Taking care of kittens requires time, effort and know-how. While newborn cats only need nutrition from their mother’s milk for the first four weeks of their lives, abandoned or rejected kittens need special care and feeding. If a newborn kitten is not able to feed – it may be abandoned or its mother may be ill or not producing enough milk – you should ask your vet to suggest a milk replacement to feed the kitten.
Here are the basic facts about nutrition for kittens that you need to know.
Expect rapid growth: A kitten’s body weight can double or triple in the first few weeks of its life. Later on, growth continues but at a slower pace. This is why young cats need much more energy from nutrients to aid their rapid growth. Kittens need about twice or thrice the energy an adult cat would need – 30% of this energy should ideally come from protein sources. So it’s important they be given food specially made for kittens, until they are adult cats at about one year old.
Starting solid foods: Kittens should start to be weaned at around five to six weeks old. While they are still being nursed by their mother, they can be introduced to good-quality dry kitten food. This helps them get familiar with how to eat cat food when they are completely weaned. Weaning is usually complete by about eight weeks, by which time the majority of the kitten’s nutritional needs should be met by the kitten food anyway.
Dealing with abandoned cats: If you’ve fed a young abandoned kitten a milk replacement, start introducing it to kitten food when it is about three weeks old. Moisten the dry food with the milk replacement and offer it to the cat. Slowly limit the quantity of milk replacer you use week by week until the kitten is comfortable eating the plain dry food.
Water: Remember to keep clean and fresh water available to your cats at all times. Change the water and clean the container that it is in regularly.
Keeping food out: With cats, you can keep food out and available to them at all times. Just be careful of spoilage, especially with wet food. Also, remember that dogs love eating cat food, so if you happen to have other pets it may make sense to stick to meal times.
Food play: Kittens are naturally curious and playful and may investigate and toss around their food at the start. However, give it time and they’ll realize they’re supposed to actually eat it. When it comes to treats, remember that these should not make up more than five percent of your kitten’s total daily nutrient intake.
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