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25.01.2022

Can kittens eat adult cat food? A comprehensive analysis

Did you catch your kitten munching on their older sibling’s food? Or you bought adult cat food by mistake but didn’t realise it until your kitten had already finished lunch? Some cat parents might not think much of it (as it’s all cat food), but can kittens eat adult cat food?

Untamed tackles this common question and delves into the ins and outs of different types of cat food! You will also learn:

Did mum serve lunch?

Source: Freepik

Can I feed my kitten cat food?

The answer to this question depends on what you consider to be adult cat food.

The following opinions prevail:

  1. Solids
  2. Commercial cat food specifically formulated for adult cats 

Can kittens eat solids?

Kittens shouldn’t eat solids until they start weaning, which is usually between weeks five and eight. 

Look for the following signs to know your kitten is ready to try solid food:

  • Focused vision
  • Good mobility (standing on all fours with erect tail)
  • Increased curiosity and playfulness
  • First teeth (incisors and canines)

Once your kitten is ready to switch to solids, you can start mixing wet or dry cat food with some kitten milk replacer (KMR) or water. For the next 3–5 weeks, you should gradually reduce the liquid in the food until your furry friend switches to solid meals only.

Can kittens eat commercial cat food formulated for adult cats?

Kittens can eat commercial food for adult cats as long as it contains all essential nutrients necessary for a healthy feline diet. But, what about treats for adult cats?

After kittens wean off milk, they can enjoy an occasional treat or two, but keep in mind that treats are not substitutes for meals, especially not for a growing kitten. Even fully developed cats shouldn’t have snacks frequently because the calorie surplus can lead to obesity or various eating disorders.

Why is my kitten so drawn to adult cat food?

Kittens often crave adult cat food because of:

  • Teething—If you left cat biscuits for your older furry friend, a kitten might chew on them during the teething phase because they are hard and tasty
  • Tempting smell—Some manufacturers spice up their food with artificial flavours your curious kitten can’t ignore
  • Mimicking their mother—Kittens look up to their mother, so when they see her munch on food and leave some in the bowl, they'll want to have a taste

What’s the fuss around kittens and adult cat food?

Many experts claim that kittens need more nutrients and calories than adult cats because they are growing and developing rapidly.

The only difference between food for kittens and adult cats is that the former typically contains more calories than the latter. You can feed your kitten adult cat food as long as:

  • Your kitten is ready to eat solids
  • The food is nutritionally complete
  • You portion the meals properly

‘Scuse me! What do you mean by, “this food isn’t for you”?

Source: Pexels

How to choose good cat food

If you’re new to cat parenting, choosing cat food might seem perplexing, so this short guide to what cats eat will help you pick the best products.

What are the options?

Once your kitten is ready to eat solids, you'll have the following options to choose from:

  • Dry food—Typically the most affordable product and the favourite of many cats. If nutritionally adequate, cat biscuits are a great option for kittens but must be moistened with KMR, chicken soup, or broth to compensate for the lack of moisture. Avoid milk (even lactose-free products) as it causes stomach disturbance in cats
  • Wet food—Richer in protein than dry food and easier to chew and swallow, it’s the closest thing to a natural feline diet in texture and moisture content. You can mix it with tiny amounts of KMR to make the transition smoother
  • A mix of wet and dry food—The best option nutrition- and budget-wise. It ensures your kitty gets the benefits of both food types. You can mix them or serve them as separate meals throughout the day
  • Semi-moist food—Despite its convenience, semi-moist food is often packed with sodium, sugar, grains, undefined meat sources, and artificial colouring and flavouring
  • Homemade food—If you have the time to research recipes, consult with your vet, and cook for your kitten, an occasional homemade meal can be a delicious treat

Kitten nutrition basics

To thrive, kittens need the following nutrients:

Nutrient group

Essential nutrients (cats cannot produce them—they get them via food)

Function

Present in

Protein (amino acids)

  • Arginine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Taurine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Generate energy and promote healthy growth

  • Meat
  • Fish

Fat (fatty acids)

  • Linoleic acid (LA)
  • Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA)
  • Arachidonic acid (AA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Support the absorption and utilisation of nutrients, cell integrity, and metabolic regulation

  • Animal fat

Vitamins

  • Niacin (B3)
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D

Improve the functioning of the eyes, liver, brain, joints, and immune system

  • Whole meats
  • Liver
  • Fish oils
  • Supplements

Minerals

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Chloride
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Iodine
  • Selenium

Participate in the formation of essential enzymes, and maintain pH balance, boost nutrient utilisation and oxygen transportation

  • Bones
  • Muscle tissue

Carbohydrates

  • Glucose
  • Fibre

Ensure proper digestion

  • Bone
  • Cartilage
  • Tendon
  • Ligaments

An ideal feline diet contains more than 50% of protein and up to 20% of fat, and the best sources of both are:

  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Shrimp and prawns

An occasional slice of lean deli meats (such as ham) can be a healthy treat and a natural flavour enhancer in regular meals. Carbs should be under 3% in your feline’s diet.

