7 Best Kitten Foods – 2018-2019 Guide & Reviews For Dry & Wet
You did it!
You walked past the kitty cages set up by your local animal shelter at the mall. A tiny fluff ball tumbled over and looked up, your eyes met, and you were hooked.
Now you’re home having visions of a beautiful relationship. Kitty cuddling on your lap, rubbing against your leg as you prepare her food…
Food! You forgot to ask the shelter staff about what to feed her!
There’s wet food for kittens, grain free kitten foods, regular cat chow…
How are you supposed to know what’s best?
Fortunately, we’ve been there, done that. Now, we want to share our findings with you!
- Our Top Picks After Research
- Does Quality Really Matter for a Cat?
- Nutritional Needs for Kittens vs. Adult Cats
- How to Choose High Quality Kitten Food for Your Fluffball
- Foods/Ingredients You Should NEVER Give Your Kitty
- Best Way to Feed Kitty Her Crunchies
- Top 7 Best Kitten Dry & Wet Foods Reviewed
- AvoDerm Natural Canned Wet Kitten Food
- Earthborn Holistic Wet Kitten Food
- Tiki Cat Gourmet Whole Food
- Instinct Original Natural Wet Canned Kitten Food
- Taste of the Wild
- Nulo Grain Free Dry Cat Food
- Instinct Original Natural Dry Kitten Food
- Frequently Asked Questions
Our Top Picks After Research
Last update on 2019-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
We’ll give you the appetizer up front. While we encourage you to research and find what you are most comfortable with for your little sweetie, here’s our little secret:
Our favorite brand for kitten food is Nulo.
It has none of the nasty ingredients you should avoid (keep reading to find out more about these), and has all of the great nutrients and options we will be discussing below.
Now that we’ve shared that tip, keep reading to learn about what qualifies as quality kitten food and empower yourself with the knowledge to find the best kitten food brands.
Does Quality Really Matter for a Cat?
Okay, so now you know our personal preference, let’s talk about why quality kitten food is so important.
While yes, she is “just a cat,” quality does matter. Especially in cats, there is often a significant link between health and behavior.
For instance, certain types of food may be higher in magnesium and other ingredients that encourage crystals to develop in a cat’s urinary system. These crystals could lead to urinary tract infections, urinating outside of the box, or even in a life-threatening situation if the bladder becomes blocked.
Furthermore, if kittens don’t get the amount of nutrients, and the right nutrients they need, they may become lethargic, or develop skin issues, or a host of other health concerns that can impact behavior.
Needless to say, a healthy kitty is a happy kitty and therefore the most enjoyable pet for both her and your life.
Nutritional Needs for Kittens vs. Adult Cats
Okay, so good kitten food is important. But what qualifies as good? And does it really need to be different than what the older felines eat?
We’re glad you asked!
First, to understand what is best for your little kitten, let’s talk about how she is different from her elders.
- Kitten Energy Needs
Kittens are growing at an incredible rate. They are born weighing only a few ounces, but in a matter of just two months grow up to two pounds, doubling or even tripling their birth weight! So, little kitties are expending a great deal of energy just to grow. But they are also expending energy for play, which is the most important factor in their cognitive development. Together, this means that simply for growing and cognitive development, your little fluff muffin is expending about triple the amount of energy as her window-sill-loving elder counterpart. Naturally, then, kittens’ needs are a bit different than cats. They need food that will provide for the enormous energy levels they need to grow.
- Kitten Developmental Needs
So, young kitties need a special diet containing more of certain nutrients due to all that energy they are using to grow and fly around your place. But tiny ones also need special diets due to their physical development and fragile immune system. When they are still very small, during the first couple months of life, remember that they have tiny, new teeth. Thoroughly chewing dry food may be very difficult, even painful for them. For this reason, wet foods are important to at least include as a part of your kitten’s regular menu. But more on this in a bit.
- Pro-Tip: to avoid a super finicky / picky adult eater, offer your kitten a variety of kitten food types and flavors while she’s young. This doesn’t mean you should change her diet every day – keep it mostly the same. Just offer some different wet and dry food in addition to her staple diet. The more she is exposed to variety now, the less picky she will likely be later!
So, when looking for the best kitten crunchies for your new fuzz ball, first remember that what your kitten needs will be different than what she needs as an adult. As such, it is important to choose a diet that is specifically formulated for kittens and their needs.
As a note of caution, you may see regular cat foods out there that state they are sufficient for both kittens and all life stages. However, these are not good choices unless they have actually done the necessary scientific testing to support that claim.
Bottom line – it’s best to stick with a kitten formula.
