Diet plays a continuous role in your cat’s health, but it’s never more important than during kittenhood. While they may be tiny, kittens are more fuel-hungry than a pickup truck, converting energy into new cells and tissue growth at top speed. This results in relative calorie and nutritional requirements that far exceed any other feline life stage.

Most kittens will double, or even triple their size within the first few weeks of life. By the time they’re ready for weaning at around ten weeks, they’ll have grown from a few fluffy ounces to nearly two pounds—and they’ll continue to spend most of their energy forming a strong body until the age of one.

All that growing needs calorific, well-sourced protein, fats, and minerals, and getting that mix wrong can have lifelong consequences for your moggie. Deprive a kitten of essential nutrients, or provide them with inappropriate food group ratios, and their skeletal development and density can be compromised. A lack of vitamin and mineral balance in kitten-hood will often result in developmental and joint problems later.

Kitten should be nursed exclusively by the mother until they’re around seven weeks old. From that point, kitten food can be introduced, and kittens over ten weeks should use kitten food as their sole nutritional source. Once they reach a year, it’s time to begin the transition to all life stage food.

How we determine the best kitten foods

While there are literally hundreds of kitten food options on the shelves, the market can be quickly narrowed down by focusing on what is, and isn’t, beneficial for kitten health. As a basic rule, a kittens diet should:

  • Support them in achieving a healthy growth rate: their growth should neither be stunted nor maximized.
  • Allow them to develop a fully functioning immune system: their diet needs to contain all relevant vitamins and minerals, and
  • Minimize the potential for obesity or excessive weight gain: their intake of fats should be managaed fats and carbohydrates minimized.

We used several metrics to reflect these needs and create our list of the best kitten foods available. These include calorie count, quality of protein and fat sources, the concentration of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, protein-to-carbohydrate ratio, and moisture content.

Keep reading for more info on how these factors contribute to kitten health and nutrition. Or, skip straight to the best kitten foods of 2020.

skip straight to the best kitten foods of 2020.

What do kittens need to eat?

Essential Nutrients

The Best Kitten Foods of 2020

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Kitten Food

With its first 6 ingredients being animal-based, Wellness Core Natural stands out as one of the most meat-rich recipes on this list.

Wellness-CORE-Natural-Grain-Free-Turkey-Chicken-Liver-Pate-Canned-Kitten-Food
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Key Benefits

  • Wet food

  • 12% protein

  • 7.5% fat

  • 4.4 (181 ratings)

  • First 5 ingredients: Turkey, Chicken Liver, Turkey Broth, Chicken, Chicken Meal

High-levels of DHA from whole turkey and turkey broth help digestibility as well as overall health maintenance, while a lack of carrageenan, artificial flavors, or byproducts means a carbohydrate content of just 0.5%. The lower the carbohydrate, the easier a kitten is likely to be able to digest a formula.

“This food is a noticeable step up: my kittens devour their food, it smells delicious, and their coats are silky soft.”

“I think he really likes how soft and juicy it is. Unfortunately, it is not in my budget to continue feeding.”

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Kitten Ultra Soft Mousse in Sauce Canned Cat Food

If your growing kitten has lost his appetite or needs help transitioning from milk to solid food, then try Royal Canin’s Gastrointestinal Kitten Ultra Soft Mousse in Sauce.

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Kitten Ultra Soft Mousse in Sauce Canned Cat Food
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Key Benefits

  • Veterinary-exclusive wet cat food with a tempting mousse texture for growing kittens with either long-term or short-term digestive sensitivities.
  • Digestible proteins and prebiotics support healthy digestion and optimal stool quality.

  • Made with a high energy content, which allows your kitten to eat smaller portions and still get all the nutrition he needs.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are included to support his GI health.

  • Contains adapted levels of nutrients, including calcium and protein.

This canned cat food is a high-energy formula that has a tempting mousse texture. It’s also packed with adapted levels of nutrients, including protein and calcium to help support healthy digestion, allowing pet parents to feed their little kitties small portions to support sensitive tummies. And to promote a balance of good bacteria in your cat’s gut, this recipe contains a precise blend of prebiotics and a blend of dietary fibers, which also help encourage optimal stool quality.

