Diet and Health go hand in hand when it comes to addressing your cat’s well- being. Kittens gradually withdraw themselves from their mother’s milk after one month of birth time. Slowly, they develop and after completing two months they can consume solid food. Hence, it is important to be mindful about what you feed your kitten from its tender age of two months.
According to College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they rely on nutrients found only in animal products. Cats evolved as hunters that consume prey that contains high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and a minimal amount of carbohydrates, and their diet still requires these general proportions today. Cats also require more than a dozen other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Although your cat needs certain amounts of each specific nutrient to be healthy, more is not always better. This is particularly true of vitamins and minerals, so the use of supplements is usually not necessary if you are feeding a balanced and complete diet. Supplements can be harmful to your cat, and they should never be given without a veterinarian’s approval. Cats should have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
Kittens develop antibodies through colostrum during birth and it is sustained through mother’s milk. All the adequate nutrition is provided at this nascent stage. However, if the mother is unable to produce milk or refuses to feed the kittens then one must ensure that the kittens are fed with formulated milk. It is important to help kittens become healthy and grow. They must be fed every 2-3 hours in sufficient quantities till they complete three weeks of age. It is essential to keep temperature relatively warm as kittens are still too young to thermoregulate. They open their eyes after 10 days of being born and develop teeth after 20 days. Hence, this is the most critical stage to ensure your pet gets enough nutrition to be healthy and strong.
After kittens have attained 3 weeks of age, food can be given to them at intervals of 4-5 hours. Formula food can be introduced slowly and prepared fresh. It is important to consume it the moment it is prepared. You may consider refrigerating but it must not be given without heating it. Bottle feeding is perfect at this stage.
Once they develop teeth, they express interest on their own for consuming solid food.
Diet of a one month old kitten broadly comprises of Formula milk and when they become 2 months old, you may feed them dry kitten food and wet kitten food.
Two weeks to eight weeks of kitten’s life is most crucial in moulding their behavior. They learn a lot from their mother and parallely, human interactions help them to develop as more convenient and amicable pets. Whatever they learn at this phase of life creates a lifelong impression.
According to study by the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, University of California Kittens’ needs for fat, some fatty acids, and most vitamins are the same as for adult cats. But kittens have a higher requirement for protein, amino acids, and minerals, as well as for some vitamins. For example, kittens should get about 30% of their energy from protein.
Fourth month onwards, cats start teething and at this stage, you may introduce your cats to chewy treats and toys. These treats also ensure effective oral health for your pet. It is better to avoid giving raw bones or meat to your cat as they often carry bacteria and may also cause internal blockages. Also the size of the bones might cause cuts internally. Hence, even if you plan to introduce your cats to bones, it is suggested to give it to them very gradually.
According to PDSA report, Your cat is usually considered to be a kitten for around their first year of life. During this time, it’s important that they are fed a food specifically for kittens that contains the correct balance of nutrients for their growing bones and bodies.
When your cat is eight to twelve weeks old, you may continue with the usual food and gradually, shift to introducing new diet.
Over the next few months, the number of meals your kitten has can gradually be reduced. Most cats will be happy to have two meals a day by the time they are six months old, but many cats prefer to have access to their food throughout the day so they can eat small amounts whenever they feel hungry.
Adult cat food is rich in nutrients and can be continued for maintain ideal health and weight. There are varieties of food items available that complement all kinds of cats, whether indoor cats or active outdoor cats. They maintain ideal weight as well as optimum energy levels. Consult your vet whenever you feel that confused about your cat’s dietary needs.
According to research on Food Preferences in Cats: Effect of Dietary Composition and Intrinsic Variables on Diet Selection published in National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM), Domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) display feeding behavior that stems from specific nutritional requirements associated to their strict carnivore physiology, such as high levels of total crude protein linked to the presence of specific amino acids in the diet (i.e., arginine and taurine), vitamins A, D, and complex B, as well as arachidonic acid. Usually, cats eat small portions throughout the day mimicking a feeding rhythm pattern that is typical of their wild cat ancestors (Felis silvestris lybica), who hunted small-sized prey. Cats choose their diets based on smell, taste, temperature, and texture up to the point of self-regulating consumption of certain kinds of foods to ensure an adequate intake of certain nutrients, hence balancing their diets themselves. In this regard, cats are innately drawn to foods with a strong umami flavor, which is typically linked to a high concentration of amino acids.
Hence, understanding the relationship that both food composition and some intrinsic variables cats have with their diet preference could help in improving the formulation of specific pet food diets, so that these adequately satisfy the physiological and hedonic needs of domestic cats.