how  to give your kitten healthy, tatsy and nutrition rich meals

Healthy Feeding for Cats

A cat's diet is critical to his physical and emotional well-being. Because cats are carnivores, their diets should contain foods high in animal protein and low in processed grains or non-animal fats.

Cat is Fat...Story of an Overweight Cat


Dear Simba - I have a 9-month-old male kitten. He is very active.
I feed him Iams dry kitten food. He gets 1/2 a cup in the morning and in the evening. His belly hangs down towards the rear, and it swags when he walks. I do not believe I am over feeding him, but I do not understand why he has such a fat belly.

Should I be concerned, or will he eventually firm up? Also, I know the kitten food is higher in fat, so should I switch to the adult level? Michelle

Dear Michelle,
Kitty's weight problem are due to there being too much food available, kitty not exercising enough or a combination of the two. Make sure he gets plenty of play.
If he does not have one already, get him a cat tree to climb and scratch on. Click here for a cat body shape guide.

At 9 months, it is time for kitty needs to begin switching over to adult food. Make any change gradual because cats have sensitive tummies, 7 days should do. How do you do it?
  • Day 1-2: Feed kitty 75% kitten food & 25% adult food.
  • Day 3-4: Mix 50% adult & 50% kitten food.
  • Day 5-6: Feed kitty 75% adult food & 25% kitten food.
  • Day 7: 100% adult food
Obesity can cause serious health problems. Below is a partial list of some of the long-term complications: Kitty is still young. Let's keep him fit long term. Simba


Proper Food Amount: Adult Cat



Hi Simba,
I have a friend that recently adopted a stray. These friends expect the young cat to live off he land (we live in the country). The only food it gets is 1/4 cup dry food every morning. They keep saying the cat can eat mice. The cat does eat mice, but I think he is too skinny. How much should he be eating? Laurie

Dear Laurie,
while the amount of food that a cat should consume is based on many factors including age, weight & health, it is normal for a healthy adult cat to eat three, 8 oz of canned food or 1 to 2 oz of dry food daily.

I do not think that a diet based primarily on mice is particularly healthy and if anything, this type of prolonged exposure to rodents could be perilous (see Fleas / Parasites). Please check out the cat body shape guide to determine whether kitty is undernourished. Simba



Dear Simba,
My vet told me to cut back my science diet feline growth food, for my four month old kittens. He says they eat too much and are not handling the food well enough. I always thought kittens should have "all you can eat" dry food. What do you think? - Thank E.

Dear E.,
I think that your vet has it right on the money. As I have told other readers, leaving 'buffet' style meals can sometimes lead to bowel movement irregularities and to obesity. Best course of action is to feed the kittens at regular intervals and feed them only the quantities recommended. - Simba


Dear Simba,
My name is Herb, and I am a 3 to 4 year old, large (13 lb.) flame point Himalayan with 6 toes on each of my front feet(!)

Mom and Dad say I am a beautiful cat with a loving personality, but they are concerned about my weight. They rescued me from a shelter about a year ago. My energy level seems pretty low, and all I ever do is sleep in the same old chair. My mom has done everything she can think of to arouse my interest in toys, but they all seem passй to me.

She is feeding me Purina Special Diet, which recommends free feeding, but she is not sure if that is the right thing for me. I snack frequently during the day, but I only eat 3-4 crunchies at a time. I get a little wet cat food, which I love. My mom and dad think the world of me, and are willing to try anything to make my 100% indoor life healthy and stimulating. Love, Herb

Dear Herb,
Certainly sounds as though you have two very loving parents! You are a very fortunate kitty. I agree that your weight & energy level are not ideal. One way to increase your energy level is to exercise more. You may want to have your parents get you a cat tree you can climb and some fun toys (even balls of tin foil work pretty well). It is natural to get bored if with static toys. One way to have more fun is to have your parents play with you, by either throwing toys around or using a cat teaser. The goal is to have you run and chase and exercise your cardiovascular system.

