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6 Best Kitten Food For Weight Gain

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As a Chewy and Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for yourself.

Do you have a kitten that doesn’t seem to gain weight?

As cat owners, we want to make sure our pets grow up healthy. If our kitten doesn’t eat enough food, it may affect growth and development.

A kitten may be underweight due to low food intake or parasites. Some kittens need immediate medical attention if found on the street.

In this article, I’ll help you find the best kitten food for weight gain. I’ll also help you with common issues and questions with kitten feeding.

6 Best Kitten Food For Weight Gain Choices

The goal of this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats. I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions.

The advice in this article is not intended as medical advice.

Let’s get into the article.

Buying Guide: How To Find The Best kitten food for weight gain

What should you look for when choosing food for a kitten to gain weight?

If your kitten struggles to gain weight it may affect their growth.

In this buying guide, I’ll help you with things to look for to make sure your kitten is healthy. This will help you cut down on vet bills in the future.

Look for AAFCO approved foods

The Association Of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an organization that provides nutrient recommendations for cat food.

Check that the food contains the words ‘AAFCO approved for cats of all life stages’. This means the food contains all the nutrients needed for cats of all life stages. This includes:

A food with this specification is suitable for other adult cats in the house.

Food with this label have undergone testing to ensure the nutrients meet the needs of growing kittens. This includes:

  • Protein (at least 30% on a dry matter basis)
  • Fat (at least 9% on a dry matter basis)
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

This label gives you the confidence that the food will help your kitten grow. It’s the first thing you want to look for when choosing a kitten food.

Here is an example of AAFCO approved product:

A cat food that is AAFCO approved for all life stages.

Should I choose a wet or dry kitten food?

Feed your kitten mostly wet food. The benefit of wet foods is they give kittens moisture for hydration. Cats and kittens tend to not drink enough water.

Dry food tends to contain a high amount of carbohydrate. Cats have a limited ability to digest and tolerate high carbohydrate diets. When given a choice, cats have less preference for high carbohydrate foods.

On the other hand, dry kitten food is calorie dense which helps with weight gain. If choosing a dry kitten food, look for a lower carbohydrate choice.

Giving your kitten a combination of wet and dry food is a sound strategy. This helps to balance the macronutrients and may help improve food intake.

A kitten eating wet food.

Do I need to buy a food labelled as kitten food?

No, this isn’t necessary. Mainly, you want to look for whether the food contains the following statement:

  • (Product Name) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for (Growth or all life stages)

This statement means the food contains a balance of nutrients needed for your kitten and approved by the FDA. Kittens need a wide range of nutrients for growth. If any or all nutrients or off then there may be a higher risk of disease.

It’s important the statement is in line with needs for either ‘growth’ or ‘all life stages’. All life stages means the food is appropriate for cats of all ages including adults and seniors.

What are the most important nutrients for growing kittens?

Calories

Calories provide energy for growing kittens. If your kitten is underweight, you need to make sure they get enough calories.

The amount of calories a kitten needs is higher than an adult cat due to rapid growth. Here is a comparison of recommended calorie intakes:

  • Post-weaned: 250 kcal ME/kg bodyweight
  • 20 weeks: 130 kcal ME/kg bodyweight
  • 30 weeks: 100 kcal ME/kg bodyweight

To check whether your kitten is growing properly, use the body condition score (BCS) chart. This shows you how much weight a kitten and/or cat should carry.

A kittens body condition score should be 4-5/9. Anything lower warrants additional food intake.

Speak with your vet if you are having trouble with feeding your kitten more food.

If you need more help working out how much food to serve your cat to meet their calorie needs, check out this guide.

Kittens drinking milk.

Protein

Kittens need a diet of 35-50% crude protein (30% dry matter basis).

Protein helps build a strong healthy body and helps the following body processes:

  • Hormones
  • Enzymes
  • Antibodies
  • Lean muscle
  • Skin
  • Organ tissues

Cats use protein as a source of energy. The liver converts protein into keto-acids for energy production, unlike dogs. As such, cats and kittens need constant intake of protein during the day and night.

Most of the protein of a cats diet should be animal-based. Cats need 11 essential amino acids which are higher in animal based foods.

At least 19% of the diet should be animal based foods to ensure kittens get enough of the essential amino acid methionine. Every meal needs arginine as a deficiency causes illness. This isn’t hard to achieve with any commercial food or meat based meal.

Taurine is a unique essential amino acid in kittens. This is high in meat and fish. A deficiency causes retinal degeneration and heart failure.

Two kittens eating.

Fat

Kittens need a moderate fat diet. Fat is the most calorically dense macronutrient which helps provide energy to meet needs.

When given a choice, cats prefer a diet with moderate fat levels (25-40% on a dry matter basis). They enjoy eating animal fats like tallow. Low fat diets may lead to more food rejection, and also make it harder to get enough calories in for growth.

Kittens also need essential fatty acids arachidonic acid and omega 3 fatty acids.

Arachidonic acid helps with inflammatory processes (needed for healing) and is only found in animal food sources.

