The 8 Best Kitten Foods Of 2022

Medically reviewed by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
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Our Review Process

Our reviews are based on extensive research and, when possible, hands-on testing. Each time you make a purchase through one of our independently-chosen links, we’ll receive a percentage of the proceeds. Read more about how we’re supported here.

Like your kitten himself, the best kitten food packs plenty of energy in a small package. It’s calorie-dense, rich in protein, and loaded with omega-3s to support brain and eye development. But not every food marketed for kittens is worthy of your baby’s bowl.

In this article, we’ll discuss the unique nutritional needs of kittens and help you determine which diet is best for your bundle of joy.

At A Glance: Best Kitten Foods Of 2022

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In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important features of each product. You’ll find more detailed information about each product later in the article.

Overall Best
9.8
Picked by 3 people today!

Wellness CORE Kitten Turkey & Chicken Liver Recipe Canned Food

  • One of the most protein-packed kitten foods on the market
  • Ultra-soft pate texture is easy for kittens to eat
  • Calorie-dense recipe to fuel growth and development
Runner Up
9.8
Picked by 3 people today!

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Kitten Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Canned Food

  • Rich in animal-based protein from chicken, beef, and salmon
  • Soft canned food offers palatable texture and hydration
  • Very low carbohydrate content
Best Fresh Food
9.7
Picked by 25 people today!

Smalls Ground Other Bird Human Grade Fresh Cat Food

  • Single source of high-quality animal protein
  • Rich in moisture to support your kitten’s hydration
  • Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
Best Ethically Sourced
9.7
Picked by 31 people today!

Open Farm Wild-Caught Salmon Dry Food

  • Wild Pacific salmon as the first ingredient
  • Supplemented with two concentrated sources of animal protein
  • Herring and salmon oils for omega fatty acids
Budget Pick
7.9
Picked by 2 people today!

Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Canned Cat Food

  • Features high-quality animal protein as the main ingredient
  • Hydrating canned food with a strong reputation for palatability
  • One of the most affordable options for kitten food
Best Mid-Price Pick
8.9
Picked by 2 people today!

Wellness Complete Health Kitten Chicken Entrée Pate Canned Food

  • Made primarily with animal-based protein sources
  • Contains menhaden fish oil for DHA
  • Highly palatable and hydrating canned food
Best for Weight Gain
8.0
Picked by 2 people today!

Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet Kitten Chicken Entrée Canned Food

  • Made primarily from nourishing sources of animal protein
  • Hydrating and highly palatable canned food
  • Calorie-dense at 122 calories per 3-ounce can
Best Dry Kitten Food
7.5
Picked by 1 people today!

Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe Dry Cat Food

  • Composed of 81% animal ingredients, including animal fat
  • Calorie-dense to support healthy kitten growth
  • Contains animal-based omega-3s for eye and brain development

Top Picks Explained

Why You Should Trust Us

To write this guide, we started by identifying kittens’ core nutritional needs, reviewing over 162 different cat food brands, reading customer reviews, speaking with market insiders, and testing foods hands-on.

We also consulted 7 veterinarians to get their professional opinion on what makes a great cat food.

Our Veterinary Advisors

At the top of that list is Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pâté.  This canned food has everything your kitten needs without excessive carbs, colors, and other additives. It receives positive customer reviews and comes from a trusted company.

Keep reading to learn more about your kitten’s nutritional requirements and how we chose the best kitten foods on the market.

Here’s What We Looked for In the Best Kitten Food

When we asked about his recommendations for the best kitten food, Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH emphasized that “it’s very important to choose a food formulated for kittens because they require different nutrients for growth. Kittens require more calories per day than adult cats. These calories go into growth as well as the higher level of activity kittens have. Kittens generally have double the calorie needs per day compared to an adult cat. Kitten foods also have a different ratio of minerals compared to adult foods to assist with their bone growth.”

In addition to looking for foods that were properly formulated for kittens, we sought products with certain key qualities, including high protein and fat content, appropriate levels of DHA, and more.