How to Choose High Quality Kitten Food for Your Fluffball
Okay – so now you know why it is so important to get a best food option specifically formulated for kittens.
Right! But that still leaves a TON of choices. How do you know what type of kitten food really is best?
Well, some of those points about how kittens are different than adults are good clues to start with.
First, let’s talk about nutrition and good ingredients!
- Important Nutritional Ingredients in the Healthiest Kitten Food Brands
While both adolescent and adult felines need many of the same nutrients, kittens definitely need some of them in much larger quantities. Fats, protein, and fatty acids will be especially important for your little one’s healthy development.
Nutrients that should be included in the best food for kittens will include:
- 30% more protein than adult formulas
- Omega fatty acids from DHA
- Essential amino acids (taurine, lysine, tryptophan)
- Calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and iron
- Vitamin E and A
- Higher moisture content
The best kitten food will focus on the protein and fat content. Dry kitten food should contain about 35% protein and anywhere from 12%-24% fat. Canned food will have slightly different percentages because it is diluted with water, but protein and fat should be predominant nutrients.
When reading the label, you should be able to read (at the top) the meat source the protein comes from. Chicken, salmon, duck, rabbit – there are all types of options. But as cats are carnivores, and as your kitten will need extra protein to provide her energy, the protein meat source should be the first ingredient.
A quick word, though, on your precious one’s carnivorous nature. Just because she is a meat eater doesn’t mean she should only eat animal protein or that she can survive on that. Purely feeding her protein would lead to deficiencies and serious health problems.
This is why a pet food formula will include other ingredients besides just a meat source. Even kitten chow without grains will have additional ingredients.
In a feral or wild situation, cats would be getting these additional nutrients through what they caught and ate. But processed meat would not still have those nutrients to offer.
Now you know more about the nutrients to look for, what about type of food?
- Dry vs. Wet Cat Food for Kittens
We touched on this a bit above in our kitten vs. cat section, but it does well to discuss a bit more thoroughly here.
Especially if your kitten is very young, you will need to start out with wet first, especially if you got her when she was still only 4-8 weeks old. This is partially due to her tiny teeth and mouth. But good canned kitten food has other benefits as well.
In general, wet cat food tends to be purer and less processed. This is naturally a healthier option. Wet will also help keep her hydrated. This is an extremely important benefit, as not all cats are good drinkers.
As your baby gets older, you can begin introducing dry food, and transition her fully if you choose. Admittedly, though, wet food is the most ideal and usually the best choice. However, it is more expensive and less convenient, so many make the switch to dry food.
As long as you keep in mind what we talked about regarding nutrition and kitten vs. cat food above, you can find plenty of dry kibble that will serve your kitty well.
If you are looking for some quick ways to identify healthy choices, an easy thing to keep an eye out for is the AAFCO (the American Association of Feed Control Officials) on the label. If the label states that it at least meets the requirements, or better yet, that it offers complete and balanced nutrition based on AAFCO trials, you are in pretty good shape.
Finally, an important note to make here – the other key thing you need to provide to ensure a happy and healthy kittie-cat is plenty of fresh water. Dehydration in cats can quickly lead to serious medical problems (including urinary tract infection and even crystals), so keep that water bowl full and fresh!
Foods/Ingredients You Should NEVER Give Your Kitty
It is of course important that you know what your kitten needs.
BUT, it is also important that you know what to avoid. There are a lot of ingredients and additives hiding in many mass produced kitten foods, even in the “organic” and “healthy” brands that are simply no good. Ingredients to look out for include:
- Rendering products
- Synthetic preservatives
The Cornucopia Institute provides an easy to read chart of a lot of the popular healthy brands to show you which contain these chemicals and additives and which do not.
Additionally, there are some food items that you should absolutely never give your little tiger. Following is a list of some surprisingly toxic and harmful items you should NEVER give them:
- Caffeinated beverages
- Dairy products (many cats are lactose intolerant)
- Fat trimmings from your raw meat or raw fish, eggs
- Garlic and/or onions
For a complete list of potentially harmful substances and an explanation of why they are harmful, check this article from VetsNow.
Best Way to Feed Kitty Her Crunchies
Too much of a good thing is still a bad thing.
And too little of a good thing doesn’t make much good.
This is why it is important to know not only what to feed your kitten, but how much and how frequently too.
When your kitten is still young, her stomach is rather small. As such, you will need to divide her day’s portion into multiple small meals a day. Ideally, you will want to feed her three to four times a day in the beginning.
You can free feed your little one to start. Once she’s older, you can cut back to two meals a day. We recommend that you always feed her at least twice a day.
Top 7 Best Kitten Dry & Wet Foods Reviewed
Now you’re an expert! But maybe you are still overwhelmed by all of the brands and all of their lines.
