The rapid growth that kittens experience means they require a diet that is high in protein and fat. Choosing the best kitten food early on will reduce the chances of any upset as they go through this rapid growth stage.
Whether you prefer dry or wet cat food, a kitten needs a nutritionally complete meal with plenty of hydration. Both wet and dry kitten foods are capable of providing the nutrition, but if the hydration isn’t catered for by the food you choose be careful to keep an eye on their water consumption.
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We’ve broken this article up into reviews and guides for both wet and dry kitten food. Throughout this article we might refer to wet food as canned kitten food, these terms are interchangeable in this context.
Dry Kitten Food
Dry kitten food is most commonly used alongside a wet food. Leaving a bowl of dry food around for your kitten or cat to snack on at any point is known as “free-feeding”. Kibble based foods are great for free-feeding because they take ages to spoil compared to wet foods.
Our selection of recommended dry kitten foods are perfectly balanced to provide a highly nutritious meal that’s built on a strong foundation of protein and fat. Although carbohydrates aren’t necessarily bad for kittens, they aren’t a required ingredient in a cat’s diet.
Best Dry Kitten Food Comparison
|Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Dry||552 kcal||43.5%||20.5%|
|BLUE Wilderness High Protein||461 kcal||40.0%||20.0%|
|IAMS Proactive Health Kitten||416 kcal||33.0%||21.0%|
|Hill’s Science Diet Dry Kitten||604 kcal||33.0%||19.0%|
Though foods differ significantly in caloric density, this is commonly accounted for in feeding portions. For the correct feeding portions, you should always check the packaging.
The difference in caloric density can be down to numerous factors. It isn’t fair to brandish a food as “full of filler” because it has a low caloric density, it may just have kibble that has been formed under less pressure.
- 1 Dry Kitten Food
- 2 Best Dry Kitten Food Comparison
- 3 The Best Dry Foods For Kittens
- 4 Feeding Guide For Dry Kitten Food
- 5 Wet & Canned Kitten Food
- 6 Best Wet Kitten Food Comparison
- 7 The Best Wet Foods For Kittens
- 8 Feeding Guide For Wet & Canned Kitten Food
- 9 Choosing The Right Kitten Food
The Best Dry Foods For Kittens
A comparison table is great for a quick overview, but to find the best dry kitten food for you, you’ll be needing a bit more information.
Through a combination of personal experience, studying the market for consumer feedback, and online studies we’ve put together this brilliant list of dry food for kittens. Below are the best dry kitten foods for providing a nutritionally complete meal to any young growing cat.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Original
This food was tailor-made for the needs of a growing kitten. There is plenty of good protein to make sure they have the energy to play and grow. We love the natural DHA they added to assist with brain and eye development.
The lack of grain in this food is great for your kitten. It means they are getting their nutrition primarily from animal protein, something important to carnivorous cats, especially when they are growing.
In fact, 81% of what your kitten will be eating with this dry food is high-quality animal products and oils. The remaining 19% comes from fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome ingredients.
We love that they use cage-free chickens as their number one ingredient. This really shows that they care about the well-being of all animals, not just cats.
Kittens seem to love the taste of this product. On top of the chicken flavor, they will get to taste turkey, salmon, lamb, carrots, apples, and cranberries.
This company prides itself on being very natural, and your kitten will appreciate the thought they put into their ingredients. They believe raw ingredients truly unlock your pet’s potential. If your kitten is under 12 months old, this may just be the best dry kitten food for him or her.
BLUE Wilderness High Protein
BLUE Wilderness has a great reputation for producing high-quality pet foods and this kitten dry food is no exception. There is absolutely nothing artificial in this kibble.
What you will find instead is de-boned chicken and sweet potatoes. The chicken provides protein and the sweet potatoes are a great source of complex carbohydrates.
Taurine, an essential amino acid, is included in the formula of this food. It is great for heart and eye development. We like the patented LifeSource bits that this company includes in all of its dry foods.
They are essentially kibble that have been enriched with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. All of that adds up to a happy, healthy kitten!
The makers of this food kept it as close to a cat’s natural diet as possible.
Things you will not find in this kitten dry food include poultry by-product meals, wheat, soy, or corn. All of these ingredients are basically fillers that do nothing to enhance your kitten’s nutrition.