Omega 3 fatty acids may help improve learning and cognitive development. A good source of omega 3 fatty acids is salmon. Cats also have a strong liking for salmon oil, so this food source may encourage more food intake.

Kittens benefit from salmon as this contains a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids. This nutrient may improve learning.

Calcium

Calcium is an important mineral for kittens to grow strong bones and teeth. Kittens need a ratio of calcium and phosphorus (another essential nutrient).

Homemade diets with only meat don’t tend to contain enough calcium. A deficiency of calcium causes health problems related to growth and neurological development.

The best way to ensure your kitten gets the proper amount of calcium is to provide a commercial cat food with the following label

  • (Product Name) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for (Growth or all life stages)

This shows you the food is set up to make sure your kitten is going to get what they need.

What kind of food is best for growing kittens?

Animal-based foods are best for kittens. These food provide a high amount of protein and nutrients needed for growth.

As mentioned, a kittens diet should be at least 19% animal foods. This is to make sure they get enough essential amino acids like taurine and methionine.

There’s no easy way to quantify this. Some cat foods list how much percent animal foods are in the food.

If there is no percentage given on the food, check the nutrition panel on the back or side. Ingredients rank from high to low weight on the nutritional panel of kitten food.

This means the first ingredient is the highest weight and so forth. If the first few ingredients are all animal based food sources, it’s a good sign.

Here’s an example of a good kitten food. It’s chock full of named animal based foods:

The ingredient list on Ziwi Peak East Cape cat food.

Avoid foods where the first few ingredients are plant based foods. Examples include:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Peas
  • Corn gluten meal
  • Wheat gluten meal
  • Soy flour

These foods aren’t as high in essential amino acids and other nutrients as animal based foods.

Whilst they may be tolerable in small amounts, you don’t want them to dominate the ingredient list.

Cats and kittens don’t prefer plant based foods. Rice bran is not a good food source as it lowers taurine absorption, an essential amino acids for heart health. These foods also raise the carbohydrate level of food. Too many carbohydrate foods increase the risk of diarrhea.

Kittens eating out of a bowl.

What Flavor do kittens like?

Kittens develop taste preferences from their mothers. The best place to start is looking at what their mother ate. For example, if the kittens mother likes chicken, then try chicken.

The food factors that determine liking in cats include:

  • Odor
  • Taste
  • Texture
  • Particle size

Cat’s are unique in that they have a low amount of taste receptors (470 compared to 11,000 for humans) but a heightened sense of smell.

What this means is it is hard to get your cat to want to eat something if it doesn’t smell too great. Dead and decomposing meat produces chemicals called monophosphate nucleotides which cats are averse to.

Foods like ‘meat by products’ and ‘poultry by products’ may contain animal parts which give an unpleasant smell.

Contrary to popular belief, cats don’t eat intestines. By product meat sources may contain this unpleasant body part. Warming food to 15-50 degrees Celsius improves smell and acceptance.

It’s always best practice to give a better quality food with named food sources. Whilst this may cost more, it may save money in the long run with less rejection.

Beyond that, try to tease out which textures and food size your kitten prefers most. Cats don’t like sharp-edged kibble as this can hurt the mouth.

Do I Need to give kittens a variety of food?

A variety of food choices is a good strategy for feeding kittens.

Cats are neophobic and neophilic with food choice.

Food based neophobia refers to being averse of new foods at first. This means you want to offer new foods a few times to ‘warm’ up your cat to the new taste, before giving up on it.

Neophilia refers to getting bored with the same taste. If you offer your kitten the same tin of food 24/7 you may get food rejection.

Make sure to work in at least a few different choices to keep things interesting. Variety packs are a good option to switch it up.

Feeding kittens a variety of food can help with food intake.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if my kitten is underweight?

Use the body condition score chart. A score of less than 4 tells you whether a cat or kitten is underweight.

If you are having trouble contact a vet for a physical examination.

A body condition score chart for kittens
Source: https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Body-Condition-Score-cat-updated-August-2020.pdf

Why Do I Have An Underweight Kitten

The most likely answer is they aren’t eating enough. Kittens have high calorie needs for their weight compared to adult cats. This is due to rapid growth and development.

The first thing you want to do is calculate your kittens food needs. This will make sure their getting enough food on their plate to grow. Check out my guide on how much to feed a cat for more help.

Another reason your kitten is be underweight may be parasites. This is a cause of diarrhea and is common in kittens found in shelters. Speak with your vet for help and suggestions for worming treatment.

Kittens in shelters have a higher risk of parasites and problems like diarrhea.
Kittens in shelters have a higher risk of parasites and problems including diarrhea.

Can I feed my kitten a homemade meat diet?

Many homemade cat food diets don’t contain enough nutrients for growth and development. It’s best to buy a commercial wet and/or dry food to make sure your kitten gets the proper balance of nutrients.

Researchers looked case studies of kittens fed diets with only meat. The kittens developed nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. This causes the following problems:

  • Decreased bone density
  • Depression
  • Movement disorders

Cats recover if fed a commercial diet. They may need euthanasia in extreme cases.

Cats and kittens do eat prey in the wild as obligate carnivores, but they contain various body parts including bones and organs. These parts provide a range of nutrients.

