Cats

The 6 Best Kitten Foods

April 1, 2020
Mallory Crusta

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The 6 Best Kitten Foods

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With plenty of calories and the right levels of key amino acids, minerals, and fatty acids, the best kitten food has what it takes to keep your kitten growing and thriving.

Because it’s a nutritionally intense food that uses high-quality ingredients and nourishes your kitten like the little carnivore he is, we recommend Wellness CORE Kitten Turkey & Chicken Liver Recipe as the overall best kitten food you can buy.

At a Glance: Best Kitten Foods To Buy

We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.

IMAGE PRODUCT
  • Rich in nourishing animal-derived ingredients
  • Calorie-dense to fuel your kitten’s rapid growth
  • A good source of DHA for brain and eye development
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  • Appears to feature high-quality protein sources
  • Contains salmon as a source of DHA
  • Has a soft consistency that’s easy for very young kittens to eat
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  • Rich in highly-digestible, nutritionally dense muscle meat, organs, and bones
  • Contains a species-appropriate source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • A low carbohydrate alternative to traditional dry foods
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  • Relatively low in carbohydrates compared to other dry foods
  • Rich in species-appropriate animal protein
  • Contains fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids
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  • Features animal-derived proteins as its main ingredients
  • Contains salmon oil as a source of DHA
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
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Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Real Healthy Kitten Recipe Canned Cat Food Best for Sensitive Stomach

What Are The Qualities Of The Best Kitten Food?

To make sure that your kitten is eating a diet that meets all of his nutritional needs, look for foods that have met the nutritional requirements for his life stage.

Kitten-appropriate diets will have a nutritional adequacy statement telling you that they’re formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) for “all life stages” or “growth and reproduction”.

After ensuring that the food meets that baseline requirement, start considering other factors, like species-appropriateness, ingredient quality, and cost-effectiveness.

Here’s a closer look at some of the qualities of great kitten food.

The best kitten food is rich in ultra-digestible protein.

Protein is the most important macronutrient in a cat’s diet. Because their bodies are doing such important work, kittens need even more protein than adult cats. They also need higher-quality protein. This means that the best kitten food is rich in protein that comes from animals. Ideally, those animal sources should be high-quality and easy to digest.

When choosing the best kitten food on the market, we looked for foods that emphasized ingredients like turkey, chicken, beef, and lamb. These clearly-named meat ingredients are rich in protein and species-appropriate. They’re also usually higher-quality than vaguely-named byproducts and rendered meals.

It’s calorie-dense to support your kitten’s rapid growth.

Compared to adult cats, kittens need more calories per pound of bodyweight. An 8-week-old kitten might eat 280 calories per day—a hundred more daily calories than a cat three times his size might consume.

When mighty appetites are combined with little bellies, it’s important to think in terms of calorie density. A calorie-dense food allows you to feed your kitten small meals while packing a big calorie punch.

The best kitten food supports brain and eye development with species-appropriate sources of DHA.

Cats require several essential fatty acids (fatty acids not produced by the body), some of which are particularly important during kittenhood.

One of the most important fatty acids for kittens is the omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. This fatty acid plays a critical role in brain and eye development—it’s a must-have in any kitten food.

For your carnivorous kitten, fish and fish oils are the best sources of this omega-3.  Look for foods that contain salmon oil, menhaden fish oil, or other animal-derived sources of this fatty acid.

It has the right levels of key vitamins and minerals.

In contrast to adults, young cats require a different ratio of calcium to phosphorus and slightly higher levels of vitamin A. Almost any food marketed for kittens will have the right levels of these minerals.

The Best Kitten Food: Our Top 5 Picks

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

Product Info:

  • Protein: 12% Min
  • Fat: 7.5% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: All Life Stages
  • Type: Canned/Paté
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Rich in nourishing animal-derived ingredients
  • Calorie-dense to fuel your kitten’s rapid growth
  • A good source of DHA for brain and eye development
  • Has a soft consistency that’s easy for kittens to eat
  • Doesn’t contain any additives that might harm your kitten over time
  • The food is calorie-dense to keep your kitten energized, satisfied, and healthy

Cons:

  • Contains a few plant ingredients that aren’t necessary for your kitten’s health

This kitten food from Wellness CORE has all the qualities we look for.

With turkey, chicken liver, and chicken its main ingredients, the paté is primarily made from high-quality, hyper-nourishing animal protein sources. It contains menhaden fish oil as a species-appropriate source of that all-important DHA. And with very few plant ingredients, the food remains low in carbohydrates and looks like the type of meat-centric food your carnivore needs.

Runner Up: Instinct by Nature’s Variety Kitten Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe

Product Info:

  • Protein: 12% Min
  • Fat: 6.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Growth
  • Type: Canned/Paté
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Appears to feature high-quality protein sources
  • Contains salmon as a source of DHA
  • Has a soft consistency that’s easy for very young kittens to eat

Cons:

  • Some kittens don’t like this food

This food from Instinct by Nature’s Variety is a soft, creamy paté that meets all of your kitten’s dietary needs. It’s made with chicken, beef liver, and salmon as its main sources of protein. Salmon also serves as a source of DHA.