With a chicken flavor that seems to be popular with kittens, this dry food will make sure they get all the nutrients they need. This product is quite expensive but considering how important it is to give your kitten the best start in life possible, it is definitely worth it.
IAMS Proactive Health Kitten
This much more budget-friendly dry kitten food has a lot to love. The entire formula was designed with kitten development in mind. On top of being protein-rich, this food has Omega-3 DHA to help your kitten’s brain maturation.
We love that they added nutrients to mimic what your kitten would be getting from his or her mother’s milk. The first ingredient in this product is chicken, and they promise there are no added fillers. The Vitamin E they included is great for boosting your kitten’s immune system.
That yummy chicken that creates the taste your kitten loves is also helping them build strong muscles. It is full of the essential amino acids all meat-eating animals need. The mix of protein and carbs makes sure that your kitten feels full.
IAMS are a cat food manufacturer that have been around for a long time. They have spent years researching foods that are great for your pet without breaking the bank.
They are so confident that your kitten will thrive on their food that they offer a 100% money-back guarantee. The quality control checks they use exceed the standards of both the FDA and the USDA.
If price is a big concern for you, this is a great dry kitten food to give a try.
Hill’s Science Diet Dry Kitten
At the other end of the price spectrum, you have the Science Diet food. It is the number one brand recommended by veterinarians.
On top of that, the foods are developed by a team of vets, food scientists, and Ph.D. level nutritionists. When you consider all that, this food may well be worth the extra money.
There is natural DHA in this food, which is important for both brain and eye development. The antioxidants and vitamins are clinically proven to keep your kitten’s immune system healthier. During the first year of life, kittens are extra vulnerable so any added protection is great.
The high-quality protein in this food is easy for your kitten to digest. You will find plenty of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids in this food.
What you will not find is any artificial flavors, preservatives, or coloring. The great taste of the food comes straight from the chicken. Vitamins C & E help your kitten’s immune system as well as act like a natural preservative.
Due to the high level of nutrition in this food, it is even recommended for pregnant and nursing cats. If this food will work with your budget, it is definitely worth serious consideration. It very well may be the best food for kittens on the market.
Feeding Guide For Dry Kitten Food
For most cat owners, dry food makes up at least a part of their pet’s diet. With your kitten, it is especially important to feed a high-quality food that promotes healthy growth. Dry food has certain characteristics that make some choices better than others.
One of the biggest advantages of your kitten eating a dry food is that a crunchy kibble can help them reduce tartar. Though this is something that is heavily debated, there are dry foods designed to take advantage of this that have been proven effective.
Unless your kitten has dental issues, avoid any dry foods that say they are soft. Dental health is very important to cats throughout their lives, so keeping their pearly whites clean from the beginning is important.
Kittens are much more energetic than older cats, generally speaking. Due to this, it is important they have a high-calorie food to give them the fuel they need.
Many owners free-feed dry food, and that is fine with kittens. It isn’t until they are older that you will need to worry about them getting overweight. This happens when their calorie consumption doesn’t slow down but their activity level does.
Ingredients & Nutrients
Always check the ingredient list before buying your kitten any food. There are some things that are crucial for their growth. Taurine, in particular, has shown to be essential to healthy eye and brain development. Vitamins C and E are also very important to maintaining a healthy immune system as well as their mental development.
As with any cat food, kitten dry food should be free of any artificial coloring, flavoring, or preservatives. It is especially important to check for artificial preservatives in dry food because it is harder for manufacturers to keep fresh.
Consider buying smaller bags of food that use natural preservatives to make sure it is enjoyable for your kitten down to the last piece of kibble.
Make sure your kitten’s dry food uses real meat as its number one ingredient. This is a much better source of the protein they need than any animal by-products. Cats do not need grain, and a grain-free formula is especially beneficial for young kittens.
Some kittens are more reluctant to eat dry food than wet. Finding a dry food with a great taste can make sure that their dry food bowl doesn’t get ignored all day. Again, try to avoid a food that relies on artificial flavoring to make it taste appealing.
Kittens are natural carnivores, so foods with real meat as their #1 ingredient are more likely to appeal to their taste buds.
