Many cat owners know that keeping their cats slim is one of the best things they can do to support their long-term health. That can lead a lot of new kitten owners to worry about feeding habits and try to figure out the best schedule for keeping their kittens skinny. The problem is that kittens are baby animals, and like most baby animals, they have a lot of growing to do and need a lot of food to do it. So, can a kitten overeat?
A kitten can’t overeat. From the time your kitten is born until about 4-6 months old, they are in a period of rapid growth. Their growth will slow down a little at that point, but they may still have periods of faster growth and bigger appetites until they are 1-2 years old, depending on the breed.
All that growth means that it would be very hard for a kitten to overeat and that it’s essential to give them as much food and nutritional support as they want during that time. Here’s what you need to know about kitten eating habits and how you can best take care of your kitten’s food while they are growing up.
How Often Should I Feed My Kitten
Adult cats often need to go on a set feeding schedule to avoid getting overweight or developing weight-related health problems. That isn’t necessarily true for kittens, though.
Many vets recommend you don’t have a specific feeding schedule for your kitten. Instead, you should free-feed your kitten if possible. That way, they have easy access to food when they want it.
Free feeding your kitten can also have other health benefits in addition to supporting their growth. For one thing, free-feeding can help encourage your kitten to chew their food instead of gulping it down quickly. Free feeding helps with chewing because your kitten won’t ever feel too hungry or like they need to eat as fast as possible to compete for a limited food supply.
Can A Kitten Eat Too Much
From birth to about four months old, kittens really can’t overeat. Even if they get a little overweight during that time, they will probably take the weight off as they grow and get older. So you shouldn’t worry too much if your kitten starts to have a bit of a belly when they are this age.
As your kitten gets a little older, paying attention to their weight may become more critical.
Most teenage kittens are naturally slim, but if your cat is still chunky when they hit the leggy phase, you may want to consult with your vet. It could be that your kitten needs to cut back a bit, but you may also want to switch to a more nutritious food or have your kitten checked for metabolic problems.
Of course, your vet may tell you that your kitten is a little chunkier than normal as a teenager but that they’ll likely outgrow it as they get older.
How Much Should A Kitten Eat In A Day
The exact amount of food your kitten needs to eat in a day can vary a lot depending on what kind of food you’re feeding and how calorie-dense it is.
A weaned 8-week-old kitten usually needs ¼ cup to 1/3 cup of food every day, depending on the calories in the food. If you choose to feed wet food, you may need to adjust that amount more than with kibble since the caloric content of wet food can vary more than other kinds of food.
As your kitten gets older, their food requirements will increase until they are about six months old. Then, once your cat has finished growing and is an adult, its food needs may decrease.
It’s also important to pay attention to what kind of food you feed your kitten. If you give your kitten a kitten specialty food, they may need less of it. That’s because kitten foods are usually more calorie-dense and nutritious. Adult cat foods are a little less calorie dense to help your cat feel full while maintaining optimal weight.
If you give your kitten a combination of different foods and treats, you may need to slightly adjust the amount of food depending on what you’re feeding each day. Remember that treats usually have more calories than regular kibble and may not be nutritionally balanced.
How Much Wet Food Should You Feed Your Kitten
Once your kitten is about eight weeks old, you have the choice of feeding them kibble, wet food, or both. Wet food is usually the better option because it helps keep your kitten hydrated, in addition to giving them the nutrition they need.
It’s also a little easier to give your kitten a variety of flavors and textures if you’re feeding wet food.
But we also know it can be harder to feed wet food all the time, and many of the best wet food varieties are more expensive than kibble. That’s a big part of why many cat owners choose to feed a mix of kibble at wet food.
You don’t have to feed your kitten wet food at all unless you want to. Wet food can help support their overall health, but you can also help your kitten stay hydrated by providing plenty of clean water in different places throughout your home.
If you want to feed wet food, it’s a good idea to aim for at least once a day, or at least 1/3rd of your kitten’s total diet. Wet food can also be all you feed your kitten, though it’s essential to choose a reputable brand that provides lots of high-quality protein and other nutrients.
You can also consult with your vet if you’re looking for good food options and aren’t sure where to start. They may be able to recommend specific brands or formulas that will make sure your kitten gets everything they need.
What Does A Big Belly Mean On A Kitten
A big belly can have a lot of meanings depending on your kitten’s age. For instance, young kittens might have a big belly for a couple of hours after eating but slim down some as they digest their meals. As your kitten gets older, their stomach won’t change quite as much when they eat, but it may still look a bit bigger after they’ve had a big meal.
You can use your kitten’s stomach as a way of judging whether they like their food (a big belly is a sign of approval!) and to see how often they’re eating if you’re free feeding.
A consistently big belly is a little different, though. When your kitten puts on a little extra weight, it may be a sign that they are getting ready to grow. In that case, they’ll probably get skinny again a few days or a week or two later.
Big bellies can also be a sign of something being wrong, though. In rare situations, your kitten may have a big belly because of a medical condition. It’s more likely that they’re eating a little too much, though. Overeating kibble and having a constant big belly can be a sign that your kibble or wet food isn’t nutritious enough for your kitten, so they’re trying to eat more to compensate.
Big bellies and a tendency to eat more food can also be common in kittens born feral or rescued after being abandoned or neglected. Controlling your kitten’s portion sizes and feeding them smaller but more frequent meals can be an excellent way to help deal with behavioral overeating.
Can You Overfeed Kitten Formula
Once your kitten is old enough to be weaned, they usually don’t need kitten formula anymore. Formula is most helpful for kittens abandoned by their mother or who need to be separated from their mother too soon. In some cases, you may want to use formula to supplement nursing kittens from large litters since their mother may not make enough milk to go around.
But usually, by the time you have adopted a kitten and brought them home, they don’t need formula anymore. You can continue to give them formula for a little while or use it to transition them to regular food, but formula can’t support your kitten’s growth for long.
It’s definitely possible to overfeed your kitten formula, but you can also cause nutritional problems as they get bigger since cat’s milk and formula are only nutritionally balanced for newborns.
If you’re raising newborn kittens and don’t know when to switch or are struggling to get your kitten to accept regular cat food, you should consult with your vet to see what options you have to help them.
Things To Consider
Paying attention to your kitten’s weight is essential, but the most crucial part is making sure they keep growing and gaining weight over time. Until your kitten reaches their full growth, they’ll need extra calories to help them grow and maintain good joint health, healthy fur, and good muscle development.
Giving your kitten enough food is also crucial for their behavior. If your kitten’s personality or behavior changes suddenly, it may signify that they aren’t getting something they need from their food.
Anytime you’re really concerned about your kitten’s weight, too low or too high, it’s essential to consult with your vet. They’ll help you decide if your concerns are needed and give you solutions if there is a problem.