As for your diet, it is important that your feeding be limited to either the recommended portions from Purina Special Diet only or a lesser amount of Purina Special Diet and the treats you discussed.

Adding in treats & wet food to a low fat diet is equivalent to drinking slim fast and topping off your day with donuts. It is fun, but not good for you. Another thing to consider is catnip. Cats have been known to take to this magical plant. This might be a good way of rousing your energy for play.

If your appetite decreases or if you develop a fever and/or find yourself more lethargic please have your parents take you to a vet (see Lethargy for information). Simba


Not Eating


We have a kitten with some health problems concerning her liver. Now she will not eat and we are having quite a time getting food into her. do you have any suggestions as to a type of food or a technique we can use together eating again? Worried,


Dear Worried,
Try using a eye dropper or small beaker to feed her liquid formula.

I recommend that you go to your local Pet Store and buy formula ASAP. As always, please keep your vet abreast of the situation. Liver ailments are VERY serious. Simba


dear simba
i have a kitten almost 3 months old (madison) and my roommate has two cats, both 2+ years (uma & koshka). i am feeding mine kitten food, but she seems to prefer the adult food and the two older ones will eat the kitten food before theirs! could this become a problem, and what can i do about it? my main concern is that my kitten is not getting the correct nutrition and the other two are eating too much! Tiffany & Madison


Dear Tiffany & Madison,
It is important that your kitten eat kitten food and nothing else until he is at least ~6 months of age. Kitten food has extra protein and minerals that kittens need to grow. Try separating the cats at feeding time to ensure that Madison gets his chow. Simba


Moving to Adult Food


Dear Simba,
I have a 7 month old Tabby who is the love of my life. he is so cute and loving. He had a check up the other day…he is now 12 lbs (he was 11 lbs One month ago). I'm afraid he may get too big.

The vet told me that a cat his size should be about 10 lbs. I do not want him to encounter any weight-related health problems. He still eats kitten food. I try to monitor his eating habits, but it is a little difficult since my roommate also has a 7-month old Persian. What can I do to ensure he does not get to be too overweight? Lori in Virginia

Dear Lori in Virginia,
It may a good time to begin transitioning your kitten out of kitten food. Kitten food is rich in the calories kittens need to grow..in your case it appears that kitty has grown enough! Transition kitty slowly. Also, be sure that your cat gets a good dose of exercise and play. As for monitoring his eating, it may be worthwhile to establish regular feeding times for both kittens so that you can ensure that they are each eating what only they are supposed to eat. Simba



Dear Simba,
I have to kittens around 7-8 months, how old do they have to be before taking them off kitten food. Cuz

Dear Cuz,
Your kittens can begin eating adult food at 7-10 months. Be sure you transition them slowly. Simba


Water Intake



weight management for kittens so that your cat does not get fat
Cat Water Fountain
Hi Simba,My Cat loves to loves to drink from the running faucet. In fact, I have not seen him drink from his bowl in ages. My concern is that Sullivan is not drinking from his bowl. I am away from home all day.

Is the fact that another cat is sharing his water bowl and issue? Will he drink from his bowl if he becomes thirsty enough? Is there something I can do short of running my faucet all day? Tammany

Dear Tammany,
Cats love to drink running water. The reason is that it appears more fresh and clean than does stagnant water. The sounds of a running faucet are like the sounds of a crackling spring or creek. This attracts cats whose desire for it is sealed by the water's freshness and cool crispness.

So what to do? There are a couple of things. One is to get Sullivan something like a Drinkwell Pet Fountain. These work great for cats because they flow water all day long as would a running faucet.

Another thing you could do is just make him drink out of his water bowl, or even place multiple bowls around the house. Sullivan will drink if he becomes thirsty. The presence of another cat should not deter him so long as the water is clean. Simba


Dear Simba,
My adorable 5 month old kitten is very active and playful. I never see him drink any water he also appears to be urinating very little.