Benefits of choosing quality cat food

Quality cat food products ensure that your kitten:

  • Grows up healthy and strong
  • Doesn’t suffer from nutritional deficiency
  • Enjoys long-term health benefits, such as natural weight regulation and a strong immune response

High-quality products can also help you prevent health conditions, such as:

Untamed works for kittens, adults, and seniors!

Your kitten deserves the best treatment from the very beginning, and we strive to provide it by using:

  • Vet-formulated recipes to ensure our meals are nutritionally complete and suitable for cats of any breed, be it Bengal, Ragdoll, Siamese, Persian, Maine Coon, or British Shorthair, and all age groups, from kittens to seniors
  • Finest human-grade whole meats, fish, and crustaceans farmed and sourced from cruelty-free and dolphin-safe suppliers
  • A dash of chicken broth to provide extra moisture and flavour
  • A gentle preparation method (steaming) to lock in the natural aroma of the ingredients
  • No preservatives, additives, or artificial colours and flavourings
  • No fillers (such as grains) and no known allergens

With a range of jelly and gravy products, you’re sure to find something your kitten will like!

What is this food, and why didn’t you get it sooner?

Image (c) Untamed

Benefits of going Untamed

Cat parents who put their felines on the Untamed diet reported the following positive effects:

When

Improvements

After day one

Consistent potty habits

After two months

More energy (especially during playtime)

After four months

Softer and shinier coat and fewer hairballs

For life

Better immune response

Think your kitten might be too picky? Order our taster pack and let them be the judge of us!

Get your furry friend an Untamed pack they will go wild for

Every cat deserves a tailor-made meal plan, and it's about time you give it to them. All you have to do is go to our online cat food store and:

  1. Answer a few questions about your cat and their taste preferences
  2. Pick a meal plan
  3. Place your order

Untamed's super tasty starter pack will be on your doorstep in a day. You can get a delivery every month and keep your food stock in check. With us, you can always customise, pause, or cancel scheduled cat food deliveries as you wish.

Our planet pledge goes beyond our ethical cat food because we use recyclable packaging and leave a neutral carbon footprint.

Quality cat food never looked so good!

Image (c) Untamed

How to prevent your kitten from stealing your adult cat’s food

Adult cat food is not dangerous for kittens, but they shouldn't eat as much as they want. If you have more than one cat, it's also vital to teach them to respect their siblings' food.

Here are some tips on keeping your cats disciplined and well-mannered:

  • Establishing separate feeding schedules
  • Setting up feeding areas in different rooms
  • Monitoring your feline companions during mealtime

If that kitten lays their paw on my food again...

Source: Freepik

More cat parenting basics

We created a practical guide to help first-time cat parents take care of their furry friends. You can learn about:

  • Weight tracking
  • Ways to motivate a stubborn weaner to eat
  • How to switch your kitten from one type of food to another
  • Signs warning you to visit the vet
  • Foods to avoid

Kitten weight chart

The best way to monitor your kitten’s growth is to keep track of their weight.

The following table shows approximate weight ranges and recommended daily food intake for your kitten’s first weeks:

Weeks

Approximate weight

Recommended daily intake (for formula)

One

50–150 grams

30 ml

Two

150–250 grams

60 ml

Three

250–350 grams

90 ml

Four

350–450 grams

120 ml

Five

450–550 grams

150 ml

Six to nine

550–850 grams

180–270 ml (less if mixed with solid food)

Should your kitten start losing weight, you must notify your veterinarian immediately since weight loss in kittens can be a symptom of the fading kitten syndrome (FKS), often fatal but curable if discovered early.

Handling stubborn weaners

Sometimes, kittens have a hard time separating from their mums or adjusting to new tastes. If your kitten is struggling with weaning and rejecting wet food, don’t be discouraged!

The following methods can help you get your kitten used to solids:

  • Start off small—Add a teaspoon of solid food into KMR and increase the amount every two days
  • Serve the mixture in a shallow dish—Your kitten might have a hard time reaching the food if you’re serving it in a deep bowl. When eating from a shallow plate, they’re less likely to make a mess
  • Dip your finger into the mixture and gently rub it around your kitten’s mouth—Scaredy cats need some encouraging but handle your kitten with care to avoid hurting them

Switching foods? Not a problem!