Learn more about homemade diets in this helpful guide.

Many homemade cat food recipes online don't contain the proper balance of nutrients needed for growing kittens.
Many homemade cat food recipes online don’t contain the proper balance of nutrients needed for growing kittens.

What can I feed my kitten to gain weight?

Feed your kitten a commercial wet canned food to help your kitten grow and gain weight. These foods are the easiest for kittens to digest and contain the highest amount of protein.

You can also use dry kibble in smaller amounts to feed your kitten.

How can I make my kitten fat fast?

To help your kitten gain weight, make sure you give them enough food during the day to meet their calorie and protein needs. You may need to encourage food intake.

Warming food in the microwave helps entice food intake by improving smell. This can help give your kitten the boost it needs to start increasing their food intake.

Another thing worth trying is lactose free milk. In small amounts this helps give kittens additional calories needed to support nutrition needs.

Why is my kitten so skinny?

The most common reason is your kitten isn’t eating enough food. Either serve your kitten more food during the day over more meal times, or encourage food intake (e.g. heating food, changing bowl location).

If your kitten isn’t eating enough then contact a vet for help. It’s possible that they have an illness that affects appetite and desire to eat. Parasites can also affect weight gain.

A vet examining a kittens vital signs.

How much should my kitten weigh?

There’s no recommended weight for kittens or cats. Instead, use the body condition score chart to find out whether your kitten is at a healthy weight.

Should I let my kitten eat as much as it wants?

Yes, you should not restrict food intake for kittens. It’s more important that they get enough food to grow and develop.

You want to make sure the quality is appropriate for a kittens needs. Don’t feed human foods or leftovers to kittens as this isn’t going to meet their needs and may be dangerous. Read more about what not to feed cats in this article.

As cat’s get older they may gain weight. Since they have no growing needs it’s more important to focus on maintaining weight.

How often should you feed kittens wet food?

Feed a kitten at least 4 times a day to meet their nutritional needs. You may feed your kitten all wet food or a combination of wet and dry foods.

In the wild, cats and kittens eat many times (up to 7-20 times) to keep up with their energy and protein needs. This is from eating small prey such as mice.

Cat’s are unique in that they need to use protein as a constant source of energy. This means they tend to enjoy frequent eating opportunities throughout the day (and night).

I recommend sticking with wet canned food for the most part, since this is most appropriate for a kittens needs.

Check out my guide on how often to feed a cat to learn more.

A kitten meowing for food. Feed a kitten at least 4 times a day to meet their growing needs.

Best Kitten Food For Weight Gain: Top Picks

Best Premium Wet Kitten Food

Tiki Cat After Dark Variety Pack

The best quality cat food for cats and kittens of all ages. Filler free and high in animal protein to sway the fussiest of cat. 5 flavors in the box to cut boredom.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for cats of all life stages
  • 70.1% protein on a dry matter basis
  • 4.6% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis
  • Legume-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Carrageenan-free

Best Mid-Range Wet Kitten Food

Nulo Grain Free Canned Wet Cat Food

Filler free choice to help kittens grow. High protein option with animal based foods to help picky kittens. Helps with food intolerances and allergies.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for cats of all life stages
  • 54.5% protein on a dry matter basis
  • 5.7% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis
  • Legume-free
  • Grain-free
  • Carrageenan-free

Best Budget Wet Kitten Food

Fancy Feast Kitten Classic Pate

Affordable kitten food to help a skinny kitty grow and develop. High in animal protein and low in fillers. 4 flavors to cut down on boredom.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for growth
  • 50% protein on a dry matter basis
  • 4.5% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis
  • Legume-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Carrageenan-free

Best Premium Dry Kitten Food

ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food Lamb

Air dried animal protein to help skinny kittens grow. Premium quality for top health. Helps with allergies and food intolerances.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for cats of all life stages
  • 96% animal based foods including organs and mussels
  • 4.7% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis
  • High in fat to help kittens gain weight
  • Gluten-free
  • Legume-free

Best Mid-Range Dry Kitten Food

Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein Chicken Formula

A dry food very low in carbohydrate and pea-free for easy digestion. Tasty chicken formula. Affordable dry cat food choice.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for cats of all life stages
  • 67% protein on a dry matter basis
  • 0.3% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis
  • Soy-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Low in oxalates

Best Budget Dry Kitten Food

Acana First Feast

Nutritionally balanced dry food to help kittens grow. 70% animal protein ingredients. Corn, wheat, and soy free for easier digestion.

Key Features

Conclusion

In this article, I’ve talked about the best kitten food for weight gain.

Kittens have high energy needs in the first year of life. They need a high calorie and protein diet to help with growth and development.

When looking for kitten food, choose a product that is AAFCO approved for all life stages or for growth. Make sure the food is high in animal-based ingredients for top nutrition.

Check your kittens body condition score to make sure they aren’t underweight. Calculate your kittens food needs with a calculator to help find out if you’re feeding enough.

Other tips to improve food intake include warming food up and finding what their mother ate (kittens tend to like what their mother ate).

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