This is in line with veterinarian Dr. Chyrle Bonk’s recommendations. She explained that “you’ll want to make sure any kitten food is fortified with DHA for healthy brain development,” adding that “kitten food should also be higher in protein and fat than the adult version in order to fuel their growing bodies, and choose one with smaller-sized kibble so that they can easily get their tiny mouths around it.”

We Looked for Species-Appropriate Foods

We looked for foods that honor kittens’ nutritional needs, emphasizing meat ingredients over plants. All of the foods on the following list are rich in animal-sourced protein and keep carbohydrate content low. We looked for foods that were at least 50% protein and less than 10% carbohydrate, measured on a dry matter basis.

We Disqualified Foods That Contain Potentially Harmful Ingredients

Meanwhile, we avoided products that contained unnecessary or potentially harmful ingredients. These include fillers, starches, artificial colors, chemical preservatives, and sweeteners.

And We Gave Preference To High-Moisture Foods

Because hydration is so important for kittens and cats of all ages, we paid special attention to high-moisture foods. Moisture content is much higher in wet kitten foods than in dry kitten foods.

Hydration is essential, but it’s not enough to put a bowl of water alongside your kitten’s kibble.

Like all cats, kittens aren’t exactly eager to drink a lot of water. They may not want to drink out of the bowl. Even if they do drink water, they seldom take in enough water to keep their systems in top condition. This makes a high-moisture diet for kittens almost essential. Canned, wet, and other moisture-rich foods help prevent urinary tract issues and promote good overall health.

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In addition to performing our own qualitative analysis of the brands reviewed here, we submitted samples for analysis at an ISO 17025 certified food testing and analysis lab.

We bought the products at full retail price, and the entire testing process was funded by AllAbout Cats without direct input or influence from the companies involved.

Analytical testing in a food chemistry lab gives us the exact macronutrient and
micronutrient content of each recipe. The tests also look at microbial content, yeast, mold, and heavy metals, helping you ensure that you’re putting only the best in your cat’s bowl.

To access the lab reports for each food reviewed here, click the “view lab report” link in the product review.

The Best Healthy Kitten Food Reviewed: Our Top 8 Recommendations

kittens food

Now that we know what to look for in kitten food, let’s explore our top eight picks for the best kitten food on the market.

#1 Overall Best: Wellness CORE Kitten Turkey & Chicken Liver Recipe Canned Food Review

Wellness CORE Natural Canned Cat Food

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Our top pick is the high-protein wet cat food from Wellness CORE. It’s a meat-based formula packed with animal-based ingredients, including turkey, chicken liver, chicken meat, and chicken meal.

While some people write off chicken meal as inferior to so-called “real chicken” and put it in the same category as poultry by-products, those criticisms don’t hold up to examination. Chicken meal appears to be just as nutritious and digestible as any other chicken product. In fact, it packs a harder protein and calorie punch—which is exactly what your growing kitten needs.

The inclusions of herring and menhaden fish oil make the food a good source of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that contributes to brain and eye development in kittens.

Though it’s grain-free with no potatoes or soy, this pâté contains small amounts of certain plant ingredients, including ground flaxseed, dried kelp, chicory root extract, and alfalfa meal.

Though these ingredients aren’t essential in a carnivorous diet, they have a few benefits for kittens. Chicory root extract, for example, is a prebiotic. Along with probiotics, this type of fiber could help support digestive and immune system health.

Each 3 oz. can contains 108 calories, which is about average across all kitten formulas.

Ingredients:

Turkey, Chicken Liver, Turkey Broth, Chicken, Chicken Meal, Herring, Natural Flavor, Cranberries, Menhaden Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Guar Gum, Tricalcium Phosphate, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Dried Kelp, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Alfalfa Meal, Salt, Magnesium Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 12%
Crude Fat: 6%
Crude Fiber: 1%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 54.55%
Fat: 27.27%
Fiber: 4.55%
Carbs: 13.64%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 40.58%
Fat: 49.28%
Carbs: 10.14%

What We Liked:

  • One of the most protein-packed kitten foods on the market
  • Ultra-soft pâté texture is easy for kittens to eat
  • Calorie-dense recipe to fuel growth and development
  • Rich in moisture for optimal hydration
  • Supplemented with fish oil as a source of DHA

What We Didn’t Like:

  • A little more expensive than many kitten foods
  • Contains some plant ingredients

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

Instinct by Nature's Variety Kitten Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food small

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This kitten food from Nature’s Instinct is made primarily from wholesome animal ingredients and is rich in the amino acids that help your kitten to thrive. The first ingredient is chicken, and it contains salmon as a natural source of DHA, a fatty acid with a role in brain and eye development.

