How much food do you feed a kitten?

Quick answers

The amount of food a kitten needs depends on their age and weight. Here are some quick guidelines:

  • Newborn kittens: Require milk every 2-3 hours
  • 3-6 weeks: 75-100 calories per pound per day
  • 2-4 months: 200 calories per day
  • 4-12 months: 300 calories per day

Kittens should be fed a high-quality kitten food and have access to fresh water at all times. Feed them small, frequent meals and monitor their weight to ensure they are getting adequate nutrition without overeating.

Newborn Kittens

Newborn kittens have very specific nutritional needs. They rely completely on their mother’s milk for the first several weeks of life. Mother’s milk provides complete nutrition and contains antibodies that help protect against disease. Kittens should nurse frequently, every 2-3 hours around the clock.

Orphaned newborn kittens require specialty kitten milk replacer formulated for their needs. They need to be fed with a small pet nursing bottle every 2-3 hours. It is critical to follow preparation instructions carefully. The milk needs to be warmed to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The bottles, nipples, and feeding tools must be kept extremely clean and sanitized between feedings.

Newborn kittens have tiny stomachs so can only eat a small amount at each feeding. It is normal for them to consume around 5-10ml per feeding during the first week of life. Signs they need more include crying shortly after eating or losing weight. Consult with your veterinarian if you are caring for orphaned newborns.

3-6 Week Old Kittens

Around 3-4 weeks of age, kittens can begin the transition process from milk to wet food. Many kittens will naturally start exploring and trying to steal nibbles from their mom’s food bowl. Allow the kittens to sample the wet food but keep milk feedings during this transitional stage.

Most kittens are ready for complete weaning around 6 weeks old. At this age, they can be fed kitten-formulated wet and dry foods. It is fine to leave dry food out for free-choice nibbling. However, at this age kittens should still be fed scheduled wet food meals 2-3 times per day. The scheduled feedings allow you to monitor their appetite and growth.

Kittens 6 weeks and older have growing appetites but still have small stomachs. They need multiple small meals through the day. Each meal should only be as much as they can consume in 10-20 minutes. Kittens this age need around 75-100 calories per pound of body weight per day. So a 2 pound kitten would need 200 calories total for the day.

Weight Daily Calorie Needs
2 lbs 200 calories
3 lbs 225-300 calories
4 lbs 300-400 calories

Weigh kittens weekly at this stage to ensure they are gaining weight appropriately as their caloric needs increase.

2-4 Month Old Kittens

By 2 months old, kittens should be weaned from milk completely and eating only wet and dry kitten-formulated foods. At this stage most kittens are ready to consolidate to 3 scheduled feedings per day plus access to dry food for free-feeding.

The daily calorie requirement for kittens 2-4 months old is about 200 calories. The meals should be divided into three roughly equal portions. Kittens may still need more frequent small snacks depending on their activity level and growth rate. Weigh weekly and adjust amount fed to maintain an appropriate growth curve.

Sample Feeding Schedule

  • 7am – 1/3 of daily calorie allowance
  • 12pm – 1/3 of daily calorie allowance
  • 5pm – 1/3 of daily calorie allowance
  • Dry food available throughout the day for free-choice

4-12 Month Kittens

From 4 months to 1 year, kittens are still rapidly growing and require substantial caloric intake. Feeding schedule can remain at three scheduled meals per day plus free access to dry food for snacking. The total daily calorie requirement increases to around 300 calories per day.

It is essential to pay close attention to body condition during these rapid growth phases. Weigh weekly and adjust the amount fed to keep kits at an ideal weight, not too thin and not overweight.

Around 8-10 months old, you can begin transitioning your kitten to adult cat portions and feeding schedules. But monitor weight closely. Some large cats may still require free-feeding and larger portions beyond 1 year old.

Tips for Feeding Kittens

Choose a High-Quality Food

It is worth investing in a high-quality kitten food from reputable pet food brands. Look for foods designed specifically for kittens, not just a “small bite” version of adult cat foods. Kitten foods contain extra nutrients to support their growth and typically have more calories per bite.

Wet and Dry Combination

Feeding a combination of wet and dry food is ideal for kittens. The wet food provides extra moisture which is important since kittens can become dehydrated. Dry kibble helps clean developing teeth and provides something for kittens to nibble on.

Multiple Small Meals

Kittens benefit from multiple smaller meals spaced throughout the day rather than one or two large meals. Their small stomachs can’t handle large single servings. Feeding smaller portions more frequently prevents gorging and promotes healthy growth.

