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Dear Doctor: How to Feed Kittens and their Nursing Mom

Q I am fostering an adolescent stray mother cat and her three kittens (I picked them up when the kittens were about one-week-old) and I fed her a high-quality wet cat food the first few days.

Then, I was told by a cat-loving friend that it was best to feed her kitten food because it’s higher in protein and fat. Is this true? I want to do the best for mama cat and her little brood!

Allison Sweeney

A Dear Allison: Yes, your friend is correct: It’s very important to feed a nursing queen AND her kittens a good quality KITTEN food (the kittens should start to be transitioned to cat food around three to four weeks of age).

To make sure that the food that you are feeding is suitable for both mama and kittens, look for a statement in teeny tiny print on the can that says “[This food] has been formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for [kitten growth or all life stages]” or a statement that says “Animal feeding trials substantiate that [product] provides complete and balanced nutrition for the [growth and reproduction or all life stages] of cats.”

Avoid diets that simply say “for adult maintenance” (but don’t mention growth). Keep in mind that all kitten foods should be okay for growth, and many “cat” foods are also okay for kittens and nursing queens, but the only way to know for sure is to look for the statement on the label.

Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
At Tufts University

Caption for photo at top of page: It’s important for kittens AND their nursing mom to eat a high-quality kitten food because it is higher in protein and fat.

Photo at top of page courtesy of © Marazem | Dreamstime


This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Tufts Catnip