This kitten recipe doesn’t contain any of the starches and plant protein that weigh your kitten down and create waste, but it does contain traces of cranberries, pumpkin, tomato, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and parsley.

Overall, however, this food is a low-carb option, with about 9% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis. It is a little more expensive than many kitten foods, but it offers good nutritional quality.

Each 3 oz can contains 103 calories, which is about average for kitten food.

Ingredients:

Chicken, Beef Liver, Chicken Broth, Salmon (Source of DHA), Eggs, Montmorillonite Clay, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Minerals (Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Artichokes, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Tomato, Blueberries, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Parsley

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 12%
Crude Fat: 6%
Crude Fiber: 1%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 54.55%
Fat: 27.27%
Fiber: 4.55%
Carbs: 13.64%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 40.58%
Fat: 49.28%
Carbs: 10.14%

What We Liked:

  • Rich in animal-based protein from chicken, beef, and salmon
  • Soft canned food offers palatable texture and hydration
  • Very low carbohydrate content
  • Rich in DHA for healthy brain and eye development

What We Didn’t Like:

  • A little more expensive than many kitten foods
  • Doesn’t receive consistently positive customer reviews

#3 Best Fresh Food: Smalls Ground Other Bird Human Grade Fresh Cat Food

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Smalls is a fresh cat food subscription service that sends monthly deliveries of protein- and moisture-packed fresh food right to your door. All of their recipes are formulated for cats in all life stages, and their high protein content and concentration of healthy fats fuel your kitten’s growth and development.

This Ground Other Bird recipe features turkey as a single source of high-quality animal protein. Fresh turkey is the first ingredient followed by turkey liver and three plant ingredients. Canola oil is the only source of added fat.

The food is high in moisture to support your kitten’s hydration and it doesn’t contain any animal by-product meals or artificial additives.

Smalls fresh food is a little expensive, but it’s made with human-grade ingredients and frozen at the peak of freshness to preserve its nutritional value. The packages are marked in 1-ounce increments, so it’s easy to portion the food according to your kitten’s calorie requirements.

Each 11.5-ounce package contains 464 calories, which translates to about 40 calories per ounce.

Ingredients

Turkey Thigh, Turkey Liver, Green Beans, Peas, Kale, Tricalcium Phosphate, Canola Oil, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Taurine, Magnesium Sulfate, Niacinamide, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Copper Sulfate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Sulfate, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 23.4%
Crude Fat: 6.6%
Crude Fiber: 0.3%
Moisture: 65.4%
Ash: 0.9%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 67.63%
Fat: 19.08%
Fiber: 0.87%
Carbs: 9.83%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 54.64%
Fat: 37.42%
Carbs: 7.94%

What We Liked:

  • Single source of high-quality animal protein
  • Rich in moisture to support your kitten’s hydration
  • Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
  • Portions are clearly labeled on the package

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains some plant ingredients
  • Only available by subscription

#4 Best Ethically Sourced: Open Farm Wild-Caught Salmon Dry Food

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Your kitten deserves a nutritionally balanced diet that comes from high-quality ingredients, but it’s even better if those ingredients are 100% ethically sourced. Open Farm cat food checks both of these boxes and more, especially in this wild-caught salmon recipe.

This salmon recipe dry food is formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of cats in all life stages, which means it works just as well for your kitten as it does for adult cats. Wild Pacific salmon is the first ingredient, and it is followed by two additional sources of high-quality animal protein: whitefish meal and herring meal.