Routine is Important

Feed kittens their meals at about the same times every day. Kittens thrive on consistency and routine. Place them on scheduled feedings right away so they become accustomed to set mealtimes.

Free-Feeding Dry May Help

Leaving dry food available for free-feeding in addition to scheduled wet food meals allows kittens to meet their caloric needs. Monitor intake to ensure they don’t overeat if free-feeding.

Supplement with More Snacks If Needed

Some highly active kittens may require more frequent snacks in addition to their scheduled meals. Watch their weight weekly and adjust amounts or frequency if needed.

Clean Fresh Water Always

Make sure kittens have access to clean, refreshed water at all times. Dehydration is dangerous for growing kittens. Providing ample water encourages proper hydration.

Transition Foods Slowly

When it’s time to switch foods, transition slowly over 5-7 days, gradually increasing the new while decreasing the old. This helps avoid digestive upset.

Weaning and Transitioning to Solid Foods

Weaning kittens from milk onto solid food is an exciting milestone. Here are some tips for making the process smooth and successful:

  • Start offering kitten-formulated wet food around 3-4 weeks old. Allow kittens to sample and taste.
  • Gradually increase wet food intake over 2-3 weeks, decreasing milk at the same pace.
  • By 6-7 weeks old, kittens are typically ready for complete weaning from milk.
  • Offer wet food 3-4 times per day once fully weaned.
  • Provide dry kitten kibble and fresh water 24/7 for free-choice feeding
  • Transition slowly between foods over 5-7 days if needed.

Look for clues your kitten is ready for weaning such as mouthing at your food, biting the bottle, or leaving milk unfinished. Introduce wet foods slowly allowing time for their digestive system to adjust. Kittens benefit from staying with their mother and litter-mates until around 8 weeks old for full social, emotional, and nutritional development.

How to Monitor Growth

Weighing kittens weekly on a pet scale is important to ensure they are growing properly and getting adequate nutrition. Kittens should gain around 4-8 oz per week, doubling their birth weight by 2 weeks old.

Keeping detailed weight and feeding logs allows you to track progress and make necessary adjustments. Generally, underweight kittens need more frequent meals or increased amounts. Overweight kittens may need reduced portions or scheduled feedings instead of free-feeding.

Body condition also provides important clues. You should be able to easily feel but not see the kitten’s ribs. Kittens should have a noticeable waist behind the ribs viewed from above. A rounded stomach that sags could signal overconditioning.

Healthy sizable stools, glossy coat, and high energy also indicate proper nutrition intake. Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about a kitten’s growth and condition.

Switching to Adult Cat Food

Kittens can be transitioned to adult cat foods starting around 8-10 months old. Look for all life stage or adult formulas. Senior and special needs diets are not appropriate for kittens.

The transition allows their calorie intake to gradually decrease as their growth rate slows. This helps prevent excess weight gain. As adults, intact cats have lower calorie needs than neutered or spayed adult cats.

When transitioning foods, mix a small amount of the new food with the current diet for 5-7 days. Slowly decrease the amount of kitten food while increasing the adult food until fully switched. This gradual transition will help avoid digestive upset.

Potential Feeding Issues in Kittens


Kittens are prone to dehydration which can be life-threatening. Ensure they have constant access to clean, fresh water. Wet food also provides moisture. Kittens requiring supplemental fluids should see a vet.


Young kittens are prone to low blood sugar called hypoglycemia. Feed kittens high-calorie, high-protein foods frequently to maintain energy and stabilize blood sugar levels.

Upset Stomach

Sudden food changes or eating garbage can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Transition new foods over 5-7 days and keep garbage inaccessible to avoid tummy upset.

Poor Weight Gain

Kittens who are underweight or fail to gain weight appropriately require more frequent small meals. Check for parasites and malabsorption disorders if weight issues persist.


Overfeeding and free-choice feeding without limits can lead to obesity. Monitor weight weekly and feed scheduled portions based on weight to prevent excessive gain.


Proper nutrition is crucial for growing kittens. They need multiple small protein-rich meals daily to support development. The exact amount to feed depends on the kitten’s age, weight, and activity level.

Weigh kittens weekly and adjust portions as needed. While kittens have some unique nutritional needs, feeding high-quality foods at proper quantities and avoiding over or underfeeding will set the foundation for a lifetime of good health.

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