Should I assume by his general well appearance that he is getting enough water? Should I change his food to something that promotes thirst? Overanxious

Dear Overanxious,
Best way to ensure that your kitten drinks enough water is to place a fresh bowl of it every day next to his food. Cats love fresh water and they will at times refuse to drink unless the water is clean. Do not change his diet at this point (cats do not like change) just make clean and fresh water available for him 24/7.

Check out the Urinary Problems if your kitten displays odd urination patterns. Also, you may want to consider getting a continous flow bowl like one - Simba


Dear Simba,
My name is Mikey the Cat. I am 11 years old. I have been with my loving parents since I was 3. A quarantine caretaker suggested that I may be urinating a lot and drinking large amounts of water. My parents have not noticed a difference in my habits since I have always been a thirsty cat. What do you think? - Mikey the Cat

Dear Mikey the Cat,
Drinking more water and more frequent urination are among the symptoms of diabetes although it is possible you're just a cat that likes a lot of water!
Diabetes is more common in adult and older cats. Finding out about diabetes will require a few blood tests. The good news is that it is treatable. The most important thing to watch for is a change in behavior.

Are you being your regular thirsty self, or is there a marked difference in your water intake? Either way, this might be a good thing to bring up during the next vet visit. - Simba


Essential Foods for Cats & Kittens


Simba:
We live in Lebanon, where we have been bottle-raising a teeny orphan kitten, Rorschach. We have had him for 3 weeks, he is teething, mostly litter-trained and is quite the playful creature. He weighs 11 oz, and we have been trying to wean him (he is 4 weeks old now). The only kitten food available in the country is Dry Friskies Chicken and Carrots. We have been mashing it in a mortar and pestle and soak it in kitten formula (homemade, following a vet's recommended recipe). As you can imagine our baby is not enthusiastic about this stuff. On line research has not provided a homemade kitten-food recipe much less a guide to kitten nutrition. We have however found several warnings against "junk-food" kitten foods.

Can this stinky, messy Friskies stuff can be replaced by something a bit healthier and palatable-- wish we'd found this website three weeks ago! Rabia, Cathy and Rorschach

Dear Rabia, Cathy and Rorschach,
How very frustrating for you. As you know, cats are strict carnivores and their digestive systems require the protein of meats and fish to survive. This is because animal tissue alone contains the amino acids that cats need (i.e., Taurine, Arginine).

In addition, cats have difficulty digesting non-animal enzymes and non-animal & fats. These requirements mean that a cat's diet should be 75-80% meats/fish and 20-25% vegetables, with maybe a tad of oatmeal, barley and bone meal. I have pulled together a recipe that you may find of help in the long term for your baby as he grows into a healthy adult cat. It is important that you are methodical in any food transitions and also ensure that the weaning process is done gently.

Rule of Thumb- any meal must contain the following combination of foods:
  • Meat/fish: be sure to also use organ meats
  • Grated vegetables:Carrots, zucchini or plain pumpkin are good sources of fiber also help prevent fur balls.
  • Bone meal: good source of vitamins/minerals.
  • Salmon oil: source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Do not use Cod liver oil because it can lead to vitamin A/D overdose.
  • Vitamins/supplements: note that these may not be needed if kitty eats a good meat diet
  • Egg Yolks: contains essential amino and fatty acids and is a good source of minerals.
  • Water
Measured Ingredients
  • Measure 700g of raw, ground, muscle meat (do not mix any meats from different animals)
  • Measure 300g organ meat (2 parts heart, 1 part liver).
  • 300g grated vegetables
  • 250ml clean water
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2TB bone meal
  • 1TB gelatin
  • 2TB Psyllium husks
  • 1 tsp salmon oil
  • 2 tablets freeze dried glands