Not only does this formula contain plenty of animal-based protein, but it contains two sources of omega-rich animal-based fats – herring oil and salmon oil. We’d prefer to see one of these listed ahead of the primary added fat, coconut oil, but we’re happy to see them nonetheless.

The main downside of this formula is its high inclusion of plant-based ingredients. The dry matter carb content is just over 34%, which is higher than average for dry cat food. Also, this recipe doesn’t provide the high-moisture content that your kitten needs.

Each cup of dry food contains 470 calories.

Ingredients:

Wild Pacific Salmon, Ocean Whitefish Meal, Ocean Herring Meal, Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas), Red Lentils, Coconut Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Herring Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Pumpkin, Natural Flavor, Green Lentils, Salmon Oil, Non-GMO Cranberries, Chicory Root, Apples, Dandelion Greens, Choline Chloride, Salt, Turmeric, Dried Yucca Schidigera Extract, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin A Acetate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Taurine, Rosemary Extract

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 41%
Crude Fat: 20%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 8%
Ash: 8%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 44.57%
Fat: 21.74%
Fiber: 3.26%
Carbs: 21.74%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 37.42%
Fat: 44.33%
Carbs: 18.25%

What We Liked:

  • Wild Pacific salmon as the first ingredient
  • Supplemented with two concentrated sources of animal protein
  • Herring and salmon oils for omega fatty acids
  • No animal by-products or vaguely named ingredients

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains a significant number of plant-based ingredients
  • Dry matter carbohydrate content is fairly high at over 34%
  • Doesn’t contain the moisture your kitten needs

#5 Budget Pick: Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Canned Cat Food

Fancy Feast Tender Turkey Feast Kitten Made With Real Milk

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If you’d rather buy your kitten’s food from the grocery than the pet food store, consider this paté from Fancy Feast. This unpretentious formula emphasizes animal ingredients, keeps carbohydrates to a minimum, and has a reputation for palatability.

The recipe isn’t perfect, though. It contains both natural and artificial flavors, includes artificial colors, and uses meat by-products.

Meat by-products are often inaccurately portrayed as bad or unhealthy ingredients. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), by-products are defined as what’s left over after the initial processing of a particular product. These by-products are then processed to kill disease-causing bacteria before being included in pet food.

So, although the word ‘by-product’ sounds off-putting, the presence of by-products in your kitten’s food does not necessarily make it less healthy or lower quality than a by-product-free food.

Another questionable quality of this food is the inclusion of cow’s milk. Most cats, including weaned kittens, are lactose intolerant and may have diarrhea after eating milk. That said, customer reviews suggest that this reaction is rare.

With 95 calories per can, this food is slightly less calorie-dense than some other kitten foods.

Ingredients:

Turkey, Liver, Meat By-Products, Poultry Broth, Milk, Fish, Egg Product, Artificial and Natural Flavors, Tricalcium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Minerals [Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide], Added Color, Salt, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Vitamin A Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Vitamin D-3 Supplement], Taurine. C-6621.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 11%
Crude Fat: 5%
Crude Fiber: 1.5%
Moisture: 78%
Ash: 3.5%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 50%
Fat: 22.73%
Fiber: 6.82%
Carbs: 4.55%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 45.56%
Fat: 50.3%
Carbs: 4.14%

What We Liked:

  • Features high-quality animal protein as the main ingredient
  • Hydrating canned food with a strong reputation for palatability
  • One of the most affordable options for kitten food

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains meat by-products and artificial colors/flavors
  • Contains milk which could cause GI upset in some kittens

#6 Mid-Price Pick: Wellness Complete Health Kitten Chicken Entrée Pate Canned Food

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This grain-free smooth loaf from Wellness’ Complete Health line is slightly cheaper than the Wellness CORE recipe listed as our number one pick. But with protein-rich chicken and chicken liver leading the ingredient list, it looks like a nutritious, species-appropriate option.

The food’s biggest flaw is its carbohydrate content. The food contains carrots, which drive its total carbohydrate content to around 14% on a dry matter basis. While that’s low compared to many wet foods and most kibble, we’d rather see carbohydrate percentages in the single digits.