So, to help you out, we’ve decided to provide a quick kitten food review of the top 7 kitten brands for your convenience.
All of the brands we review and recommend pass the ingredients checklist available on Cornucopia Institute’s site and are available through Amazon for easy online purchase.
We have divided our list into top wet and dry kitten foods.
So, here they are! When it comes to wet food, here is the best cat food for kittens:
AvoDerm Natural Canned Wet Kitten Food
AvoDerm is a unique option for your new furry friend. It provides high quality ingredients, with the top four ingredients being protein sources.
It of course also incorporates many other needed nutrients, including antioxidants and healthy sources of fatty acids and omegas. What makes it so unique is its use of avocado oil (where the brand takes at least part of its name).
It is the avocado oil that provides a truly healthy source of fats and omegas. Besides helping provide the energy your little one will need, it also ensures that she will have healthy coat and skin.
If you choose AvoDerm, you can also rest assured knowing that it meets all of the nutritional levels required by the AAFCO. They also guarantee that there will be no corn, wheat or artificial colors in any of their foods.
- Top four ingredients are protein soruces (salmon, salmon broth, chicken liver).
- It doesn’t contain any corn, soy, artificial colors, preservatives or by-products
- Some cats can get bored of the food so you should switch it up occasionally
Earthborn Holistic Wet Kitten Food
Next on the list of amazing wet food options for your new fuzz bucket is Earthborn Holistic.
Using a facility up to human grade standards, Earthbound makes all of their foods with the highest quality proteins and an array of vegetables and fruits. All of their foods contain no grain ingredients.
In addition to the whole foods, they also add important vitamins and minerals to help create exceedingly healthy yet tasty formulas. They offer their wet in both cans and pouches with a variety of meat sources, such as chicken, fish and beef.
Offering the promise of a guaranteed analysis and the assurance of meeting the AAFCO standards for pet food, Earthborn is a sturdy brand to choose.
While they do not have kittens’ formulas, their wet food has undergone testing to support the claim that it is appropriate for all stages of growth. The company also provides separate feeding instructions appropriate for your kitten.
- Human grade standards in food production
- Formula without grains, with the top three ingredients being protein sources
- Sometimes you will have to mince the big food pieces depending on the can.
Tiki Cat Gourmet Whole Food
Tiki Cat gourmet wet food will ensure that your sweet kitten gets the very best. Whole Food Certified, it is one of the only cat diets that is certified for human consumption!
Tiki Cat’s focus is on creating food that is most natural for the carnivore inside your kitten. All of their lines are high protein, without grains, with no corn, rice, wheat or even potatoes, and use only recognizable, whole food ingredients.
They offer their wet cat foods in many different lines, some canned some in pouches. Chicken and fish are the primary meat sources, and they also offer a line for kitties with sensitive tummies.
When you open up a can of Tiki, you know you got what they claim. You can see the chicken and fish chunks and fruit and veggies right before your eyes. You’ll have no doubt about what your little cat is eating.
- Certified for human consumption
- Grain free and also free from any other filler ingredients like rice or potatoes.
- Very high in protein with 18.5% of minimum crude protein
- Some picky cats may not like the taste
Instinct Original Natural Wet Canned Kitten Food
If you’re looking for canned wet kitten food, this grain-free product may be the right choice for your feline. Like many of the other foods on our list, this low-ingredient wet food is also free of artificial preservatives and fillers that could otherwise trigger a food sensitivity in your young kitty’s tummy.
It’s rich in healthy fats from things like salmon and eggs, providing essential fatty acids including DHA for optimal brain and eye development. It’s also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and other macronutrients from whole ingredients like artichokes, pumpkin, blueberries, broccoli, and kale.
- High protein (12.0% minimum crude protein analysis)
- Contains no grain, potato, wheat, corn, soy, carrageenan, by-product meals, artificial colors or preservatives
- Some cats don’t like the pate texture
- Other reviewers note their animals got bored with it (but it is easy to switch out or use as a topper on other food)
For those interested in starting kitty on some crunchies, here are our top three dry food picks:
Taste of the Wild
This brand says it all in its name and with its bag design. All grain-free formulas developed for mimicking what cats would eat in the wild, Taste of the Wild offers your cat nutrient rich food in kibble form.
Even its meat options are wild, with sources like roasted venison, smoked salmon, and chicken. Like Tiki, Taste uses healthy vegetables and fruits to supplement the proteins and deliver antioxidants and other nutrients your kitten needs.