Missing Link Nutritional Supplement for Cats & Dogs

Instructions

While some folks, recommend raw meat diets, I think it is important to cook the meat so as to avoid the risk of any parasitic infections. Here are the steps:
  • Grind the meats/organs and cook them in a pan (no oil) until they are well-done.
  • Grate the vegetables and cook them in a different pan. Mix with the meat when done.
  • Fill a bowl with 250ml water. Whisk all non-meat ingredients until they turn to a semi-gelatinous texture.
  • Add the meat/vegetables to the gelatinous blend.
  • Mix, package and freeze into 14, 100g meal packets.
Given that yours is a little kitten, remember to follow tips in the weaning process that calls for a mixture of formula and solid foods. Consider feeding your little one generous amounts until she is on the right track to a healthy weight. I hope this helps. Read more about cat diet do's and dont's here. Simba


My new Russian Blue kitten, Raisa, was isolated and then introduced to Sable, my established RB.They get along pretty well. Raisa has abandoned her isolation litter box for Sable's litter box.

Can they both use the same box? Also, the kitten frequently eats from the older cat's moist food dish and seems to prefer it to her canned kitten preparations. I have read that kittens are not supposed to eat fishy foods. Will the adult wet food or a fish recipe hurt the kitten's development? Debra, Sable & Raisa in Phoenix

Dear Debra, Sable & Raisa in Phoenix
I have not heard of fish based or ‘fish-tasting’ foods being detrimental to a kitten’s development. If anything, high protein foods (like those containing chicken or fish) are essential to kittens’ development.

I am concerned that eating adult cat food is not going to give your kitten the nutrition he needs. Try to find a kitten food similar in flavor and consistency to that of Sable’s. As for the litter box, there should not be a problem with their sharing. Just be sure that you clean it frequently. Simba


Dear Simba,
My 3 kittens have always been fed both dry and canned kitten food. They seem to be fed up with the same kitty chow, so I have gradually introduced them to different flavors from several brands. They love that and have never experienced any tummy troubles. They are growing fast. One vet says that it is fine, but the other claims that this is harmful to my babies. I want them to enjoy their meals, but I do not intend to cause any problems maybe later in life. Kaila

PS
Is it safe to treat kittens to fresh food, such as cream, scrambled eggs, yogurt or boiled chicken as a snack.

Dear Kaila,
Your kittens will be fine so long as they continue eating cat food designed to give them the nutrients they need to grow as kittens. Most commercial, kitten foods will do.

As for your second question. While some human foods are fine for cats, you are best off keeping them on cat food only. The reasoning is that once cats get used to the concept of human food, they will expect to be fed human food. This can get them into trouble should they venture into non-cat safe food (of which there is plenty) Simba


Hi Simba!
Would you please tell my boss-person that it is OK for me to eat baby food? I especially love Gerber First Foods such as beef, chicken, turkey and veal. I will not eat my food without a spoonful (at least). Charlie Brown, 9-months old


Dear Charlie Brown,
It is ok to eat baby food with your regular cat food. Baby food is often used with kittens that have been rescued from the streets. So tell your 'boss-person' it is ok, but be sure that the baby food is used as a supplement, not as the main dish! Simba



Can Kittens Drink Cow's Milk?


Believe it or not, but adult cats are lactose intolerant, which means they cannot properly digest milk. The reason is that many felines do not have the proper enzymes to properly break down the sugar in milk called lactose. When cats drink milk the lactose remains undigested and ferments in the intestine. This causes diarrhea. This does not apply to a nursing kitten taking milk from its mother. So remember, no milk for kitty. Simba

PS
If you do decide to give kitty milk, be sure to give him one that is lactose free.


