For the first few months of life, your growing kitten will need a few special nutritional considerations. This guide will help you get a handle on the basics of feeding your cute little bundle of fur.

While feeding a kitten may seem like a no-brainer, it’s essential that you hammer out a diet plan that meets your kitten’s nutritional requirements. Growing kittens need roughly two to three times more nutrients and calories than adult cats, which means your kitten not only needs a more nutrient-dense food, but needs to scarf down that food more often than an adult cat would. By following a few simple guidelines, you can make sure your kitten gets the balanced nutrition it needs to become a healthy adult.

Ask a Vet for Advice

When it comes to questions about feeding times, quantities, or what brand of food will meet your kitten’s nutritional needs, it’s always a good idea to remember this simple mantra: Ask a vet.

Know Your Kitten’s Age

For the first eight to 10 weeks of your kitten’s life, timing is everything. During this period, your kitten may double or even triple in body weight, so each day is quite simply crucial to a kitten’s development. This is exactly why you, as the kitten’s new parent, need to know exactly how old your kitten is. Shelters and breeders typically don’t place kittens in new homes until they’re at least eight weeks old.

Become a Surrogate ONLY if You Must

If you should happen to find an orphaned kitten, it’s absolutely necessary that you refer to the aforementioned, “Ask a Vet” mantra. Your vet or local animal welfare group may be able to locate a mother cat that will adopt the orphan into her litter. If no suitable foster can be found, you’ll need to learn the basics of bottle-feeding.

Under ideal circumstances, kittens under four weeks old will nurse every 1 or 2 hours on their mother’s extremely nutrient-rich milk. So, obviously, replacing the mother cat in this role can be an extremely demanding task. Ask you vet which commercial kitten milk replacer will best suit your kitten. Do not feed the kitten cow’s milk, as it’s not nutritionally sufficient and may give them diarrhea.

Smooth the Transition to Solid Food

At age three to four weeks old, you can begin introducing a little solid food into your kitten’s diet. At three to four weeks of age, give your kitten a commercial milk replacer for kittens mixed with small amounts of moist, easily chewable, commercial kitten food in shallow bowls four to six times each day.

Make sure to select a food that’s especially formulated for young kittens, as opposed to adult cats. In addition, look for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) on the packaging to ensure that the food is nutritionally balanced for kittens.

Select a New Food

By age eight to ten weeks, kittens are generally completely weaned from their mother’s milk and ready for a diet of regular kitten food, thank goodness! While this makes dinnertime infinitely easier for you the chef, it’s still important to make sure that you serve a complete and balanced, AAFCO-approved food designed for kittens until your cat reaches nine to 12 months old.

Mark Your Calendar

As your kitten grows, you’ll need to modify his feeding routine, gradually feeding him fewer meals each day. From age six to twelve weeks, your kitten will need to eat four times each day. Then, from age three to six months, you can step that down to only three meals per day. Finally, after your cat reaches six months of age, you can implement a more adult feeding schedule that consists of just two meals a day.

This article was reviewed by a Veterinarian.