Water Sufficient For Processing, Chicken Liver, Chicken, Chicken By-Products, Pork By-Products, Natural Flavors, Powdered Cellulose, Wheat Gluten, Casein, Pork Plasma, Vegetable Oil, Modified Corn Starch, Brewers Rice Flour, Hydrolyzed Poultry By-Products Aggregate, Fish Oil, Hydrolyzed Yeast (Source Of Betaglucans), Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Carrageenan, Sodium Silico Aluminate, Guar Gum, Calcium Carbonate, Taurine, Fructooligosaccharides, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Vitamins [Dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (Source Of Vitamin E), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source Of Vitamin C), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Niacin Supplement, Biotin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement], Citric Acid, Sodium Carbonate, Trace Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate], Magnesium Oxide, Marigold Extract (Tagetes Erecta L.), Carotene.

Caloric Content

947 kcal ME/kg, 137 kcal ME/can

Royal Canin Mother & Babycat Ultra-Soft Mousse in Sauce Wet Cat Food for New Kittens and Nursing or Pregnant Mother Cats

Healthy growth begins with good nutrition which can be found in Royal Canin Mother & Babycat Ultra-Soft Mousse in Sauce Wet Cat Food.

Royal Canin Mother & Babycat Ultra-Soft Mousse in Sauce Wet Cat Food for New Kittens and Nursing or Pregnant Mother Cats
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Key Benefits

  • Formulated for kittens between 1-4 months and pregnant or nursing mother cats.
  • Supports immune health.

  • Mousse texture helps with transitioning kittens from milk to solid foods.

  • Promotes healthy digestive development.

  • Contains DHA for brain development.

Specially crafted for new kittens and nursing or pregnant mother cats, this recipe is packed with essential nutrients like DHA for brain development and immune-strengthening antioxidants. It also aids in digestive health with highly digestible proteins and prebiotics. The texture of the ultra-soft mouse is purr-fect for her emerging teeth and a growing appetite.

Water Sufficient For Processing, Chicken Liver, Chicken, Chicken By-Products, Pork By-Products, Wheat Gluten, Powdered Cellulose, Modified Corn Starch, Pork Plasma, Natural Flavors, Vegetable Oil, Brewers Rice Flour, Fish Oil, Hydrolyzed Yeast, Calcium Carbonate, Carrageenan, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Guar Gum, Potassium Phosphate, Taurine, Vitamins [Dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (Source Of Vitamin E), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source Of Vitamin C), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Niacin Supplement, Biotin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement], Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Trace Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate], Marigold Extract (Tagetes Erecta L.), Magnesium Oxide, Carotene.

Caloric Content

919 kcal/kg, 152 kcal/can

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Whitefish Salmon & Herring Pate Canned Kitten & Cat Food

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Whitefish Salmon & Herring Pate Canned Cat Food offers a high-protein diet to give your cat the energy she needs to thrive.

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Whitefish Salmon & Herring Pate Canned Kitten & Cat Food
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Key Benefits

  • Made with carefully selected ingredients for optimum health benefits.
  • Poultry-free recipe is perfect for cats with intolerances or allergies to chicken or turkey.
  • High levels of omega fatty acids support healthy skin and a lustrous coat.
  • Grain-free recipes provides a complete and balanced everyday diet for your cat.

  • Developed with only premium ingredients—no carrageenan, artificial colors, flavors, or by-products.

This poultry and gluten-free recipe includes wholesome, carefully selected ingredients for optimum health benefits, high-levels of omega fatty acids to support healthy skin and a lustrous coat, and berries and botanicals to round out the diet for maximum benefit. Each recipe is made without the use of any carrageenan, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives—just wholesome ingredients for a nutritious meal.

Whitefish, Salmon Broth, Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Dried Ground Potatoes, Canola Oil, Ground Flaxseed, Guar Gum, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Cranberries, Potassium Chloride, Salmon Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Choline Chloride, Taurine, Salt, Dried Kelp, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Caloric Content

85 kcal/can

Kitten Chow Nurture Dry Cat Food

Purina Kitten Chow Nurture Dry Cat Food is an age-essential, dry kitten food made with the four foundational building blocks of nutrition.

Kitten Chow Nurture Dry Cat Food
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Key Benefits

  • Made with real chicken to provide your pal with the protein they need to develop lean muscle.
  • Contains essential nutrients like those found in mother’s milk.

