When to wean kittens and switch from kitten food to cat foods
If you have a kitten that is getting weaned from their mother, then you may notice that they’re going to start switching eventually to actual cat food. However, the timing to wean kittens is crucial, because only certain types of adult cat food are beneficial nutritionally for kittens. The common question though is when to switch your kitten from kitten food to adult cat food – if you do it too soon, it can be catastrophic to your cat, and if you don’t do it at the right time (too late), then your adult cat isn’t going to thrive and will end up malnourished too since the chemical makeup is different. In this guide, we’re going to tell you when you should make the switch.
When your cat is an adult (approximately 10 months to a year old), it needs a more balanced formula of nutrients. By the time they’re that old, they’re pretty well done growing. Males of course will grow larger than females in most cases depending on the breed of the cat. However, they are generally still adults after this time. Some cats can be transitioned to adult cat food between 8-10 months of age, but you don’t want to do it too soon.
The reason for this is simply because the nutritional makeup and crude protein levels of adult cat food are higher than it is for kittens. It’s also lower in calories though when compared to actual kitten food. Kittens are growing, and they need the additional calories for their increased activity, as well as their motor functions. If you feed your adult cat kitten food, they’re going to be alright. However, they may develop some problems with things like obesity due to the decreased levels of activity and increased calories.
The chemical makeup is different not only from the caloric content, but the amount of additional nutrients that a kitten needs when their bodies are growing most. These can be vitamins and minerals such as calcium. There are cat foods out there though that can actually be good for all stages of felines for consumption. These have a balanced nutrient level that can still help your adult cats. They’re actually a great way to transition your kitten to adult-only cat food.
When to start introducing cat food
Kittens start eating solid foods from around 4-8 weeks of age while they’re weaning. This means that you can start incorporating softened kitten food or soft cat food into their diets with regular dry kitten food for the increased calories and nutrients. If you see that your cat starts to drastically gain weight from their kitten food, you may want to switch to an adult formula to balance their nutrients better.
So, you can’t give a kitten adult cat food?
While this answer is highly frowned upon by veterinarians everywhere. Feeding your kitten once in a while or for short periods when necessary of adult cat food is not impossible, and can actually benefit your kitten too. The downside though, is that you can possibly give them too much because they’re going to require higher calories from adult food, but they can also be at risk for vitamin toxification if you’re not careful.
The best way to do it is to incorporate something like wet cat food with the dry food in order to give them the most nutrients and calories, as well as crude proteins and fats they’ll need in order to truly achieve their success.
What foods can harm cats?
Believe it or not, cats can become poisoned by many of the same foods that dogs can. So if you ever hear of a flavor of these foods, or think you may want to give them things as a supplement – please avoid it. They can literally kill your kitten and cat. Some of these are:
- Grapes – extremely toxic for cats.
- Raisins – They’re still grapes.
- Onions and Garlic – You want to avoid letting your cat have this at all. Some dogs may benefit from small amounts of garlic for control of pests (fleas, ticks, etc.) but it is deadly to cats.
- Chocolate – Just like a dog, chocolate is a potentially fatal toxin that can harm your cat too.
How to properly wean kittens
The best way to switch cat food isn’t to just go to the store and buy them a new brand of cat food. Do that, and you’re going to put your cat into dietary distress because it will not only often give them diarrhea, but it will be harder for them to digest the food. Therefore, you should try to incorporate buying your new brand of cat food and start off by mixing the two foods together over about a ten-day period (or two weeks if necessary).
The way to do this is by mixing the food appropriately to help ease their tummies into being able to handle the adult cat food. For the first couple days, you’ll want to use about a 20% new food to 80% old food formula, and you can increase in about 5-10% intervals of the new food (while decreasing the old food gradually and accordingly at the same time) until you eventually end up feeding your cat nothing but the new food. This will make it a lot easier on your feline friend to digest the food, and it will greatly help your litter box, so it isn’t as awful either!
So, there you have it, our complete guide on when to start to wean kittens and start feeding your kitten actual adult cat food. It may be difficult to spot just when your cat is an adult, but if you stick with the 1-year plan, this may be the most beneficial way to make sure that you don’t overdo it or start giving them adult cat food too early or too late. Once your cat’s an adult, everything that it takes for them to grow is purely mental and emotional growth instead of physical and motor function growth. So shoot for that timeframe to give the best nutrients to your cat possible. You may also like our complete kitten checklist.
Mary Anne has been rescuing orphaned kittens for over 15 years now. She realized quite some time ago, that by sharing her knowledge online, this might prevent some people from experiencing the heartache of making the wrong decisions in regard to kitten care that she herself experienced early on.