chicken
|Instinct By Nature’s Variety Original Kitten
|Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Brown Rice
|Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Organic
Many pet experts agree that fresh food is the most nutritious option for pets. Because many manufacturers cook their kibble at extremely high temperatures, some of the original nutrient content of the raw ingredients is lost. Knowing this, you might be considering making your own homemade kitten food so you can control the quality. Because kittens have specific nutritional needs, we would caution you against making homemade kitten food unless you have a vet recommended kitten food recipe. If you want your kitten to have the benefit of fresh food without risking nutritional deficiencies, we recommend that you consider NomNomNow fresh cat food.
NomNomNow is one of several fresh pet food delivery services out there and they offer a variety of recipes for both dogs and cats. What makes NomNomNow a great choice for your kitten is the fact that they deliver freshly prepared, proportioned packages of high-quality food right to your door. You simply fill out some information about your kitten’s age and weight, then they will calculate his nutrient and calorie needs and send you your kitten’s new diet. It may be more expensive than the average dry kitten food, but the ingredients are top-quality, the food is prepared fresh, and it is customized for your kitten.
- Pros: Fresh food delivered to your door, properly formulated for specific nutritional needs, made with high-quality natural ingredients, high in protein, rich in moisture content
- Cons: Only two recipes to choose from, significantly more expensive than the average kibble
Most Popular Kitten Food: Because there are so many different brands of cat and kitten food out there, it can be difficult to choose among them. When you’re not sure which way to turn, you can always go with a popular brand like Taste of the Wild. Not only is this brand very popular, but their recipes are complete and balanced for all life stages. This means that you can feed your kitten Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Food and not have to worry about switching to a different recipe when he becomes an adult. This recipe features fresh trout as the main ingredient with supplemental protein from ocean fish meal and smoked salmon. It also includes digestible grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and potatoes with fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients. Overall, this formula provides 32% protein and 16% fat at 350 calories per cup.
- Pros: Formulated for all life stages, real trout as first ingredient, several animal sources of protein, rich in protein and healthy fat, fresh fruits and vegetables, fortified with chelated minerals and probiotics
- Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), main source of fat is plant-based
Most Affordable Kitten Food: When it comes to cat food, quality is often equated to price. Top-shelf brands of cat food are going to be more expensive than low-quality brands, though the most expensive brands are not always the best. If you’re looking for an affordable brand of kitten food, consider American Journey, Chewy’s in-house brand. We recommend this American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food because it features fresh deboned salmon as the main ingredient with supplemental protein from salmon meal, menhaden fish meal, and eggs. It provides a whopping 40% protein which is great for growing kittens and helps support healthy body weight in adult cats. Speaking of which, this recipe is complete and balanced for all life stages which means you can feed it to your kitten now and when he is an adult. This recipe is rich in omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, plus it is fortified with essential vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption. This recipe also contains probiotics and a healthy dose of fiber to support regular digestion. It comes in at 410 calories per cup.
- Pros: Complete and balanced for all life stages, several premium sources of animal protein, very high in protein (40%), chelated minerals, rich in fiber and probiotics for digestion
- Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), main source of fat is plant-based (canola oil)
Best Kitten Food for Sensitive Stomach: Many cats are finicky eaters but for some it is more than just pickiness. If your kitten has a sensitive stomach and experiences frequent digestive upset, you may want to switch to a formula that is gentler on his digestion. This Holistic Select Ocean Fish & Tuna Pate Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat & Kitten Food is a great option. Not only is it formulated for both cats and kittens, so you don’t have to change your kitten’s diet, but it is formulated to support healthy and regular digestion. This recipe contains both prebiotics and probiotics as well as natural fiber, digestive enzymes, and digestive botanicals for the ultimate degree of digestive support. Plus, as a wet food, this product is rich in protein with very limited carbohydrate content and it is grain-free. You’ll also be glad to know that this recipe is supplemented with essential vitamins and chelated minerals, providing a dry matter calculation of 45% protein and 23% fat with 115 calories per 3-ounce can.
- Pros: Formulated for cats and kittens, developed for digestive support, several sources of animal protein, rich in real meat flavor, high in protein and healthy fat, fortified with key nutrients
- Cons: Some kittens may be sensitive to chicken ingredients, not a single-source protein recipe
5 More Top-Rated Kitten Foods
If the recipes above don’t seem quite right for your kitten, don’t worry! There are many kitten foods out there and we’ve compiled a list of another 5 brands we recommend:
Best Wet Kitten Food: When it comes to the best wet kitten food, we recommend Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Canned Food. This recipe features fresh chicken as the first ingredient, followed by chicken liver and chicken broth as delicious sources of natural flavor. You’ll find this recipe to be completely grain-free and very low in carbohydrates – the only carbohydrate ingredients are carrots, cranberries, and flaxseed. The flaxseed also serves as a source of healthy fats to balance out the omega-3 and omega-6 content with the menhaden fish oil. This recipe contains chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption as well as essential vitamin supplements for balanced nutrition.
- Pros: Real chicken first ingredient, rich in natural chicken flavor, low in carbohydrate ingredients, blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption
- Cons: Main source of fat is plant-based (flaxseed), contains some thickeners (including guar gum)
Best Dry Kitten Food: If you want to start your kitten off right with the best dry kitten food, consider Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Kitten Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Food. This formula contains all of the nutrients your kitten needs for healthy growth and development, plus it is all-natural. It features real deboned chicken as a high-quality source of premium animal protein with wholesome grains and fresh fruits and vegetables to provide fiber and natural sources for key nutrients. This recipe, like all of Blue Buffalo’s products, contains LifeSource Bits which are made up of a proprietary blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for balanced health and wellness. This recipe provides 36% protein and 20% fat at 439 calories per cup, making it a protein- and calorie-rich diet for your growing kitten.