The recipe includes menhaden fish oil as a source of the fatty acid DHA, helping to promote healthy brain and eye development.

This food is exceptionally calorie-dense, with 122 calories in every 3 oz can.

Ingredients:

Chicken, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Carrots, Natural Flavor, Cranberries, Guar Gum, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Salt, Menhaden Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Choline Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 11%
Crude Fat: 6%
Crude Fiber: 1%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 50%
Fat: 27.27%
Fiber: 4.55%
Carbs: 18.18%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 37.2%
Fat: 49.28%
Carbs: 13.53%

What We Liked:

  • Made primarily with animal-based protein sources
  • Contains menhaden fish oil for DHA
  • Highly palatable and hydrating canned food
  • Calorie-dense option with 122 calories per can

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Somewhat more expensive than some kitten foods
  • Relatively high in carbohydrate content

#7 Best For Weight Gain: Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet Kitten Chicken Entrée Canned Kitten Food

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Kittens grow very quickly, with most reaching their adult size within 10 to 12 months. That being said, some kittens need a little extra help with development. This is where a calorie-dense formula like this Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet kitten recipe comes into play.

The inclusion of brown rice, carrots, carrageenan, and sweet potatoes keeps this food from taking anything but the 5th place spot on this list. That said, it does have some good qualities for kittens.

As evidenced by the inclusion of chicken, chicken liver, and dried egg among the first ingredients, it contains a respectable quantity of the animal ingredients your kitten needs. Though the food contains several high-carbohydrate ingredients, its carbohydrate content appears to linger around 9% on a dry matter basis, making it an acceptable choice for your carnivorous new kitten.

Another good quality of this food is the fact that it’s supplemented with DHA from fish oil. Besides being an anti-inflammatory that can promote skin and coat health, this fatty acid plays a role in your kitten’s cognitive and ocular development.

With 122 calories in every 3 oz can, this food is exceptionally calorie-dense.

Ingredients:

Chicken, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Dried Egg Product, Natural Flavor, Fish Oil (source of DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Brown Rice, Guar Gum Sweet Potatoes, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Potassium Chloride, Tricalcium Phosphate, Taurine, Salt, Carrageenan, Cassia Gum, Magnesium Sulfate, Choline Chloride, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), preserved with Mixed Tocopherols.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 11%
Crude Fat: 7.5%
Crude Fiber: 1.5%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 50%
Fat: 34.09%
Fiber: 6.82%
Carbs: 9.09%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 35.24%
Fat: 58.35%
Carbs: 6.41%

What We Liked:

  • Made primarily from nourishing sources of animal protein
  • Hydrating and highly palatable canned food
  • Contains fish oil as a natural source of DHA for brain/eye development
  • Calorie-dense at 122 calories per 3-ounce can

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains carrageenan – a potentially inflammatory additive

#8 Best Dry Kitten Food: Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe Dry Cat Food

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Dry food generally isn’t our top choice for kittens but many cat owners find it more affordable and convenient than wet food. Kibble tends to be low in moisture and high in carbohydrates which can contribute to a variety of potential health problems like urinary tract issues and feline diabetes.

Some kittens also have trouble transitioning onto a wet food diet later if they’re weaned onto a primarily dry food diet.

This dry kitten food from Instinct is low in moisture and contains more carbs than a premium-quality wet food, but it’s better than the average kitten food. Its dry matter carbohydrate content is relatively low at just over 13% and it is comprised of 81% animal ingredients, including animal fat.

With concentrated sources of animal protein as the top three ingredients, this protein-rich formula helps support kitten growth and development. It contains animal-derived omega-3s for eye and brain health as well as probiotics to support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.

This recipe is calorie-dense at 557 calories per cup. It’s free from low-value grains like corn, wheat, and soy as well as artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. It also contains freeze-dried chicken and chicken organs for a boost of flavor.

