How to feed a kitten

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Your young cat’s food requirements change as they rapidly grow into an adult. Dr Marjorie Chandler, animal nutritionist, has compiled this guide to making sure your pet stays at a good weight and receives all the nutrients they need to become a healthy, happy and energetic cat...

1. Twice daily

Two meals a day is fine for your growing cat (spaced eight to 12 hours apart) but you may want to split their overall daily portions into smaller and more frequent feeds.

Ideally, cats like to eat small amounts throughout the day, in keeping with their natural hunting patterns. For most owners this is impossible to provide, so occasionally putting food in a feeder ball is a good idea – it makes cats work for their food. It’s also a good way to encourage your cat to be active, fit and use his or her innate senses.

2. Buy age-appropriate food

Check age labelling on food packaging to be sure the nutritional requirements are correctly balanced for your young cat’s age. Cats are usually fully grown by the time they are a year old, but at around nine months they begin to need fewer calories, as their growth slows down and they become less active and energetic.

If your cat has been neutered he or she will also burn even fewer calories as neutering lowers metabolic rate due to a decrease in hormones. Check with your vet if you’re unsure.

3. Wet or dry food?

Either wet or dry food is fine but experiment with which one works best for your pet. Some young cats tolerate wet food better than dry.

Ideally get your cat used to both by using a combination of wet and dry food, as there may be a time in their life when they require a special diet for health.

As carnivores, all cats need taurine in their diet, which is an amino acid only found in meat. Taurine is important for heart function, vision and reproduction, and is a vital ingredient in both wet and dry cat food.

Introduce any changes gradually over several days – you could offer canned food one day and dry the next. Remember that a dish of canned food can spoil or become infested by flies if left out.

4. Constant water supply

Make sure your cat has a bowl of fresh water accessible at all times and avoid giving them cow’s milk as this can cause diarrhoea.

If they are having any trouble with their eating or drinking, or you notice any changes to their habits, it is worth consulting a vet to rule out any serious underlying problems.

5. Portion control

Make sure you measure meals carefully. Weighing is most accurate and reduces the ‘bit more for a treat’ instinct.

Getting your kitten used to eating what they need and no more will help to avoid problems such as arthritis and obesity-related illnesses in later life. Keep treats small and healthy, such as a very small portion of cooked chicken.

Some cats can feed on demand and stay in good shape if they are very active, but leaving dishes of food out all day – especially dry food, which is higher in calories than wet food – can contribute to your cat piling on the pounds over time.

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