An added bonus to Taste is their formula’s use of prebiotics and probiotics to ensure healthy digestion, as well as plenty of omega fatty acids. The formula uses both Omega 6 and Omega 3, in addition to selenium, vitamin E, and zinc.
Taste of the Wild is formulated to meet the standards established by the AAFCO for Cat Food appropriate for all life stages. This means that their cat food formulas, which are not specific to a particular life stage, may be safely used for kittens both now and as they get older.
- 42% protein with diverse sources (chicken, roasted venison, smoked salmon, ocean fish and some vegetable protein sources)
- Contains probiotics specifically for cats
- It doesn’t have grains, corns, wheat and other fillers. It is free of artificial colors, flavours and preservatives.
- Some feline parents have noticed that their cats started putting on pounds if they were free fed with Taste of The Wild
Nulo Grain Free Dry Cat Food
Last but certainly not least to our mind is the Nulo. Nulo truly strives to be the best of the best for healthy kitten diet options.
They proudly make all grain-free recipes, meaning no corn, soy, or wheat. They have also eliminated potatoes, artificial colors, preservatives, flavorings and tapioca fillings.
Their foods have high meat content, with the top 3-4 ingredients always being animal proteins. The rest of the formula is low carb and include a BC30 probiotic to encourage healthy gut chemistry.
The whole goal of Nulo is to provide a diet closest to what your cat instinctually craves and needs. Their goal is to also support energy and activity with a healthy, trimming diet full of nutrients to keep them energized and ready for action.
Nulo, like many on this list, has ensured that their food is so power and nutrient packed that it is ideal for both kittens and cats. Just be sure to read the feeding instructions thoroughly.
Besides taking immense pride in the quality of their formulas, Nulo also takes great pride in being made in the U.S.A. Based in Austin, TX, they are one of the last independently owned pet food companies in North America.
Their goal is to provide quality in every area and they have developed a network of sustainable farmers and ranchers offering free-range beef, wild-caught fish, and free-roam poultry.
Nulo is a brand you can truly feel good about buying for your new kitty.
- Top ingredients are natural animal sources
- No grains, or other fillers like potatoes. No artificial colors, flavours and preservatives either.
- Smaller kibble size makes eating easier for kittens
- Some cats may not like the taste
Instinct Original Natural Dry Kitten Food
This kitten food is perfect for your little huntress, who loves to eat meat but could do without all the other additives and junk found in many name-brand cat foods.
The number one ingredient is real chicken meat from cage-free poultry. This is essential, since your little kitten needs plenty of protein to help her body, brain, immune system, and other areas develop. Each piece of kibble is also coated in a freeze-dried raw for extra flavor and nutrition.
In addition to real animal ingredients (making up 81% of the product!), this dry food also contains 19% antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruit including apples, carrots, and cranberries. It’s also fortified with a rich blend of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and probiotics, and customer reviews are glowing overall.
- Made with real chicken meat from cage-free chickens (no by-product)
- Rich in probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids
- No grain, corn, soy, potato, or wheat
- American-made with quality ingredient sourced from around the globe
- Somewhat pricey for the relatively small bag (4.5 lbs)
- Some reviewers note concern of amount of peas and tapioca in the ingredients (not as nutrient dense and could be problematic to some stomachs)
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What’s the Best Way to Transition My Feline From One Kitten Food to Another?
The simple trick: slowly but surely! Rapidly introducing a new food to your young kitty’s diet can be hard on her stomach. Here’s a simple guideline to get you started:
- Days 1-2: 75 percent old kitten food and 25 percent new kitten food
- Days 3-4: 50 percent old kitten food and 50 percent new kitten food
- Days 5-6: 75 percent new food and 25 percent kitten food
- Days 7+: Feed only new kitten food
2. When Should I Begin Giving Kitten Food to My Kitten?
Kitty weaning (from her cat mama’s milk) typically begins when a kitten is four weeks old. This is usually when your curious creature tries to eat her mama’s food or starts to bite and gnaw on a bottle.
Over the course of a few weeks, gradually introduce moistened dry food and/or wet food mixed with formula (using weight guidelines to help you determine portions). By age 6 weeks, your kitty should be able to tolerate dry food that’s been only slightly moistened with water. Kitten weaning should be completed by age 7 weeks—she’ll be kibble eating like a big girl!
3. When Should I Transition My Kitten To Adult Cat Food?
Once you’ve thrown your sweet cat her first birthday party, you can make the transition from kitten to cat food. Just give her a little extra attention to make sure she’s responding well.
Things to look for include energy levels, signs of gastrointestinal distress (like vomiting or diarrhea), and weight changes (i.e., she is growing, but you don’t want her underweight nor overweight).
It’s best to talk to the kitty doc with questions!