Ingredients

Chicken, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Egg Product, Chicken Meal, White Fish Meal, Tapioca, Natural Flavor, Lamb Meal, Dried Tomato Pomace, Carrots, Apples, Cranberries, Montmorillonite Clay, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin), Choline Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide), Potassium Chloride, Salt, Taurine, Freeze Dried Chicken, Freeze Dried Chicken Liver, Pumpkinseeds, Freeze Dried Chicken Heart, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 42.5%
Crude Fat: 22.5%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 9%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 46.7%
Fat: 24.73%
Fiber: 3.3%
Carbs: 25.27%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 35.37%
Fat: 45.48%
Carbs: 19.14%

What We Liked:

  • Composed of 81% animal ingredients, including animal fat
  • Calorie-dense to support healthy kitten growth
  • Contains animal-based omega-3s for eye and brain development
  • Supplemented with probiotics for digestion and nutrient absorption

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains starchy plant ingredients
  • No dry food provides the moisture your kitten needs

How Are Kittens’ Nutritional Needs Different From Those Of Adult Cats?

Nutritionally speaking, the biggest difference between kittens and adults is the need for ultra-nutrient-dense food that will fuel early growth stages.

While all kitten foods are different, they’re generally calorie-dense with high concentrations of protein. They’re rich in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, and certain amino acids.

If you’re committed to purchasing commercially available food, read the label to determine whether or not it’s appropriate for kittens. If the food is labeled complete and balanced for growth and reproduction OR all life stages, it’s been formulated according to the AAFCO’s nutrient profiles for kitten health.

Avoid diets labeled simply for adult maintenance. As the label suggests, adult cat food is intended to maintain a healthy adult weight and lacks the nutritional gusto to fuel your kitten’s growth spurts.

While some insist that only commercially sold foods provide the nourishment a kitten requires, this isn’t exactly true.

If correctly balanced, a home-cooked diet can be an excellent choice for your growing kitten. These diets offer what a kitten needs, delivering more bioavailable protein and calorie density than almost anything you’ll buy in a bag or a can.

Keep in mind, though, that preparing home-cooked pet foods can be time-intensive, and it can be difficult to achieve the appropriate nutrient balance. Consult with a veterinary nutritionist if you are interested in preparing homecooked food for your kitten.

A Nutritionally Complete Diet Is Crucial During Kittenhood

Remember that a nutritionally complete diet is crucial during the first 12 months of life. During these months, you’re building the foundation for a lifetime of good health. A diet that is nutritionally incomplete or unbalanced could set your kitten up for serious health problems down the road.

An article on Mercola Healthy Pets illustrates this fact with the story of a 5-month-old Sphynx kitten who was fed exclusively raw chicken for the first several months of his life. As a result of this imbalanced diet, the kitten developed lameness and eye problems. By the time the kitten was adopted, he was suffering from osteopenia, a condition resulting from inadequate mineral density in the bones. Inadequate taurine had caused central retinal degeneration and lesions on one of his eyes.

Four months of inadequate nutrition may not have had such an obvious impact on an adult cat, but for a growing kitten, every meal is critical.

Kitten Food Should Be Rich in High-quality Protein from Real Chicken, Turkey, Rabbit, Or Other Animal-Sourced Ingredients.

As obligate carnivores, cats of all ages need a lot of protein.

Compared to middle-aged adults, kittens are more sensitive to both the quantity and quality of that protein. While adult cats need at least 6.5 grams of protein per 100 calories according to the AAFCO’s nutrient profiles, kittens need 7.5 grams or more.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “Growing kittens are more sensitive to the quality of dietary protein and amino acid balance than are adult cats.”

What Constitutes High-Quality Protein For A Kitten?

As obligate carnivores, kittens require the amino acids found in animal tissue. Animal bodies contain all of the amino acids cats and kittens need to thrive. You can’t achieve that amino acid balance with plant-sourced protein alone. Instead, plant-based foods are a patchwork of protein sources. Synthetic amino acids fill the gaps.

Compared to animal-based protein, protein from plants, like that found in peas, beans, and corn gluten meal, sits lower on that digestibility scale. High-quality muscle meat is closer to the top, meaning that your kitten utilizes almost all of its protein content, with minimal waste.

