Here's How to Choose the Best Kitten Food and Treats

A kitten has specific feeding requirements for the first year of her life. Here are some expert tips to help you make the right choices for your itty bitty kitty.
By Tracey L. Kelley
November 04, 2020
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To keep your kitten full of rambunctious energy, you need to give her the proper food. Once she’s weaned from her mom, usually at 6 to 8 weeks, she’s ready to eat on her own. Not pasteurized milk, though—it will only upset her digestion. Fortunately, there are numerous options on the market specially-formulated for kittens.

How Much Food Should a Kitten Eat?

More than you might think for a tiny fuzzball! Tarina L. Anthony, DVM, is a longtime practitioner of feline-exclusive medicine, and owner and medical director of Aurora Cat Hospital and Hotel in Aurora, Colo. She says kittens have much greater nutritional needs than adult cats due to the sheer amount of growing they do. This means you’ll have to consider frequency and variety.

“Kittens should be fed free-choice from about 8 weeks to around 6 months,” Anthony says. “It’s best to expose them to both canned and dry food, as it has been shown to improve acceptance of foods later in life—if prescribed for a medical need, for example.”

Free-choice means leaving nibbles out all the time, but stay mindful of quantity so you know how much food your kitten should eat. The Cornell Feline Health Center indicates she’ll probably head for the bowl three to four times daily when you leave a small serving in it. As she grows, you’ll put her on a more regimented feeding schedule.

Mixing together wet and dry food makes it easier for wee kitten teeth to gradually crunch into kibble. Be sure to supply fresh water each day as well.

How To Choose the Best Food for Your Kitten

Young felines need plenty of protein and fat to help them grow. When scanning shelves of kitten food products, Anthony offers these basic tips for reading labels:

  • Pet food ingredients are listed by weight. 
  • The first three or four ingredients are the main bulk of the food. 
  • Meat should be near the top: first or second (to water) in canned food and definitely in the top three for dry. 
  • Look for a food that meets the requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The wording will either say “formulated to meet standards” or “animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures”.

Anthony notes that kittens should have a checkup with the veterinarian prior to any diet change. “Body condition, GI health, and other concurrent issues should be addressed by a doctor first,” she says. Your vet might have additional recommendations for the best kitten food brands to complement the ones listed below.

  • Best Dry Kitten Food
    Purina Pro Plan Kitten Shredded Blend Chicken and Rice Formula Dry Cat Food
    $12
    SHOP IT
    Chewy
  • Best Wet Kitten Food
    IAMS Perfect Portions Grain Free Healthy Kitten Paté
    $0.95
    SHOP IT
    Target
  • Best Canned Kitten Food
    Wellness Complete Health Natural Grain Free Kitten Wet Cat Food
    $32
    SHOP IT
    Chewy
  • Best Kitten Formula
    PetAg KMR Kitten Milk Replacer Powder, slide 1 of 6 Slide 2 of 6 Slide 3 of 6 Slide 4 of 6 Slide 5 of 6 video, Slide 6 of 6video DEAL PetAg KMR Kitten Milk Replacer Powder
    $14
    SHOP IT
    Chewy
  • Best Value Kitten Food
    Blue Buffalo Wilderness Healthy Growth Kitten Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food
    $9
    SHOP IT
    Chewy
  • Best Kitten Treats
    Get Naked Kitten Health Grain-Free Soft Cat Treats
    $5
    SHOP IT
    Chewy
Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

Purina Pro Plan Kitten Shredded Blend Chicken and Rice Formula Dry Cat Food

The combination of real shredded chicken and crunchy kibble in this Purina kitten food is fortified with DHA, live probiotics, and essential vitamins and minerals to support a strong, healthy kitty’s growth.

$12
SHOP IT
Chewy
Credit: Courtesy of Target

IAMS Perfect Portions Grain Free Healthy Kitten Paté

A great transitional food to help kittens learn to chew, this brand also has DHA for brain development, vitamin E for healthy immune support, plus chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, and egg. And who doesn’t like gravy?

$0.95
SHOP IT
Target
Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

A complete, all-natural, and grain-free formulation of calories, fat, and protein that scampering fur babies need, this wet kitten food also contains added taurine to encourage better heart and health development.

$32
SHOP IT
Chewy
Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

PetAg KMR Kitten Milk Replacer Powder

If mama cat is not in the picture, your young kitten may need formula to replace some of the nutrients he needs from mother cat's milk until he is around 6 to 8 weeks old. Milk replacer adds much-needed protein and taurine to supplement your kitten's diet until he is ready to eat solid foods alone.

RELATED: How to Bottle Feed a Newborn Kitten the Right Way

$14
SHOP IT
Chewy
Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Healthy Growth Kitten Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food

You don’t have to sacrifice quality while on a budget. Full of real chicken and nutritious fruits, vegetables, and grains, your kitty will also get vet-approved vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with every bite.

$9
SHOP IT
Chewy
Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

Get Naked Kitten Health Grain-Free Soft Cat Treats

Most vets recommend that only 10 percent of a kitten’s diet should come from treats, so make sure they're good ones made with high-quality ingredients and packed with vitamins and minerals.

$5
SHOP IT
Chewy
Credit: Ruslana Chub / Getty

Yes, it’s fine to feed your older kitten teeny bits of certain fruits and vegetables as long as you remember she’s a carnivore, first and foremost. Her daily diet should contain at least 70 percent muscle meat, as well as some organ meat. A little fish is good, too. Aside from meat, there are some common human foods that are safe for kitty to snack on, and some that are toxic and should be avoided.

Credit: ASHLEY POSKIN

Instead of buying kitten food treats, try creating some of your own! Here’s an easy recipe for rewarding nibbles that should stay fresh for a week or so. As your kitten grows, you might also want to make special meals for her: these vet tips help you get started.