- Pros: Real chicken first ingredient, high in protein and healthy fats, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, chelated minerals and probiotics
- Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), some kittens may be sensitive to grains
Protein is essential for a growing kitten and this Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe Dry Food has it in spades. This formula features 81% real animal ingredients, starting with cage-free chicken. It is thoughtfully balanced with whole foods including fresh fruits and vegetables to provide the optimal blend of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This formula is tailor-made to suit your kitten’s nutritional needs, including important nutrients like DHA for brain and eye development. It also contains guaranteed levels of natural probiotics, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants for healthy digestion, strong immunity, and healthy skin and coat. Overall, it provides a total of 42.5% crude protein, 22.5% crude fat, and 557 calories per cup.
- Pros: First three ingredients are animal proteins, chicken fat as a nutritious source of animal fat, rich in natural sources of vitamins and minerals, probiotic supplements for healthy digestion
- Cons: Very high in calories (be careful of overfeeding), more expensive than average kibble
Another excellent option in kitten food is this Nutro Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Kitten Dry Food. It features real chicken as the main ingredient with digestible whole-grain carbohydrates like brown rice and oatmeal. Chicken fat provides a nutritious source of essential fatty acids, balanced out with fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids. This recipe contains chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption with essential vitamin supplements for nutritional balance. You’ll also find that it contains supplemental fiber for healthy digestion as well as DHA for healthy brain and eye development. This formula contains no GMO ingredients and all of the ingredients are sourced from local or regional farmers and trusted suppliers. Overall, this formula provides 36% crude protein and 19% crude fat with 439 calories per cup.
- Pros: Real chicken first ingredient, main source of fat is chicken fat, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, chelated minerals
- Cons: Contains plant protein as a main ingredient (pea protein), may be too high in fiber for some kittens
If you want to give your kitten the best of the best, consider an organic kitten food. This Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Organic Kitten Recipe Dry Food is a high-quality product rich in protein and healthy fats. It features organic free-range chicken as the first ingredient with organic chicken meal for supplementary protein. Organic sunflower seed meal, organic coconut oil, organic chicken fat, and salmon oil provide high-quality fats, including a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This formula is supplemented with chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption and also contains probiotics for healthy digestion and cranberries for urinary health. Overall, this formula provides 32% protein and 14% fat at 393 calories per cup.
- Pros: High-quality organic ingredients, organic free-range chicken first ingredient, rich in animal protein and healthy fats, chelated minerals and probiotics, no GMO ingredients or by-products
- Cons: Fairly expensive compared to average, contains some plant protein (pea protein)
Frequently Asked Questions
- How much should I feed my kitten? – The amount you feed your kitten depends on the formula you choose because every product is different in terms of nutrient and calorie content. The best thing you can do is refer to the feeding recommendations on the package according to your kitten’s age and weight. Monitor your kitten’s growth as you feed him and make adjustments as needed. If you’re not sure how much to feed your kitten, you can always consult your veterinarian.
- How often should I feed my kitten? – Because your kitten will grow very quickly, he will need a steady influx of calories to fuel that growth. In your kitten’s first few months of life, you may want to offer three to four feedings a day. Once your kitten’s growth starts to even out, however, you can switch to two meals per day.
- When should I switch my cat from kitten to adult food? – Kittens grow very quickly, reaching their adult size by the time they are 10 to 12 months of age. Growth rates vary slightly by breed, but all kittens need a diet high in protein and calories to fuel their rapid growth. You can expect your kitten’s growth rate to slow down when he reaches about 80% of his adult weight – this is when you should start thinking about making the transition from kitten to adult food. When in doubt, simply keep feeding your kitten his kitten food until 12 months then make the switch.
- Can I feed my kitten adult cat food? – Adult cats and kittens have the same basic requirements in that they both need a high-protein diet rich in healthy fats with limited carbohydrate content. The thing you need to remember, however, is that kittens grow very quickly so they need a much higher concentration of protein, fat, and calories than an adult cat. For kittens, the minimum recommended protein content is 30% when it is only 26% for adult cats. Both kittens and adult cats require a minimum of 9% crude fat, but higher fat content usually equates to higher calorie content for kittens. The only time we can recommend that you feed a kitten adult cat food is if the formula is completed and balanced according to AAFCO food nutrient profiles for cats of all life stages.
- Is a grain-free diet good for kittens? – There is a great deal of controversy surrounding grain-free diets for pets these days, but most of the issues are related to dog food. Due to the concerns of grain-free diets being linked to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) we only recommend grain-free diets for pets that are allergic or sensitive to grains. When it comes to kittens, it is important to limit the carbohydrate content of your pet’s diet anyway but avoid choosing a recipe that utilizes too much plant protein.
- Is wet or dry food better for kittens? – When they are first being weaned, many kittens are given wet food, though some pet owners offer dry food moistened with water or broth. As your kitten grows, he will be able to chew dry food, but you might want to start off with wet food. Whichever option you choose, however, there are bound to be challenges. One of the challenges with wet food is figuring out how much wet food to feed a kitten. If you’re not sure, you can always simply keep your kitten’s bowl full and let him self-regulate how much he eats. This is usually easier to do with dry food because wet food doesn’t keep as long. If you choose to feed your kitten wet food, offer four small feedings a day versus two for dry food or a combination.
Take what you’ve learned about kitten food here to start shopping on your own, or simply choose one of our top picks reviewed above. We wish you and your kitten well!