Overall, this is a protein-rich, low-carbohydrate food that honors your kitten’s needs as a carnivore.

With about 34 calories per ounce, the food is relatively high in calories and is appropriate for your high-energy kitten.

Best Budget: Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Canned Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 11% Min
  • Fat: 5.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Growth
  • Type: Canned/Paté
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Rich in highly-digestible, nutritionally dense muscle meat, organs, and bones
  • Contains a species-appropriate source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • A low carbohydrate alternative to traditional dry foods

Cons:

  • Contains milk, which may irritate some kittens

If you want to give your kitten a nourishing diet on a budget, you might want to try this recipe from Fancy Feast. It’s not perfect—the use of artificial flavors, colors, and meat by-products make that clear—but it’s not terrible, either.

The food has a meat-rich recipe that emphasizes animal ingredients above all else. It’s primarily made from turkey, liver, and meat-by-products. Though the use of vaguely-named liver and by-products call quality into question, these are nonetheless high-protein ingredients that nourish your kitten according to his carnivorous needs.

With 95 calories in each can, this food is relatively calorie-dense to support your kitten’s growth.

Best Dry: Simply Nourish Source Chicken & Turkey Recipe High-Protein Grain-Free Kitten Dry Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 40% Min
  • Fat: 20% Min
  • Fiber: 5.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Growth
  • Type: Dry
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Relatively low in carbohydrates compared to other dry foods
  • Rich in species-appropriate animal protein
  • Contains fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids

Cons:

  • Like all dry foods, this product doesn’t have enough moisture to keep your kitten hydrated
    Excessive carbohydrate content

Regardless of their age, cats do best on a high-moisture diet. Water-rich food helps to fill the hydration gap that the water bowl doesn’t satisfy, while dry food leaves your cat prone to chronic dehydration. In addition to being moisture-depleted, dry cat food is often extremely high in carbohydrates, potentially contributing to your cat’s risk of developing diabetes later in life.

Because kittenhood is the best time to establish good habits, why not avoid creating a kibble addict while it’s still easy? While dry cat food isn’t the best option for kittens, this product from Simply Nourish’s Source line is one of the better products in the category.

While it’s still moisture-deficient and plant-heavy, the food manages to pack a nice protein punch with deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal its first three ingredients. The food contains fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids and is relatively low in carbohydrates compared to other dry foods.

Best for Sensitive Stomach: Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Real Healthy Kitten Recipe Canned Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 9.0% Min
  • Fat: 4.0% Min
  • Fiber: 3.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Canned/Paté
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Features animal-derived proteins as its main ingredients
  • Contains salmon oil as a source of DHA
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
  • Doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Cons:

  • Contains multiple protein sources, so it’s not right for every sensitive kitten

Our last recommendation is this food from Whole Earth Farms. It’s a paté-style food that features chicken, chicken liver, and dried egg product as its main sources of protein.

All are highly-digestible, species-appropriate ingredients. The food contains salmon oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA for brain and eye development.

It’s a species-appropriate, meat-based diet that honors your kitten’s need as a carnivore.

This food receives glowing customer reviews, with many customers saying that it helped to relieve their kittens’ digestive issues.
In general, growing cats should eat a kitten-specific diet from the time they’re weaned until they’re about a year old.

Your kitten’s needs will differ depending on their breed and unique growth rate.

If you’re not sure whether or not your kitten is ready for an adult diet, remember that you can always opt for a diet formulated for “all life stages”.

Best for Kittens: Nulo Adult & Kitten Turkey & Chicken Recipe Canned Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 11% Min
  • Fat: 6.5% Min
  • Fiber: 0.75% Max
  • Life Stage: All Life Stages
  • Type: Kitten, Adult
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Rich in highly-digestible protein
  • Contains menhaden fish oil as a source of DHA
  • Low carbohydrate content

Cons:

  • Contains some plant ingredients

This food from Nulo meets AAFCO guidelines for both adults and kittens. It contains a mix of turkey, chicken, turkey liver, and tuna. Menhaden fish oil serves as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for kittens and beneficial for Ragdolls of all ages.

With plenty of protein, moderate fat levels, and minimal carbohydrate content, this food delivers everything your Ragdoll needs at any stage of life.

Can Adult Cats Eat Kitten Food?

Adult cats can eat kitten food, but it’s not always the best choice. Remember that adult cats have different nutritional requirements on multiple fronts. Compared to kittens, they need less phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and other micronutrients.

They also have lower calorie needs, meaning that kitten food may be too rich and could lead to unwanted weight gain.

While this caloric intensity can be too much for some adult cats, it’s just right for others. If you have an adult cat who’s underweight and needs to put on some pounds, kitten food might be just what they need.

Mallory Crusta

Mallory Crusta is a blogger and adventurecat enthusiast who brings you the facts about cat products, wellness, and care. She's the co-founder of Wildernesscat, a resource for savvy cat guardians who want to give their felines richer, healthier lives. Visit Wildernesscat for product reviews, radically natural nutrition tips, and lifestyle inspiration
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