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The Best Kitten diet

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

We are constantly bombarded by marketing messages informing us that we must feed our kittens and puppies prepared formulas, processed wet foods and dry kibble's prepared by experts to ensure our pets grow up healthy. This marketing spin is just that, clever marketing designed to promote as many sales as possible.

Kittens and puppies develop a digestive system ready to accept fresh food by the time the weaning process begins, and with a few simple guidelines anyone can feed their pet a balanced, fresh food diet with all the nutrients their youngster needs to thrive.

Join us as we follow the raw feeding journey of Gidget, collected by his new family as a 7-week old, somewhat feral, kitten. Gidget was the unexpected offspring of a self-sufficient barn cat whose role was to keep the rodents and rabbits under control. This little guy was to take up a similar role in his new home although he would also be part of the family, sleeping on a bed rather than a hay bale.

The aim

Cats imprint on their food choices making our early decisions important, the aim of Gidgets' menu plan would be to steadily introduce different flavours and textures until we had a balanced diet filled with variety and convenience which would enable him to thrive for many years to come.

First food - Selecting a muscle meat

When choosing food, it's important to consider the age, breed and general health of the pet to achieve the best outcome, the criteria can vary depending on the individual, the following are the criteria that were used for Gidget:

  • Human vs Pet grade - First foods should always be of the highest quality to support the health and development of our youngsters. Fresh human grade meat with its low bacteria load and no additives or preservatives is ideal to begin with.

  • Mince vs chunks - pets develop the dentition and digestive system to handle large chunks of meat but initially we want to keep things nice and easy for our kitten to eat as well as for his family to dish up in regular small servings, so mince is our preferred option to begin with.

  • Lean vs Fatty - while some fat is essential, excess fat places an additional burden on the digestive system so Lean is better for a kitten while on a single protein, fattier proteins can be added later as part of a broader diet.

  • Protein Source - chicken is often recommended as a first protein when transitioning to raw but without grinding your own a lean, human grade chicken mince is not easily sourced. Our preferred option was therefore beef as we were able to meet the other criteria, Gidget had some prior exposure to wild prey as his mother had returned to hunting during the weening process so he was not expected to have trouble digesting small servings of red meat.

  • Meal size & Frequency - It's important to match calorie intake for a young growing kitten to their energy needs in order to provide optimal growth rate. A useful guide to start with is 10% of the youngsters weight as a daily amount split into 3 or 4 feeds. There are many variables at play which make it difficult to know exactly how much to feed so it's important to adjust what you're feeding to suit the pet in front of you.

The aim for Gidget was to:

  1. provide a meal of appropriate size to suit his appetite every 2-3 hours,

  2. to not allow food to sit at room temperature for any great length of time to attract flies or degrade, and

  3. to encourage hunger and satiety naturally to support our expanding diet.

An initial serving of a heaped teaspoon was used, if food was left over after 10 minutes it was removed and the next meal reduced a little, if he cried for food early then his next meal was increased a little. In this manner his meals were regularly adjusted to suit his ever-changing needs, supporting a natural hunger & satiety cycle without allowing him to actually 'go hungry' for any significant length of time.

Week's 1& 2 - Expanding the diet to achieve balance

It's important to allow time for the body to adjust and to respond appropriately if a protein does not agree with the pet, for this reason any dietary additions occur slowly, with each protein added and monitored for at least 48hrs before adding another. In order to meet a kitten's fast paced growth needs each addition supports achieving balance before we concern ourselves with variety, to our muscle meat component we add Liver, kidney and then bones.

  • Liver - Ruminant liver is a rich source of essential nutrients, for Gidget we chose Beef liver, remaining with our primary protein source. Initially preparation involved finely chopping and mixing with the beef mince to aid palatability, but this step was quickly eliminated as he was not fussy and our aim was t be able to feed chunks to improve convenience and support natural dental hygiene moving forward.

  • Kidney - with 2 forms of beef protein as well as mince and chunks accepted we selected Lamb kidney, it could have been finely diced and blended but this was not necessary for Gidget who was happy to try the small chunks that where offered.

  • Bones - It's important to choose bones of an appropriate size and density for the pet, soft poultry bones such as chicken necks, wings and frames are ideal for growing youngsters. For Gidget we started with a chicken neck chopped into pieces as it suited his meal size which over the course of 6 days had increased to 1 Tbsp per serving.

Week's 3 - 6 - Expanding the diet to achieve Variety

Remaining with human grade meats and continuing with our 48hr monitoring period for each protein, each additional item was incorporated into our meal plan one at a time in turn over the next few weeks.

  • Muscle meat - mince was completely replaced with chunks and the range expanded to include lamb, pork, goat, veal and venison.

  • Liver - nutritionally all ruminant livers are suitable however we were only able to source Lamb & Pork in addition to our beef, three options offer good variety,

  • Other organs - our Kidney options were expanded to include pork and beef before adding green tripe to our menu plan.

  • Fish - cold water fish completes our human grade protein selection, for Gidget we chose salmon frame and whole mackerel which were chopped into small serving size pieces. The salmon was the only food Gidget didn't like, it was therefore given in very small servings as a small part of the first meal of the day.

Extras for emergencies

There will come a time in every pets' life when appetites wane, and whether due to illness or injury, medication or supplementation is necessary, it's best to be prepared for these events. We added a few highly palatable treat options which in future could be used as a base for medication or simply to entice an unwell chap to eat, these were:

  • Bone broth - provides the body with collagen and other essential nutrients to reduce inflammation and support healing of the intestinal barrier whilst also being extremely palatable for even the fussiest of cats.

  • Egg - excellent source of high-quality protein available suitable for all ages containing all the vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids needed for good health.

  • Yoghurt - natural, unsweetened Greek yoghurt can aid in restoring healthy gut bacteria after a bout of illness or antibiotics as well as providing valuable metabolites which feed the immune system. Adding a little to a kitten's diet supports them finding this milky treat highly palatable in the future.

Week 7 - Maintenance

As we reach week-7, Gidget turns 3 months old, on a diet filled with fresh, species appropriate foods the result is a healthy, spritely looking cat, obviously thriving on his diet. So, what does a healthy balanced diet look like for our little Gidget?

If you would like to know more about a raw diet for your pet, check out our options or get in touch today.

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