Friday, June 17, 2016

Commercial pet foods - Kitten food vs Cat food.


Over the years, I have spent quite a bit of time reading about feline nutrition. The more I learn, the more I am bothered by the state of commercial pet foods. I would love to spend the time discussing why, but others have done that and I couldn't do it justice nearly as well.


What I do want to address is the commercial pet food's "kitten food". There are many people out there who believe there is such a dramatic difference, between 'cat' food and 'kitten' food, that to feed their kittens cat food will harm their kittens.

This is not the case.

Yes, there are nutrients that kittens need more of than adult cats, but these are addressed through proper feline nutrition to begin with. If you feed a high protein / low carbohydrate cat food, it is good for all life stages, just be sure to feed more of it to as kittens often require double or triple a number of calories than adult cats.

How do I know this? Because in the wild, there are no 'kitten mice' Whatever mom brings home to eat, the kittens eat.

In the wild, there are no 'kitten mice'  -> click to tweet



Would you like a more scientific answer? Check out this PDF on Your Cat's Nutritional Needs by the National Research Council of the National Academies that states:that a kitten needs 10 g of protein and 4 g of fat whereas an adult cat needs 12.5 g of protein and 5.5 g of fat. Sadly most pet foods do not give you specifics when it comes to what exactly is in their pet foods when it comes to calories and protein levels, but you can get a guess.. that PDF even gives a very good method to help you do a little detective work to figure it out
Determining Grams of Essential Nutrients from Petfood Labels
Petfood labels do not generally list amounts of essential nutrients in grams. However, all pet food labels must state guarantees for the minimum percentages of crude* protein and crude fat, and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. To convert these percentages to grams, simply multiply the crude percentages times the weight of your cat’s daily portion. For example, if you feed your cat one 6-oz (170-gram) can of food per day, and the food contains 8% crude protein, the grams of protein would be 0.08 x 170 =13.6 grams.
*”Crude” refers to the specific method of testing the product, not to the quality of the nutrient itself.
We also know that kittens burn through calories like it is their job so it is necessary to provide them with food far more frequently than an adult cat needs to eat.

Want more scientific requirements on nutritional requirements for cats vs kittens (and dogs) check out the Merck Veterinary Manual on nutritional requirements. There is very little difference when you consider the "minimum" vs "maximums" vs the recommended allowance.

More proof?

Here is the ingredient list of one brand of turkey kitten food
turkey, liver, meat by-products, poultry broth, milk, egg product, artificial and natural flavors, calcium phosphate, guar gum, potassium chloride, added color, magnesium sulfate, salt, taurine, vitamin e supplement, zinc sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, ferrous sulfate, niacin, copper sulfate, manganese sulfate, calcium pantothenate, vitamin a supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin k activity), pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, vitamin B-12 supplement, biotin, folic acid, vitamin D-3 supplement, potassium iodide
The nutritional information on it is as follows:
  • Crude Protein (Min) 11.0%
  • Crude Fat (Min) 6.0%
  • Crude Fiber (Max) 1.5%
  • Moisture (Max) 78.0%
  • Ash (Max) 3.5%
  • Calcium (Min) 0.3%
  • Taurine (Min) 0.07%
The ingredient list of the same brand's turkey and giblet cat food:
turkey, liver, meat by-products, turkey broth, poultry giblets, artificial and natural flavors, guar gum, calcium phosphate, potassium chloride, salt, magnesium sulfate, taurine, zinc sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin e supplement, ferrous sulfate, niacin, manganese sulfate, calcium pantothenate, vitamin a supplement, copper sulfate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin k activity), pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, vitamin B-12 supplement, biotin, folic acid, vitamin D-3 supplement, potassium iodide
The nutritional information:
  • Crude Protein (Min) 11.0%
  • Crude Fat (Min) 5.0%
  • Crude Fiber (Max) 1.5%
  • Moisture (Max) 78.0%
  • Ash (Max) 3.0%
  • Taurine (Min) 0.05%

Did I mention there was no such thing as kitten mice?