Vegetarian Diet? No


Hi Simba,
I have two orphaned, 5-week-old kittens. I want to know what I can feed them. They are currently eating milk and rice. Since I am a vegetarian, I cannot procure non-vegetarian food for them. Would you tell me some home-made vegetarian cat food that provides them a balanced diet? Karthik

Dear Karthik,
As you may know cats are carnivores and require meat diets. This is because there are certain nutrients cats can get only from animal sources. In addition, cat's digestive systems are incapable of digesting and receiving nutrition from the majority of vegetable proteins. Essential nutrients found only in meats and animal tissues include:
  • taurine (amino acid for heart and liver function & vision)
  • vitamin A (vision, bones & tissue health)
  • arachidonic acid (fatty acid for healthy cell membranes)
While there are ways to feed your cats alternate diets, I recommend that you not make your kitten's diet wholly dependent on non-meat sources. If you cannot provide them animal proteins, I recommend you make their diets rich in cooked egg whites or yogurt, mixed with carbohydrates such as cooked potatoes, rice or pasta. It is important to cook any carbohydrates because cat's digestive systems require complex carbohydrates to be broken into simple carbohydrates.
Your cats' diets should be 25-30% animal proteins. If you go with a meatless diet, be sure to supplement their food with taurine, fish oil and vitamin A (use cooked carrots). Also, as your kittens grow, their tolerance for milk will decrease. In fact most cats are lactose intolerant. Fortunately, they can consume plain yogurt without problem. Yogurt works because it has been partly digested/cultured by beneficial bacteria that makes it easier for kitty to digest. In addition yogurt contains protein, calcium and phosphorus. Simba


Pet Grass


Dear Simba,
I have a 3-year-old Bengal that likes to eat newspaper. The behavior seems to come and go. Do you think this is possibly related to some sort of stomach upset? he is an indoor cat and does not have any access to grass, is this why it eats newspaper?
Choking

Dear Choking,
The behavior could be due to kitty needing more roughage in his diet, although it could also be due to his just liking to chew!

Although cats are strict carnivores, they do benefit from eating some vegetables like grass. Cats love grass because it contains folic acid and is known to also help them with fur balls and digestion. Cat Grass helps kitties with fur balls and digestion because it both induces cleansing vomiting and functions as a laxative. The vomiting is important when kitty has ingested large amounts of fur. Cats will naturally gravitate to plants so as to help them cleanse themselves. In addition, grass is a good source of fiber.

It is good to have some grass available for kitty to chew on. If not available, adding fiber to the diet can help. You can do this by feeding kitty high fiber cat foods or adding some Metamucil (tm) or pumpkin pie filling to his diet (use very small amounts, talk to your vet about quantity!). You can find cat grass at your local pet store or can just click here. Simba

PS
Remember that while some types of grass are good for kitty, it does not mean that all plants are good. Many plants are poisonous and should not be kept in the house.


Food Placement

Dear Simba, My kitten is 4 months old. His eating behavior has changed suddenly. He wants to eat everything in sight, including string and balloons. I am afraid he is going to choke. He is also taking his dry food out of the bowl and placing it in his water. My neighbor thinks he has worms. What do you think? Nikole

P.S Are we right by not placing the food and litter in the same area?


Dear Nikole,
Any sudden change in eating behavior is cause for concern. I recommend that you visit a vet for a checkup.

As for his wanting to eat everything, remember that kittens and cats have a tendency to want to chew on things, and may not digest them. One way to stop unwanted chewing is to spray cayenne pepper in places where there is unwelcome chewing (see Misbehaving Kitties - Chewing for more on this). As for his placing the food in the water, it is natural for food to land in the water as kitty scoots the bowls around. However, a dedicated effort on his part to place dry food in the bowl may indicate either a preference for wet food or an inability to properly chew or digest food. Your vet should be able to determine what if anything is bothering kitty's tummy.

Lastly you should not place food near the litter tray. The main reason is hygiene. Remember that cats are very active in the litter pan. With all the digging and moving it is normal for small particles of litter to fly through the air. These particles may land on or near food and water bowls. Cats, like many other creatures, have an aversion to eating food that may be contaminated by waste, as contaminated food may contain harmful bacteria or cause a parasitic re-infection. So it is best to keep the litter box or pan in an area away from the food. Keep me posted on kitty. Simba

PS See Roundworms for information on worms and their symptoms.