The 8 Best Kitten Foods (2021 Reviews)

There’s nothing more exciting than bringing home a new kitten, but what should you feed them? With all of the brands, types, and flavors of food on the market, it can be overwhelming to figure out what’s best.

To help, we researched hundreds of options to find the 8 best kitten foods available now. We also paired our recommendations with a comprehensive guide on kitten nutrition and the different types of food choices at your disposal. Here’s our list:

Our Picks for the Best Kitten Foods

1. Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula

wellness complete chicken kitten food

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Wellness Complete Kitten Paté is a wet food specifically formulated to support a kitten’s healthy development. It’s all-natural, grain free, and contains no fillers or meat byproducts of any kind. In fact, the first three ingredients in this food are chicken, chicken liver, and chicken broth.

Key Features:

  • Wet paté that’s formulated for kittens
  • Chicken, chicken liver, and chicken broth are the first three ingredients
  • Grain free
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient standards for Growth
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 50% Protein, 27% Fat, 5% Fiber, 18% Carbohydrates (dry matter basis)

Pros:

  • Formulated with the necessary vitamins, minerals, and taurine for healthy kitten development
  • Contains no animal meals or byproducts
  • Fish oil and flaxseed for omega fatty acids
  • No fillers or artificial ingredients, flavors, or colors
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Quality comes at a price; more expensive than other brands

2. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free Kitten Dry Food

merrick purrfect bistro dry kitten food

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Merrick Purrfect Bistro Dry Kitten Food is a highly-rated dry kitten food that’s made with quality ingredients and cooked locally in the USA. This kibble contains deboned chicken as the first ingredient, and comes complete with the vitamins, minerals, and Omega fatty acids (including DHA) that your kitten needs for healthy development. While this food is perfectly fine as a standalone diet, we suggest also feeding your kitten wet food for its water content.

Key Features:

  • Dry kibble formulated for kittens
  • Deboned chicken is the first ingredient
  • Grain free
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient standards for Growth
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 46% Protein, 19% Fat, 3% Fiber, 24% Carbohydrates, 8% Vitamins/Minerals/Omegas (dry matter basis)

Pros:

  • No artificial flavors, preservatives, colors or byproduct meals
  • Includes all the vitamins, minerals, and taurine necessary for growing kittens
  • Salmon oil and flaxseed provide omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for cognitive development. DHA is also added.
  • 100% complete and balanced nutrition
  • Gluten, corn, soy, and wheat free
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Contains chicken and turkey meal. Totally fine for your kitten (read our guide below to see why — see “ingredients” section), though some owners may not like it.

3. Whole Earth Farms Canned Kitten Food

whole earth farmed canned kitten food

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Whole Earth Farms Canned Kitten Food is a solid bang for your buck given the quality of its ingredients. This paté style option is made with all-natural foods, including chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver as the first three ingredients, and is cooked in the USA.

Key Features:

  • Canned wet food formulated for kittens
  • Chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver are the first three ingredients
  • Grain free
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient standards for All Life Stages
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 41% Protein, 18% Fat, 13% Carbohydrates, 14% Fiber, 14% Ash (dry matter basis)

Pros:

  • Contains no animal meals or byproducts
  • Salmon oil and flaxseed for omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
  • Affordable price point given quality
  • Includes taurine for proper development
  • 100% complete and balanced nutrition for kittens
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Lower protein content compared to other foods on our list

4. Wellness CORE Turkey & Chicken Liver Canned Kitten Food

wellness core canned kitten food

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Wellness Core Turkey & Chicken Liver Paté is a high protein, high fat wet kitten food formulated to support active and growing kittens. It’s made of high quality ingredients, including turkey, chicken liver, and turkey broth as the first three, as well as fish oil/flaxseed for omega fatty acids.

Key Features:

  • Wet kitten food in classic paté style
  • Grain free
  • Turkey, chicken liver, and turkey broth are the first three ingredients
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient standards for All Life Stages
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 55% Protein, 34% Fat, 10% Carbohydrates, 1% Fiber/DHA/Taurine (dry matter basis)

Pros:

  • All natural, with no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors
  • No corn, wheat, soy, gluten, or pea protein
  • No meat byproducts or fillers
  • Added DHA and taurine
  • Fish oil and flaxseed for omega fatty acids
  • High protein and fat content— optimal for growing kittens
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Contains chicken meal — completely fine (read our guide below), though some kitten parents may not like it.

5. Instinct Original Grain Free Dry Kitten Food

instinct original grain free dry kitten food

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Instinct Original Dry Kitten Food is a highly-rated dry kitten food with a freeze dried, raw coating for extra flavor. The kibble also includes cage free chicken as the first ingredient, added DHA, and natural probiotics for digestive health.