Although dry cat food is generally cheaper than wet cat food, there is still a wide range of prices. Sometimes, to get the best brand, you have to spend quite a bit. There are some foods that offer a great blend of nutrients at a better price.
Your budget will play a large role in determining your kitten’s dry food. If nothing else, be sure you are buying a formula designed for kittens, or all-stages, and not adult cats.
Dry food is one of the building blocks for your kitten’s body. Choosing a high-quality cat food can make sure your kitten is healthy now and for years to come.
Finding a balance of good ingredients, texture, calories, taste, and price can be difficult, but it is definitely worth it!
Wet & Canned Kitten Food
Wet kitten food (or canned kitten food) is a popular choice. For most owners, a combination of both foods is the ideal outcome.
Many lead with wet foods as the primary meal and leave kibble around 24/7 to be sure the kitten can eat whenever it feels a little hungry.
Wet kitten food typically works out to be slightly more expensive per meal than dry foods, so a balance of both can work best for your cat and your wallet.
Best Wet Kitten Food Comparison
|Royal Canin Nutrition Babycat||152 kcal||9.0%||4.0%|
|Wellness Chicken Pate Kitten||199 kcal||12.0%||7.5%|
|Royal Canin Nutrition Kitten||78 kcal||11.0%||3.0%|
|Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Canned||190 kcal||12.0%||6.0%|
Don’t be alarmed that the values listed for calories, protein and fat are significantly lower than those found in dry foods. The reason behind this is that these foods are made up of far more moisture.
Feeding a cat two cans of the best wet cat food could be the nutritional equivalent of half a cup of dry food. It balances out if portioned correctly.
The Best Wet Foods For Kittens
Canned kitten foods typically come in forms that are palatable for them regardless of their dental maturity. Soft pate based foods are excellent for very young kittens who would struggle with kibble. A loaf food is slightly thicker than a pate texture but is still perfect for kittens.
Regardless of the texture, each of the foods recommended here provide a nutritionally complete meal that will also go a long way to catering for your kitten’s hydration requirements. Below are the best wet and canned kitten foods that are easily palatable and provide all the nutrients and hydration required.
Royal Canin Nutrition Babycat
If you have a very young kitten, this is a great food for helping them transition from their mother’s milk.
It is considered a “first-stage” food and is best suited for kittens under 4 months old. The consistency is a soft mousse that helps kittens adjust to solid foods.
Very young kittens need all of the immune system support they can get. This food is great because it has an antioxidant complex that was specifically designed for the very young kitten.
We love the Macro Nutrient Profile in this food, and so will your kitten. This is what makes sure there is the proper balance between proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It is the balance that cats naturally crave.
The Macro Nutrient Profile changes as your cat ages. The one in this kitten food is designed to influence your pet’s dietary satisfaction as well as palatability.
Kittens seem to love the flavor of this food. It uses real chicken and chicken liver to give it great flavor. The only downside is the inclusion of pork by-products, which we don’t love to see. However, it is listed lower than the real chicken.
At more than $1 per can, this is definitely a more expensive option. The special formula that helps kittens under 4 months thrive makes it worth a look.
Wellness Chicken Pate Kitten
Some of the best words to read on any kitten food is “grain-free.” The pate is easy to eat for kittens and comes in a pleasing chicken flavor.
There are plenty of proteins in this wet food to help your kitten grow big and strong. Taurine is included, which is the ingredient essential for heart and eye development.
One thing that is missing from this kitten food is Carrageenan, an ingredient common in wet cat food. We like this because Carrageenan has no nutritional value. It can also be hard on your kitten’s digestive system. Your growing pet does not need anything in their food working against him or her.
This is a very natural product. This is no artificial anything or meat by-products. There are high levels of fat and protein to make sure your kitten develops healthy muscles, organs, and bones.
Your kitten will have plenty of energy for all the playing and discovering that is so precious during the early months.
Wellness brand cat (and kitten) wet foods are designed to promote 5 signs of wellness. They are energy, immunity, skin and coat, teeth and gums, and digestive health. While it is another expensive option, it definitely has the nutritional value to back up its higher price tag.
Royal Canin Nutrition Kitten
If your kitten is older than 4 months but you still want to go with the Royal Canin brand, this is a great option. The food is thinly sliced and in gravy, which still makes it easy to eat but offers an option other than pate for your kitten.