Your kitten got used to one type of food and now refuses to switch to another?

Here’s how to sneak new food into your cat’s diet without them noticing:

  1. Get your cat’s current favourite food and the new brand you want to introduce
  2. Mix 90% of the old product with 10% of new food
  3. Mix 10% more every day until the new product has no traces of the old one

If your cat starts getting suspicious, reduce the amount of new food and slow down the process. In case your feline needs additional motivation, you can always:

  • Add a dash of soup, broth, homemade gravy, or special pet food spices to your cat’s food
  • Warm up the meal before serving
  • Try moving the dish around the house to see which spot works best

When to rush to the vet

Kittens are fragile creatures. What would be a mild issue for a cat could be life-threatening for your kitten’s sensitive organism. 

If you notice any of the following symptoms(especially after giving new food to your kitten), you should take your furry companion to the vet immediately:

A quick reaction could increase the chances of your kitten’s recovery and potentially prevent a lethal outcome.

Kitten food no-nos

Cat food is compatible with the feline digestive tract, but if you decide to treat your kitten to some human food, or cook their meals yourself, avoid the following products:

Ingredient

Harmful components

What happens post-ingestion

Dairy products (such as milk and cheese)

Lactose and 

casein

  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as gas, nausea, cramps, diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Allergic reactions, recognisable by itchy skin and swollen eyes
  • Obesity
  • Kidney failure
  • Pancreatitis

Coffee and products containing cacao powder (such as chocolate)

Theobromine and caffeine

  • Increased heart rate
  • Bloating
  • Unrest
  • Fluid loss
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Seizures
  • Increased bladder activity
  • Arrhythmia
  • Disorientation
  • Increased body temperature
  • Blue gums
  • Tremors
  • Death

Alcoholic beverages

Ethanol

  • Ataxia
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Recumbency
  • Tachycardia
  • Hypothermia
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Coconuts

Oil and potassium

  • Diarrhoea
  • Hepatic lipidosis
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Pancreatitis

Raw yeast

Ethanol and carbon dioxide

  • Disorientation
  • Bloating
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)
  • Ataxia
  • Death

Allium vegetables (dried and raw)

Organosulphoxides

  • Nausea
  • Oral irritation
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Damage to erythrocytes (red blood cells)

Skin, stems, and seeds of pears, apples, plums, and cherries

Cyanide

  • Drooling
  • Teary eyes
  • Nausea
  • Explosive diarrhoea
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle spasms

Grapes and raisins

Tannine, mycotoxin, pesticides

  • Extreme thirst
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Kidney failure

Check out our other guides to what cats can or cannot eat:

Sausage

Ice cream

Moths

Frogs

Peppermint oil

Cake

Beans

Mayo

Baby food

Broccoli

Almond milk

Sugar

Cucumber

Sweet potato

Honey

Peanuts

Porridge

Coconut

Raw chicken

Eggs

Bananas

Nuts

Blueberries

Crisps

Rice

Peanut butter

Pasta

Bones

Garlic

Potatoes

Carrots

Vegetables

Raspberries

Pineapple

Onions

Oranges

Chicken

Pork

Raw meat

Apples

Soy milk

Mushrooms

Pumpkin

Slugs

Turkey

Mango

Birds

Peas

Chocolate

Cheese

Bacon

Grapes

Bread

Lactose-free milk

Liver

Sweetcorn

Avocado

Tomatoes

Strawberries

Catnip

Ham

Popcorn

Olive oil

 

 

Busting famous cat food-related myths

With an abundance of info on cat food available, you can come across preposterous claims. 

Here are some popular myths related to cat food and the truth behind them:

  1. High-protein cat food is always good—You should strive to feed your kitten a high-protein diet only if the protein is sourced from animals. As obligate carnivores, cats lack the enzymes necessary to break down and absorb plant protein, so vegan cat food should be off the table
  2. All organic and all-natural products are good—These labels can be deceiving if you don’t check the ingredient list. Organic and all-natural means nothing if the food doesn’t contain enough meat
  3. All meat derivatives are waste—The term is vague, so you can't know whether the manufacturer uses real meat or hooves, beaks, and other slaughterhouse scraps. Even though meat derivatives don’t have to be junk, stick to products with clearly stated meat source to be on the safe side
  4. Raw food is better for cats—Wild cats thrive on raw meat because they eat fresh prey. Raw meat we give to domesticated cats has been refrigerated and can be full of bacteria and other parasites. Improper preparation and storage of raw meat (the most popular option being chicken) can lead to contamination with E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. Raw bones are another major concern as they can cause internal and external injuries