Welcoming a new kitten into your home is quite an exciting experience, but it’s also a busy time. You have to introduce the little bundle of cuteness to your family, develop a relationship with a veterinarian and obtain all of the toys, litter and other necessities your kitten needs to stay healthy and happy.
It can all be overwhelming. And then there’s the biggest decision you’ll have to make: which food to offer your new kitten? But don’t worry – we’re here to help you determine the best food for kittens.
Analysis & Award Winners
There are a number of good pet foods on the market, but the following represent some of the best cat foods for kittens available.
Hill’s Science Diet is a great food for most kittens, and it is available at a very affordable price, making it doubly attractive. Chicken is the primary protein (listed second after chicken broth), although it also contains pork liver as an additional protein source; when combined, they help give the food a very high protein content. Most kittens appear to love Hill’s Science Diet, which also includes chicken liver flavor to make it extra appealing.
Hill’s Science Diet is made in the USA under strict quality-control procedures, making it less likely to be the subject of recalls or to have dangerous ingredients added to the food. It contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives and is formulated to support low urinary pH, which is important for preventing urinary tract infections.
Although it does contain wheat gluten, which many kitten parents try to avoid, it does not contain carrageenan, which is most other wet foods contain.
NUTRO is an extremely high-quality kitten food that is made from a relatively low number of ingredients, to help ensure your kitten gets all of the things he needs, without any unnecessary additives that could trigger food allergies or upset his stomach. Like all great foods should, NUTRO lists chicken as its first ingredient, although it also contains chicken liver for additional protein and vitamins, as well as pork broth for enhanced flavor. Additionally, NUTRO contains a higher percentage of protein than most other comparable products.
NUTRO is made in the USA and leaves out several of the potentially problematic ingredients that are found in other kitten foods. For example, NUTRO contains neither carrageenan nor cellulose powder. Most owners report that their kittens love NUTRO and race to their food bowl at feeding time.
Whether you need to feed your kitten dry food because he is picky or because your wallet is empty, Blue Buffalo Life Protection is an excellent option. It is not only affordable when compared to wet foods, but it is even inexpensive when compared to most other dry foods of similar quality.
Blue Buffalo is not only made in the USA, but it features deboned chicken as the first listed ingredient. It is also packed with probiotics and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, cranberries, blackberries, and blueberries. It also includes several different probiotics and multiple fiber sources to help ensure your kitten remains healthy.
Most owners report that their kittens love the taste of Blue Buffalo, and many also state that their kitten’s stools improved greatly after switching to this recipe.
Characteristics of Good Indoor Cat Foods
There are a lot of good kitten foods on the market, and most share a number of common characteristics. While few foods possess all of the following traits, it is wise to look for those that have as many as possible. These characteristics include:
The best kitten foods are made in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia or Western Europe. These countries have very strict food safety regulations in place and are less likely to produce foods with questionable or dangerous ingredients. Don’t be fooled by vague claims, such as “Made in North America”; if the food were made in Canada or the United States, they would likely say so.
The best kitten foods may contain meat meals or animal by-products, but these items must be identified by species. Whereas chicken meal or chicken byproducts are not necessarily bad ingredients and are made from various parts of chickens, “meat meal” or “meat byproducts” could contain nearly any animal from any source.
The best foods for kittens feature a real protein as the first listed ingredient. While there is nothing wrong with properly labeled meat meals, they should not represent the primary source of protein. Instead, look for kitten foods that list things like chicken or salmon as the first ingredient. Some wet foods list water or broth as the first ingredient, which is not a problem as long as it is followed by chicken or some other high-quality protein.
Good kitten foods contain more protein than foods formulated for adults. Kittens have to convert a lot of the calories they ingest into growth, and they need to obtain a great deal of these calories from protein sources. Unlike dogs, who often tolerate “all stages” formulations as adults, most kitten foods have too much protein for long-term use in adults.
The best kitten foods include important and potentially valuable supplements. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, chondroitin, glucosamine, and probiotics can all provide value to some kittens, and they are included in many premium kitten foods.
The best cat foods for kittens are made without artificial colors, artificial flavors or artificial additives. These ingredients are not necessary from your cat’s perspective, and they may lead to problems with food allergies. Do your best to avoid foods containing these items.
Mixing Wet Food with Dry Food
Because they have more water and usually consist of more animal-based protein, most authorities agree that wet foods are superior to dry foods. However, sometimes finicky cats and tight budgets can occasionally make this difficult or impossible.
To get around this problem, many kitten owners mix a little wet food in with their kitten’s dry food. This helps to give your kitten access to higher-quality food, without forcing you to finance an entirely can-food diet. In such cases, it often makes the most sense to splurge on the best dry food you can afford, and then use a more economical wet food to go with it.
Best of the Rest
There are several other high-quality options available to kitten owners. While the foods listed below weren’t quite highly rated enough to make our top 5, they still deserve serious consideration.
Blue Buffalo is a high-quality manufacturer, and one of the best kitten food brands. Their products certainly deserve consideration by pet owners. Packed with protein, Blue Buffalo contains both chicken – the first listed ingredient — and chicken liver, which also provides Vitamin A and a taste kittens love. Because both salmon oil and flaxseed are included in the recipe, Blue Buffalo is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which should help ensure good skin and coat health for your little kitten.
Blue Buffalo does contain both powdered cellulose and carrageenan, but on balance, it remains a very strong option in the kitten food category.
Natural Balance Kitten Formula is made with scads of great ingredients that belie its relatively modest price tag. Real chicken is the first listed ingredient, but several other protein sources – including salmon, duck and chicken liver – are also included to help round out the recipe.
Natural Balance also includes several nutritious fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, which are rich in antioxidants, and cranberries which help promote urinary tract health. Omega-3 fatty acids are supplied via multiple sources, including canola oil, salmon meal, and menhaden oil.
Orijen is another one of the best kitten food brands, and their Dry Cat and Kitten Food is one of the best products in their line. Orijen Dry Cat and Kitten Food is a grain-free, premium food, comprised almost solely (90%) of chicken, egg and fish products. Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient, but it is followed by deboned turkey, flounder, whole eggs, mackerel, chicken liver, turkey liver, herring, chicken heart, turkey heart and dehydrated chicken! It contains no rendered meat-meals; and although these are not necessarily problematic ingredients, many kitten owners still prefer to avoid them.
Orijen also includes multiple probiotics and several antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, including kale, spinach, and pumpkin. The biggest downside to Orijen is its high price tag, but many owners will find this an acceptable trade-off, given its wealth of high-quality ingredients.
Trying to decide on the best food for your new kitten can be challenging, but if you simply take your time and compare the products detailed above, you should be able to make a great choice. Always discuss your kitten’s food with your veterinarian and be sure to encourage those eating dry food to drink plenty of water.