Feeding a mewling kitten seems easy enough. Pick up a bag of crunchy dry with the kitten on the bag. Snag a couple of cans that said kitten formula. Pass out the food when they start getting rambunctious and hope for the best. Easy, right? Well, unfortunately, knowing how often to feed kittens and what to give them is a little bit of a science. You can’t just assume all kittens are going to dive into dry or wet food, especially if they aren’t ready for it yet.
In this guide, you’re going to learn not only what to give your fuzzballs and when but also how often to feed kittens. This information will help you raise cats that are strong, energetic, and healthy.
What Do Kittens Eat?
Before you learn how often to feed kittens, you need to know what to give them.
Newborn and young kittens have different dietary needs compared to older kittens. Usually, newborns are nursing off their mom or foster cat. If they get separated from their mother, they need to be bottle-fed until they are old enough for weaning.
Kittens can be weaned as early as 3-4 weeks of age. Around that time, you can introduce some more solid foods. However, it’s important to observe your kittens and their development. Some of them may not be ready to be weaned that early.
When possible, look to the mama cat for cues as to when the babies are ready for solid food.
Kitten Dietary Needs
More than older cats, kittens need a complete and balanced diet. The food has to be rich in nutrients needed for development. Without those vitamins and minerals, your kitten could experience damaging deficiencies. Look for food with protein, calcium, and DHA.
Never give your kitten cow’s milk. While the flavor is tasty to cats, many of them are lactose intolerant after being weaned. This is because the enzyme needed to digest lactose disappears once a kitten stops suckling their mother.
Once your kittens are ready for wet and dry food, make the transition simple. Moisten up dry kibble or start with small portions of wet kitten pate. Mix in a little water until it looks more like oatmeal. Over the span of 2 weeks, decrease how much water you mix in.
Around 8 weeks, most kittens are eating dry and wet cat food without any issue. You can begin offering a greater variety of styles and flavors. Just make sure you are choosing food made for kittens.
How Much Food Does a Kitten Need Each Day?
This feeding schedule will help you figure out how often to feed kittens based on their age and weight.
Week One Kitten Feeding Schedule
During this time, kittens are very frail and weigh no more than 4 ounces. That said, they gain weight rapidly during the first few weeks of life thanks to their mother’s nutrient-dense milk. You won’t have to worry much during this time. Kittens won’t need anything but their mother’s milk at first. The only time you have to worry is when there is no mother cat around.
If you have to bottle-feed a kitten, be prepared to do it more often than you’d originally thought. Kittens generally nurse every 2-3 hours for about 45 minutes during Week One. Once they have eaten, they sleep. Each session should provide no more than 15 ml or 1 tablespoon of kitten formula.
However, because this is labor intensive, see if you can find a surrogate cat to help nurse the little one.
Week Two and Three Schedule
Kittens that are 2-3 weeks old still need to eat every 2-3 hours and will sleep a lot. They need about ½ a tablespoon of kitten formula each time. These next couple of weeks will be exciting, because the little fuzz balls are growing at a grueling pace. Their eyes start to open, and they begin moving around the space for the first time. Monitor the weight of the kittens. 10 ounces is considered healthy.
Week Four and Five
Trying to figure out how often to feed kittens that are 4-5 weeks old. This is a period that is less about frequency and more about serving size. Kittens want to nurse about 3 times a day and consume about 3 tablespoons of formula.
If a 4-5 week old kitten is getting enough food, they will weigh around 14-16 oz. By the end of week 5, you won’t need to worry about bottle feeding the little ones anymore. You can start placing the kitten formula in a saucer and let them lap it up from there. Since this is also the time mama cat would naturally wean the kittens, you may even want to introduce a little pate mixed into the formula.
By the sixth week of life, you can transition from kitten milk replacement to kitten formula pate and dry food. Make a gruel (as mentioned earlier) by mixing water into the dry kibble or pate. Gradually reduce the amount of water in the meal. Do this four times a day for 1-2 weeks.
By the end of week six, you can decrease the frequency of feeding to about 3 times a day. If you have two or more kittens, make sure you are putting down multiple plates of food. You don’t want the kittens to become aggressive or fight over the meal.
Week Seven and Eight Kitten Feeding Schedule
If the mama cat is hanging around, she may let her kittens continue suckling until about 2 months old. Are the kittens trying to nurse more than eat? Separate them from their mother for a period of time. By the end of the eighth week, the kittens should want wet and dry food 3 times a day instead of nursing.
How Often To Feed Kittens Canned Food
Once a kitten is older than 8 weeks old, you can take on a more relaxed style of feeding them. While they are still going to be ravenous and scream for food throughout the day, kittens won’t need as much nutrition as they did at 2-3 weeks old. A kitten that is 12 weeks old can eat three separate meals a day, kind of like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Continue on with this schedule until about 6 months old.
At 6 months, kittens have matured enough that they are near their adult weight and size. Keep an eye on your kitten’s weight gain. If they gain weight too fast, you may have to put them on a diet. For kittens growing at an average pace, you can how often you feed them down to twice a day.
It’s Chow Time
Figuring out how often to feed kittens comes down to how old they are and what they need. When kittens have their mother, you won’t have to worry about feeding them often—not until about 6-8 weeks old. Afterwards, kittens get fed three times a day until 6 months old. After that, it’s twice daily for the rest of their lives (unless they need to go on a diet).
Learn more about your feline companion in our post: Interesting Facts About Cats!