This food has many of the same benefits as the other Royal Canin food on the list. It is full of protein, fats, and carbohydrates to provide your growing kitten with plenty of energy.
There is also the antioxidant complex for a healthy immune system that Royal Canin has perfected.
The Macro Nutrient Profile of this food is very appealing to kittens. The balance of calories is what they will instinctively crave. This is an excellent wet cat food food to transition to after the Babycat formula from Royal Canin.
Chicken, chicken liver, and pork are the first three ingredients in this food. You will find by-products and wheat on the ingredient list, but much further down. Kittens really love the flavor of this food.
This is an expensive food, but it is worth it. It helps your kitten’s body run well and can greatly reduce the smells coming out of the litter box.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Canned
This food has lots of high-quality protein to get your kitten started off right in life. There is a mix of chicken, salmon, liver, and beef that exposes your little kitty to a variety of proteins early on. This can help reduce the chance of food sensitivities in the future.
One of the things we love about this product is the things we do not see in the ingredient list.
There is no grain, potato, soy, wheat, corn, animal by-product, artificial colors, or preservatives. All that leaves is highly natural ingredients that your kitten will love. The pate texture is very popular for kittens because it is easy to chew for their small mouths.
With plenty of natural DHA, this wet kitten food is great for eye and brain development. Salmon, one of the top ingredients, is a great source of both the DHA and protein.
You will also find plenty of vitamins in this food. There are also fruits and vegetables such as pumpkin, blueberries, cranberries, tomatoes, cabbage, kale, parsley, and artichokes.
Priding themselves on producing raw food, the Nature’s Variety brand has a lot to love. This food can be fed in combination with their dry kitten food to provide the variety many cats crave.
Feeding Guide For Wet & Canned Kitten Food
Wet food is also known as canned food. Generally speaking, there is more moisture than nutrients per weight in the can. There are several different textures available with wet food, so finding the one that your kitten will love can take some guess and check work.
There are a few things to keep in mind when buying canned pet food for your kitten.
This is a bit of a tricky issue. Most veterinarians will recommend your cat or kitten get at least some wet food a day because of the extra water it provides. On the other hand, too much moisture in a can of cat food means not enough of the other nutrients they need.
Often, you will find close to 80% moisture in a 3 oz can of kitten food. That means up to 2.4 of the ounces are actually moisture, leaving only 0.6 ounces to provide the protein and fat that your growing kitten will need.
This is why you will see manufacturers advise you to feed four cans a day if you are only using wet food.
If you are also feeding dry food, the recommended amount drops to two cans daily. Those feeding dry food alone should invest in a cat water fountain to help make up the difference in hydration levels.
As with adult cat food, kitten food comes in a few texture types. Most commonly you will find pate. This is because it is easy for kittens to chew. Very young kittens will have very small mouths and teeth.
That is why dry food and wet food with any chunks are not a good options. The pate is easy for them to chew as they adjust to solid food.
When your kitten gets a bit bigger, you can add more variety to the texture of their wet food. You can find cubed, flaked, and shredded. These types may help your kitten practice chewing. Some cats just simply hate pate food, even from an early age.
For whatever reason, manufacturers seem to think that kittens love the taste of chicken. Many foods will combine several proteins, such as pork, lamb, and fish, to get your kitten’s stomach used to them. You will want to avoid foods with artificial flavoring.
A lot of companies add quite a bit of salt to add flavor. While adult cats can usually handle that, kittens may struggle with it. Unfortunately, a lot of the time the better tasting foods are the less healthy ones, just like with people food!
The best canned kitten food is going to be expensive. This is one of the biggest reasons people stick to dry foods. Wet food is definitely worth incorporating into your kitten’s diet, however.
A more expensive kitten food will have more protein (that they need) and fewer carbohydrates (which should be limited).
Remember, you do not have to exclusively feed wet food. If you feed two cans a day in addition to dry food, a case of 24 cans will last you almost two weeks.
Wet kitten food is an important part of your pet’s diet. It can help keep them hydrated while providing high-quality protein. Although the price of some foods can make you hesitate, just think of it as an investment in your kitten’s long-term well-being.