Key Features:

  • Dry food formulated for kittens
  • Grain free
  • Freeze dried raw coated for extra flavor
  • Cage free chicken is the first ingredient
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient standards for Growth
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 47% Protein, 25% Fat, 20% Carbohydrates, 3% Fiber, 4% Omega Fatty Acids, 1% DHA/Taurine/Vitamins (dry matter basis)

Pros:

  • Complete and balanced nutrition as standalone food (we suggest adding a wet food into your kitten’s diet as well)
  • No animal byproducts
  • Includes all necessary vitamins, minerals, and omegas for healthy development
  • Made with DHA and taurine
  • Natural probiotics for digestive health
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Contains poultry and fish meals — both completely fine for your kitten, though some owners may not like it.

6. Purina Fancy Feast Gourmet Naturals Wet Kitten Food

fancy feast gourmet naturals wet kitten food

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Fancy Feast Gourmet Naturals Kitten is an affordably priced all-natural wet kitten food. This low carbohydrate paté is grain free, corn and soy free, and includes chicken, turkey, and liver as the first three ingredients. It also has no meat byproducts or fillers of any kind.

Key Features:

  • Wet kitten food in a paté style
  • Grain free
  • Chicken, turkey, liver are the first three ingredients
  • Contains necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for growing kittens
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient standards for Growth
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 50% Protein, 23% Fat, 3% Carbohydrates, 7% Fiber, 16% Ash, 1% Calcium/Taurine (dry matter basis)

Pros:

  • Affordably priced
  • All natural, with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • High protein and fats, low carbohydrates
  • No meat byproducts, fillers, corn or soy

Cons:

  • Contains a small amount of milk for creaminess

7. Purina ONE Healthy Kitten, Chicken & Salmon Wet Food

purina one healthy kitten wet food

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Purina One Healthy Kitten is another paté style kitten food that includes only all-natural ingredients, with no meat byproducts or fillers of any kind. The recipe has chicken as the first ingredient, and also salmon as an additional lean protein for omega fatty acids.

Key Features:

  • Wet kitten food in chicken and salmon flavor
  • Grain free
  • Chicken, liver, chicken broth are the first three ingredients
  • Contains necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients for growing kittens
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient standards for Growth
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 47% Protein, 28% Fat, 4% Carbohydrates, 6% Fiber, 15% Ash (dry matter basis)

Pros:

  • Affordably priced
  • All natural, with no artificial flavors or preservatives
  • No meat byproducts or fillers
  • High protein and fat, low carbohydrate recipe

Cons:

  • While the recipe does contain real salmon, it’s the 5th ingredient by volume

8. Hill’s Science Kitten Healthy Cuisine Roasted Chicken & Rice

hills science healthy cuisine canned kitten food

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Hill’s Science Kitten is made in the USA with only high quality ingredients, including chicken broth, chicken, and pork liver as the first three. It also has a meatier texture that’s perfect for kittens who like some variety in their cuisine. While Hill’s is a hit amongst kittens for its taste, we suggest pairing it with another food as the carb percentage is high for a standalone diet.

Key Features:

  • Canned kitten food in chicken and rice flavor
  • Grain inclusive
  • Chicken broth, chicken, pork liver are the first three ingredients
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient standards for Growth
  • Contains necessary vitamins, minerals, and taurine for growing kittens
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 38% Protein, 24% Fat, 29% Carbohydrates, 3% Fiber, 6% Ash (dry matter basis)

Pros:

  • No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Ingredients have more texture than a traditional paté, which is great for adding variety to your kitten’s meals
  • Contains no animal byproducts
  • Made in the USA
  • Comes with 100% satisfaction guarantee

Cons:

  • High carbohydrate content compared to other recommendations on our list
  • More expensive than similar wet kitten foods

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Kitten Food Buying Guide

Guide provided by Julie Whitsitt

You’ve just brought home a new kitten — congrats! In this guide, we’ll cover everything you’ll need to know about feeding your new kitten, from proper nutrition based on age to evaluating the different types of kitten food on the market.

Nutritional Needs of a Kitten

Kittens grow up fast; they’re typically weaned from their mothers by 8 to 12 weeks and begin eating solid foods around the same time. But that doesn’t mean they should start eating standard cat food just yet! Though kittens and cats are obligate carnivores (meaning they need meat to survive) and require certain fats, amino acids, and vitamins, the quantities and ratios of those nutrients change across their lifetime.

Feeding to Support Healthy Growth

Kittens have famously high energy and a startlingly fast growth rate. In fact, they reach their full adult size by about 40 weeks of age! All of that growth requires a lot of calories — about triple the amount they need once fully grown — as well as high levels of protein and other nutrients.

Food for adult cats doesn’t meet these dietary requirements, so it’s important to only feed your kitten food designed for their needs.

kitten eating wet food

Protein and Amino Acids

Given their carnivorous nature, the majority of a kitten’s protein should come from animals instead of plants. The reason for this is simple: meat contains a complete amino acid profile, while plant protein does not.

Animal-based proteins are also the only source of taurine, an amino acid crucial for the development of healthy kittens. Without enough taurine, kittens can suffer from heart problems and vision impairment.

