(Ponca City, OK, USA)
Savannah kitten eating raw chicken leg (human grade) - A1 Savannahs - Photo copyright Michael
Providing the best kitten food is a largely a matter of commonsense and following some basic rules and concepts.
The ideas here are mine.
It is worth standing back and reminding ourselves of some basics. Cats are individuals. They will have preferences for a type and taste of food. We need to accommodate that by providing choice and variety.
Secondly, our underlying guidance as to what is best kitten food should come from nature not what the manufacturers say. Commercial pet food manufacturers tend to like to create as big a product line as possible and accordingly create, “kitten food”. Yet in the wild, kittens are first nursed by their mother feeding on colostrum (mother’s milk) before feeding on solids that is prey caught by the mother and by themselves. In short there is no intermediate phase between mother’s milk and prey in the wild where the kitten eats “kitten food”. Kittens eat cat food. This concept is shared by Martin Stucki of A1 Savannahs.
The conventional view is different. Purina made this video about transition from kitten to adult:
Dr. Karla S Rugh DVM PhD has a similar view. She says that your kitten will be ready to switch to adult cat food at 12 months of age. Although she does refer to “complete and balanced cat food for cats of all ages”. As this commercial cat food exists, it sort of proves my point. When a kitten is fed this kind of food there is obviously no need for a switch over.
Some cat foods are labelled, “complete and balanced” (in the USA). It is probably advisable to restrict purchases of kitten and cat food to these sorts of foods as they have to meet specific nutritional requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This of course relates to the USA only. It does not mean, however, that other cat food is not as good, just that you don’t have the reassurance.
There are three types of best kitten food: dry, semi-moist and wet. I think it is now a given that it is not wise to solely feed a kitten or cat on dry food. Dr. Hodgkins DVM who wrote “Your Cat” and who is knowledgeable on cat foods strongly recommends wet cat food for health reasons including the avoidance of urinary tract problems.
On that basis and having spoken with Martin Stucki and based on my own experience, a mix of all three plus some raw food is probably the best combination.
It is possible to make good homemade cat and kitten food but it takes skill. I favour a raw food diet but realistically it is probably beyond most cat caretakers. I would like to refer to A1 Savannahs again, where I am staying at present. Martin feeds, dry, wet and raw (chicken legs) to kittens and cats. His kittens and cats are incredibly healthy and full of life. I think there is a lesson there. This combination is attractive to me as it is guaranteed to provide all the supplements and nutrients demanded of a kitten or cat and it also provides some raw. Raw chicken by itself is not a satisfactory diet. Neither is, for instance, raw fish or cooked fish by itself as it is not balanced and can cause thiamine deficiency.
Feeding raw food as part of a balanced diet is fine but it does carry added responsibility as there is a much increased risk of it containing harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli. The bacteria (Bartonella henselae) that also causes cat scratch disease can be transferred to a cat in raw food.
Having narrowed down best kitten food to:
- a range of wet and dry plus (perhaps) raw food
- cat food that is suitable for kittens and cats….
…the next question is what manufacturer is the best.
Well, I say that the best manufacturer of any cat food is going to be the best manufacturer of kitten food.
And as it happens, I built two pages on this subject (
for USA foods):
If you read the linked pages you will see what I consider to be the best manufacturers of these foods in the USA (sorry UK but most visitors are from the USA).
Are there some precautions and after thoughts? Yes:
- Don’t feed dog food to cats or kittens as dogs are omnivores and this food is not balanced for cat. See: Cat Eating Dog Food.
- Don’t feed human baby food to a kitten as it may contain onion powder, which can irritate the digestive tract and cause anaemia (see also Feline Amemia). It is also not balanced for kittens and cats.
- Kittens usually self regulate intake so it is not possible to over feed. When a kitten is younger than 6 months of age it should be fed 3 – 4 meals daily1. Quantities etc. can be seen on this page: How many calories does a cat need?
- If the above regime is followed there is no need for added supplements, which can, in excess, unbalance the diet.
- But watch for bones as they can cause obstructions in the intestine and cause perforations.
- Storage of cat foods should follow commonsense principles and wet food in a hot climate goes off fast!
- Plenty of fresh water is vital particularly if the diet is biased towards dry food. See: Cat Drinking Water. Wild cats eat and drink in separate places.
1. Dr Karla Rugh DVM PhD
Best Cat Food – this page has many links to more on this subject.