Now there are some minimal differences in the food, the base amount of taurine is only promised to be at least 0.05% in cat food and it is promised to be at least 0.07% in the kitten, but those are only minimums. Because of the meat content and the added taurine, the chances that the kitten isn't getting enough taurine is minimal. If you are providing them a good quality diet, it does not matter if it is "cat" or "kitten" food. What matters is that you are feeding them enough food, so feed them frequently and as much as they can possibly eat. I do not believe you can overfeed a kitten as long as they are deciding how much to eat (if you are force feeding, that is a different story). If they are not hungry, they will not eat. They are far far too busy playing, and learning, and hunting, and wrestling and sleeping to sit at a food bowl all day and eat if they aren't hungry. Once they have finished their growth cycle things will change, but as for kittens, if they are hungry, feed them.

21 comments:

  1. My human figured that kitten food probably had more calories than cat food, so she used to get it sometimes for Sparkle, who was perpetually underweight. I ate regular cat food from the time I came here (and probably before, at my breeder's also).

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  2. Busted! There was once a bigger difference between the two, but only because "adult" cat food had such low standards for nutrition that to feed kittens, or even nursing mothers, adult cat food would be nutritionally deficient.

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  3. "In the wild, there are no 'kitten mice'" I'd never thought about it that way. Logically, it seems like the difference should really be "before" and "after" weaning because the food would need to (or not need to) replace the nutrients from a mom's milk - if a kitten wasn't being bottle fed. I also think that "in the wild," weaning is probably often a little more flexible. I've heard stories of "farm cats" not being completely weaned until five or six months for a really clingy kitten when the mom finally puts her paw down.

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    Replies
    1. It really depends on the mom. I've had some mothers give up nursing as soon as the kittens start eating solid food (that is too early and I usually supplement them with goat milk when that happens) and some will happily nurse until the kittens 'go off to college' My sister once had a cat who's son quickly became bigger than she was, and he would knock her down and pin her to the ground to nurse ;)

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  4. Thanks for this. I just assumed that kitten food would be higher in calories, fat and protein, but apparently not so much.

    Other than carefully making your own raw pet food, it seems we're stuck with cr*p that's touted as healthy, or at least deficient food that's touted as healthy. Well, actually, the same can be said for a lot of human foods, too, but that's for a different blog. It all just makes my head spin, though, and want to throw up my hands in defeat, feed the boys whatever grain-free food they'll eat, no matter the label. :-/

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    Replies
    1. Sometimes that is what you have to do. Pick the lesser of two evils if you will.

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  5. This is great information. The difference seems to primarily be the "cat" or "kitten" on the label. What a shame.

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    Replies
    1. Seriously. MARKETING. (loved the "there are no kitten mice"!)

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  6. I love "no kitten mice". Too funny. We feed Hill's C/D here because of Toby. It's always Toby.

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    Replies
    1. two of my cats blocked, and we fed c/d for a while. Now they are all on a high protein low carb high moisture diet and are doing well.

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  7. interesting....and very true if you take the time to think about it.

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  8. Fascinating! I was 100% sure that the holistic vet would make us change Chuck and Angel to a different canned food, but he likes what I've chosen...meaning, my research paid off. I get so much info from my fellow cat bloggers...thank you!

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  9. I didn't learn this until Ringo was a kitten. Oddly, he much preferred "adult" food than the kitten foods. And the kitten foods tend to have only one flavor, and I feed a variety to kittens.

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  10. Thanks for this research. Very interesting. Like others have mentioned, I thought kitten food just had more calories than regular cat food. But now we know otherwise.

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  11. I always thought kitten food was very different from cat food- thank you for explaining.

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  12. Great post, thank you! I didn't know there wasn't really a difference.

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  13. Great info! It seems one of the market schemes like "indoor-only" and breed specific food!

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  14. That's the reason why we switched to a high quality canned food for cats (not only for kitten, long haired, short haired, but simply for cat !) a few years ago, and then to raw food. Great information ! Purrs

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  15. Nancy2:10 PM

    It is always helpful to provide low protein dog food to the pet having kidney ailment, so I prefer buying it for an elderly pet in my home.

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    Replies
    1. No, Nancy, it is not always helpful. Cats who have kidney issues need high quality high protein foods so as not to tax their kidneys with low quality plant based ingredients that are very taxing on the cat's body. You and your spam comment is going to hang out here and cause you problems in the long term when Google figures out what you are doing.

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All spam will be fed to the kittens

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