Fresh Feeding Checklist for Kittens

October 26, 2023

By Sarah Griffiths, DCH

Has a kitten joined your family? Congratulations! They are one of the most adorable and loving creatures to have in your home. Cats are extremely unique in their nutritional needs and modern feeding techniques for cats or proving to be problematic, especially as cats age. Today’s article is about how to get started with raw feeding for kittens. It’s the best insurance policy you can have to set them up for a healthy life.

What is an obligate carnivore?

Before we get started on feeding – let’s define your kitten. Your kitten is a obligate carnivore.

This means that they are highly specialized meat eaters that have evolved genetically to eat a prey-based diet. They have lost some of the metabolic pathways the dogs and humans use to convert nutrients from plant-based food. They are also genetically programmed to obtain most of their daily water intake from food. It is PARAMOUNT that you keep this in mind as you feed your new kitten. If you are uncomfortable feeding meat, a cat might be the wrong pet for you…..

Banfield Veterinary State of Pet Health report outlines the most common diseases affecting companion cats:

-obesity

-diabetes

-kidney disease

-osteoarthritis

-dental disease

If we zoom out, these diseases are all greatly influenced by diet. To prevent illness, we need to feed kittens and cats in a way that supports them rather than hindering their health. Highly processed dry foods will contribute to all of the above illnesses. Start your kitten off with the right diet and you will be doing your kitty and your wallet a big favor! Cats are uncomplicated when you feed them what they need: unprocessed – REAL – cat-appropriate food!

The Myth: Kittens Shouldn’t Eat Fresh Diets

Have you been told by an animal care professional that feeding fresh food to your kitten will cause nutritional deficiencies? While there are cases of deficiency associated with poorly formulated home-made diets, they can be easily avoided. Additionally, recent studies show a significantly better rate of digestibility with meat-based diets over processed feeds and healthier microbiomes in cats and kittens (1) (2) I have been feeding kittens and cats fresh food for over 20 years with my own recipes with no developmental issues! In fact, my cats and my client’s cats are thriving on diets made mostly from fresh grocery store ingredients.

There are some simple guidelines you need to follow if you want to do it right.

Fresh Food Checklist for Healthy Kittens and Cats

Here are 5 simple rules to follow to ensure your kitten is properly fed.

  1. DITCH THE KIBBLE! Just like human kids, forming healthy eating habits starts in childhood. Whatever they learn to eat as young animals, they will habituate to in adulthood. That’s why it’s so important to start them off with fresh food as early as possible. It is much harder to switch and adult cat to raw than it is to start your kitten onto it. Cats become “addicted” to dry food and it can be really hard to convince them to change when they are older and set in their ways. While it’s not impossible to switch them, it is a much longer process. Processed carbs are not appropriate for kittens or cats or anyone for that matter!
  2. MIND YOUR CALCIUM LEVELS – This is one mineral that is most often lacking in home-made raw diets. The number one source of calcium in the raw diet is raw bone. Feed poultry or rabbit with ground bone at least 4 days per week. It is easy to keep the calcium levels in your kitten’s diet this way. When feeding meats without bone, be sure to add a food grade steamed bone meal supplement at 1 tsp per lb of meat. IMPORTANT TIP: Egg shell calcium and calcium supplements are NOT appropriate for growing kittens. It must be bone meal which has a balanced calcium : phosphorus ratio for growing animals.
  3. ROTATE FOODS – To make sure your kitten gets a wide range of minerals and vitamins, use a variety of Use as many different proteins as your cat will eat. Rotating through different food brands and recipes is a great method since formula ingredients differ and give more nutritional variance.
  4. BALANCE FATS – Your kitten needs energy from fat so when you’re purchasing commercial raw food or making your own recipe, the fat analysis should be, on average, between 8-11% crude fat (as fed). Make sure you are not under or overfeeding fat to your kitten. If you’re making your own food, be sure to know the fat content of the meats you’re using so you are not over or under-feeding saturated fats. You will also need to add unsaturated fats to your cat’s diet (see below). OMEGA 3 FATS – Omega 3 fats are lacking in most commercial and home-made recipes. It’s an important addition to ensure healthy growth and inflammatory reduction. My favoritie method is to use a rotation of: krill oil, canned sardines (packed in water – NOT OIL!), cod liver oil, calamari oil and mackerel or sardine oil.
  5. PAY ATTENTION TO TAURINE LEVELS – Cats have a dietary need for the amino acid taurine – their bodies cannot make it from other amino acids like dogs can. Turkey and chicken are adequate in taurine. But…. If your cat can’t or won’t eat these, you’ll need to add a supplement. Hooved animals – eg. beef, venison, and lamb are low in taurine. Rabbit is also low. Be sure to add 250 mg of free-form to your cat’s daily meal schedule with non-poultry meals.

I hope this helps you to set your kitten on a life-long path of health and happiness!

Stay tuned for my can and kitten recipe E-book and food extras cheat sheet coming late 2023.

Resources:

  1. Apparent nutrient digestibility of two raw diets in domestic kittens, Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2015
  2. Evaluation of four raw meat diets using domestic cats, captive exotic felids, and cecectomized roosters, University of Illinois Animal Science Department, 2014