Choosing The Right Kitten Food
While your kitten is growing, the balance of their diet will be crucial to their development. There are several nutrients that your kitten will need to be getting from his or her food. As a loving and responsible pet owner, it is up to you to find the best options. This guide is designed to help you choose the best kitten foods on the market, as well as offer tips on feeding.
Kitten Food vs. Cat Food
Kittens have unique dietary needs that are kept in mind when companies develop their kitten foods. They often need more of the key nutrients than fully grown cats. For example, they need almost twice as much Vitamin A in their diet as adult cats.
They will also need more protein and the amino acids Lysine and Tryptophan.
There are some foods designed for “all-stages” of life, but kitten foods are more likely to provide your feline friend with the proper things to make sure they grow up healthy and happy.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials has the most respected rating system for pet food. They have a separate category for “growth and reproduction.” Before choosing either wet or dry kitten food, you can go to the AAFCO website and see what their nutrient profiles and feeding trials have to say about it.
While you will want to serve your pet high-quality food throughout their life, it is especially important during their first year. There needs to be a lot of high-quality protein that comes from meat, not by-products.
They also need fats for energy, but not too much. Many kittens do better on grain-free formulas.
Be sure that your kitten’s food provides amino acids including taurine. Vitamins A, C, and E are also important for their diet. DHA, which will be listed as Omega-3 or natural, is important for your kitten’s brain development.
Wet vs. Dry vs. Both
In the beginning, it may only be possible to feed your kitten wet food. Their “baby teeth” are quite small and would have difficulty chewing dry foods. The adult teeth will make an appearance around the 3 to 4-month mark. By 7 months, most kittens will have all of their adult teeth and will be ready to try other foods.
Feeding nothing but dry food can have negative consequences on your kitten’s health. Without wet food in their diet, cats are more likely to develop kidney and urinary tract health issues. Also, if your kitten becomes accustomed to eating nothing but dry food now, you may struggle to keep their weight under control later in life.
That is because dry foods are full of fattening carbohydrates. In fact, you will find many veterinarians recommend feeding no dry food at all.
Canned food is great because of the high moisture content. It often has more protein by weight and is usually less processed. However, providing enough wet food for all of your kitten’s needs on a daily basis can get quite expensive.
Many people find that feeding both wet and dry kitten food works well for them and their kitten, as long as they have their adult teeth.
How To Tell If You Have The Right Food
No matter how much research you do into the quality of the kitten food, you won’t know if it is a winner until you start feeding it to your kitty. There are a few things to keep an eye on when determining if your kitten is thriving on their food.
- How does your kitten behave? Does he or she seem healthy and alert? Playful? Active? These are all indications that your kitten is getting the right nutrients.
- How is your kitten looking? Do you see bright eyes? A clean and glossy coat? Has your kitten been gaining weight steadily? Does he or she seem healthy overall?
If the answer to all of those questions was yes, your kitten food is probably doing its job. On the other hand, if you said no to even one of those questions, it may be time to shop around for a new food. Your kitten’s veterinarian is an invaluable resource for choosing the best food.
Kittens need a lot of food to give them the energy to play and grow. They cannot eat very much in one sitting, so they will need to eat several small meals a day. If you can’t be around to provide this then consider making use of an automatic cat feeder. These work by timing meals to preset portions, perfect for when you’re out of the house between meal times.
Free-feeding can lead to obesity with most pets, but while your cat is young it is considered perfectly acceptable. This only works with dry food, of course, because wet food will spoil if left out too long.
Leaving out dry food can make sure your kitten can stop for a snack whenever they need the boost. Once they get older, you will want to start feeding even dry food on a schedule.
If you are only using wet food, you will need to feed your kitten four times a day. If you are leaving dry food out for them to snack on, you can cut that down to two or three. Getting enough calories is essential for your kitten’s development.
Be sure to always provide plenty of fresh water as well. Your kitten’s kidneys, as well as the rest of their bodies, need to stay well-hydrated.
Our Final Conclusion
Your kitten is likely providing you with great joy and companionship. It is up to you to keep them happy and healthy while they are busy growing. Feeding several meals of high-protein food and the right vitamins and minerals is one of the best things you can do for them.
After the first year of life, it will be time to start researching the best adult food for your kitten. In the meantime, use this guide to choose the best wet and dry foods for your kitten!