  • Includes omega fatty acid, DHA, to support brain and vision development.

  • 100% complete and balanced nutrition, formulated for kittens.

  • No artificial colors or flavors for better overall health.

High in protein for developing lean muscle, DHA for brain and vision development, essential nutrients like those found in mother’s milk, and antioxidants for strong immune health. Every meal also provides the 25 essential vitamins and minerals cats need at any age. Plus, it’s formulated with a taste kittens love—and without artificial colors or flavors—to help give them the nutrition they need while they develop.

Chicken By-product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Rice, Soy Flour, Beef Fat Preserved With Mixed-tocopherols, Ground Whole Wheat, Chicken, Fish Meal, Liver Flavor, Dried Yeast, Calcium Carbonate, Phosphoric Acid, Salt, Choline Chloride, Minerals [Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite], Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7), Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K)], Taurine, Potassium Chloride. J453018.

Caloric Content

3,653 kcal/kg, 408 kcal/cup

FAQ

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that kittens need specially formulated kitten food. After that, deciding whether you want to feed them canned, wet food or dry food is up to you, your vet and your kitten (they can be quite finicky!). 

But it’s good for very young kittens to have at least some wet food in their diet. Because of their small teeth, they may not be able to chew dry food as well. Adult teeth start to make an appearance around 3 – 4 months. So at the beginning, wet, canned food may be your only option. However, introducing a mixture of wet and dry food is a good idea as they both offer benefits to your precious fur baby. 

Benefits of wet food:

  • Maintains hydrations and sufficient water intake 
  • Smells better and is easier to eat due to its soft texture 
  • Convenient and fresh to serve 
  • Good for kidney health and preventing urinary tract infections 
  • High protein/low carbs to support your growing kitten 

Benefits of dry food:

  • Cheaper and can store longer 
  • Easy to measure and serve 
  • Good for your kitten’s dental health and removing plaque

Dry food isn’t inherently bad for kittens, it’s just best if you incorporate wet food in their diet in addition to dry food. Dry kibble is more likely to contain more carbs, less meat and less moisture so it can contribute to dehydration, urinary tract issues and more. If they just eat dry food, then they’re more likely to not drink enough water. 

Given that a can of wet food contains around 70 – 80% of water – it’s completely fresh, moisture-rich and nutritionally sound with the essential ingredients your baby needs. This is necessary to keep your kitty hydrated and healthy. That’s why the wet and dry food combination offers the best of both worlds!

Kittens are growing fur babies; their weight often doubles or triples just in the first several weeks! In addition, their energy is off the charts. For these reasons, kittens require different nutritional elements compared to adults. Kittens need more calories, protein, amino acids, calcium and healthy fat.

Being able to discern whether you have the right food for your kitten is first looking at quality. You should be purchasing from reputable companies that are also recommended by your veterinarian. When it has a “Complete and Balanced” label as set out by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) – then it’s in the clear.

After doing a quality analysis, you should evaluate how your kitten is looking, behaving and reacting to the food. Do they seem playful and alert? Have they been steadily gaining weight? Does their coat look clean and healthy? These are all questions you should be asking to determine if you’re feeding the right food.

Would you feed a newborn, human baby food that you would eat as an adult? Hopefully not! Because babies require different nutrients and textures compared to adults. The same goes for kittens. Now – you’re kitten won’t be harmed if they have the occasional adult cat food. 

However, it’s important to feed them food formulated for kittens until they reach 1 year of age. For their tiny stature, kittens need tons of energy (around two to three times more than an adult cat). Purchasing food that is explicitly labeled as ‘Kitten Food” will benefit your little one at this life stage.

Because of their high, exuberant energy, kittens need to be fed more than an adult cat would. Always check with your vet to confirm the right portion size and how often you should feed him or her. But for most kittens around 3 – 6 months old, it’s recommended to feed them around three times per day: morning, afternoon and evening.

The benefit of dry food is that it can be left out for longer periods without compromising safety. If you do choose to leave dry food out, just keep portions controlled to avoid overeating and weight gain. On the other hand, canned wet food shouldn’t be left out longer than 20 – 30 minutes to avoid contamination. Store any remaining wet food in the fridge for up to 5 days, sealed and covered in the can.