When shopping for kitten food, seek out products featuring named meats as the first several ingredients. Look for words like “chicken”, “turkey”, and “rabbit.” If these meats are followed by “pea protein,” “soy protein,” or “corn gluten meal,” consider trying something else.

The Best Kitten Food Is Calorie-Dense

As he zooms and pounces through the first year of life, your kitten burns a lot of calories. Choosing a calorie-dense food made with natural ingredients will ensure that he has enough fuel to get bigger and zip across the house with ease.

Dr. Lizzie Youens clarifies that kitten food doesn’t only support physical growth, noting that “it’s not only physical growth we need to fuel, but also their immune system, nervous system, brain, and other vital functions. They need high-quality nutrients in an easily digestible form.”

Kitten Food Should Be Rich in Certain Vitamins and Minerals

Compared to adult cats, kittens have slightly different vitamin and mineral needs. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, kittens should consume food with a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of about 1.0 to 0.8, while adult cats should get a ratio of about 0.6 to 0.5. Kittens also have slightly higher requirements for vitamin A and require slightly greater amounts of the amino acids lysine and tryptophan.

Soft Kitten Food Is Easier for Young Kittens to Eat

Technically, you can feed your kitten dry or wet food. But when they’re very young and still have baby teeth, your kitten will likely find it easiest to eat soft, wet food. This could be a cooked homemade or homemade-style food or canned food.

After the first six months, introduce more challenging morsels. Chewier pieces of cooked meat challenge your kitten’s jaws and can promote good dental health.

With most cats suffering from periodontal disease by the time they reach middle age, establishing good dental hygiene in kittenhood is one of the most impactful health investments you can make.

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Frequently Asked Questions

When Should You Start Feeding Kitten Food?

Kittens start transitioning off of their mother’s milk and onto solid food at around four weeks of age. The weaning process is both voluntary and forced. Kittens might get curious about sharing their mother’s food and when they go back to suckle, she’ll begin to push them away.

It’s a gradual process that usually takes a few weeks. By the time kittens are seven weeks old, they should be fully weaned and eating a solid food diet.

How Often Should You Feed Your Kitten?

Kittens are happiest and healthiest when served three or four small meals each day.

Is It Okay to Feed Your Kitten A Variety of Foods or Should They Stick to One Food Only?

To ensure that your cat doesn’t become finicky, it’s a good idea to introduce varied textures and flavors during kittenhood.

Some people, including veterinarians, believe in feeding one food for the entirety of a cat’s life. Not only does relying exclusively on a single protein source set your cat up for food intolerances later in life, but a limited diet also tells your cat that it’s okay to be finicky.

If you allow your kitten to eat nothing but chicken-based pâté for the first 12 months of their life, they’ll likely be reluctant to try new foods when they’re 12 years old.

When Should You Stop Feeding Kitten Food?

When we talked to Dr. Sarah Reidenbach, DVM about this, she shared that she typically recommends that cats switch to an adult diet at 1 year of age, but this varies depending on when the cat reaches physical maturity. Around that time, you can gradually switch your cat off of their kitten food and onto a diet formulated for adult cats. Your veterinarian can advise you on when to transition from kitten food to adult food.

Can Adult Cats Eat Kitten Food?

Adult cats can eat kitten food, but it’s not necessarily a good long-term choice. Compared to products intended for adult cats, kitten food may have more calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other micronutrients that support skeletal development. For an adult cat, those minerals may be excessive.

Remember that kitten food is packed with calories to fuel babyhood growth. For this reason, it may be a good choice if you need to help your adult cat gain weight. If your cat isn’t underweight, however, eating kitten food could lead to obesity.

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About Mallory Crusta

Mallory is the Head of Content at All About Cats. Having produced and managed multimedia content across several pet-related domains, Mallory is dedicated to ensuring that the information on All About Cats is accurate, clear, and engaging. When she’s not reviewing pet products or editing content, Mallory enjoys skiing, hiking, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. She has two cats, Wessie and Forest.