Fatty Acids

You’ll also find DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), linoleic acid, and arachidonic acid in most kitten food formulas. These omega-3 fatty acids aid in developing the brain, eyes, and nervous system, as well as keeping a cat’s skin and coat healthy. And since cats can’t make omega-3 fatty acids independently, they’ll need to get them through their food.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide essential energy and help keep intestines healthy. However, a diet too high in carbs can lead to digestive problems and obesity in cats. A high-quality diet for kittens should keep carbohydrates low and protein and fat levels high, compared to an adult cat’s diet.

Hydration

Water is crucial for healthy kittens and cats, so make sure they always have access to fresh water. And since kittens usually won’t frequent the water bowl, wet food can provide an important extra source of hydration.

Types of Kitten Food

Like adult cat food, kitten food is available commercially in wet and dry formulas. While adults can go without wet food, veterinarians recommend that kittens have at least some wet food in their diet, as dry food can be harder to chew and have a higher carb content.

Also don’t worry if your kitten isn’t excited about their food in the beginning. It can take time to transition from eating milk to solid foods!

Wet Food

Wet food is a good source of hydration, and also provides the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that growing kittens need. Generally, wet food has more animal-based protein and lower carbs than dry food. If you’re feeding your kitten several meals throughout the day, wet food also makes portion control a cinch.

However, while there are many benefits to a moist diet, wet food can be more expensive and needs to be refrigerated once opened.

Pros:

  • High in moisture
  • Usually lower carbohydrates compared to dry food
  • Lots of flavors and textures to satisfy picky eaters

Cons:

  • More expensive than dry food
  • Will spoil if left out
  • Doesn’t help with tartar control like dry food

Dry Food

Dry food is calorie-dense and less expensive than wet food, but only includes 6-10% water. If you leave food out throughout the day for your kitten, you also won’t need to worry about dry food spoiling. However, despite its high calories, dry food usually has lower protein than wet food (on a dry matter basis) and higher amounts of carbs.

If your kitten is having trouble with dry food, moistening it in water can help them chew and digest it more easily. You can also use wet food as a topper to add moisture to the meal.

Pros:

  • Less expensive than wet food
  • Can be left out longer during free-feeding
  • Maintains freshness after being opened

Cons:

  • Not as much moisture as wet food
  • Some kittens may not like the taste of dry foods
  • More difficult to chew for some kittens

Homemade Food

Homemade doesn’t always mean healthy. If you want to make your own kitten food, be sure to speak with your veterinarian to confirm that it includes the nutrients critical to your kitten’s development. Some homemade foods can lack calcium or other minerals needed for kittens to thrive.

Reading a Nutritional Label

back of canned kitten food

Not all wet and dry foods are nutritionally complete, so be sure to read the label when choosing food for your kitten. All pet food labels are required to contain the following information:

  1. Brand name and product name
  2. Who it’s made for (kittens, cats, dogs, etc.)
  3. Amount of product
  4. Guaranteed analysis (i.e., the nutritional value of food)
  5. Ingredients
  6. Recommended feeding instructions
  7. Name and address of the manufacturer

Terms to Know

Don’t let words such as “premium” or “wild” sway you when considering kitten foods. Most of these are just marketing terms and don’t give any real insight into a product’s quality.

Thankfully, if you know what to look for, items on the nutritional label can provide information. For example, there are rules about how you can name a product based on the percentage of certain ingredients.

Cat Food: “Salmon Cat Food” or “Chicken Cat Food” must contain at least 95% of the named protein source.

Dinner: the word “dinner”, for example “Turkey Dinner”, means that the food only contains between 25-94% of the named protein.

With: the word “with” has far lower requirements. “Cat Food with Tuna”, for example, only needs to contain 3% tuna.

AAFCO Nutrient Statement

An important thing to look for on your cat’s food label is the AAFCO statement. AAFCO is a non-profit group that regulates pet food, and determines whether a food provides the proper nutrition for a life stage (kitten, adult, nursing) based on feeding trials.

For kittens, look for an AAFCO statement that says the food is complete and balanced for “All Life Stages” or for “Growth”. This ensures that it contains ingredients in the right amounts for a growing kitten. The term “complete and balanced” also means that the food alone provides the nutrients a kitten needs, and therefore doesn’t require supplementation. All of our recommendation above meet these AAFCO standards.

Ingredients

Ingredients on a nutritional label are listed in order of weight. We recommend choosing kitten food with meat, poultry, or seafood in the first few ingredients.

Meals of meat, poultry, and seafood are also acceptable. While they’ve gotten a bad rap, they don’t necessarily equate to low-quality food. Most of the time, they’re just the baked-down remains of an animal after the parts for human consumption have been removed.

That being said, stick to items such as “beef meal”, and avoid generic ones like “animal meal” or “meat byproduct” which can signal low quality food.

What Your Kitten Shouldn’t Eat

As tempting as it can be to feed your cat treats, it’s important to remember that their digestive systems are very different from our own. The following foods can be dangerous to kittens and cats:

  • Grapes or raisins
  • Onions, garlic, scallions
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee, tea, soda
  • Garlic
  • Milk
  • Raw fish
  • Nuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Dog food

Generally, a good rule of thumb is to stick with kitten food. Better to be safe than sorry in the event something doesn’t agree with them! If you’d like to learn more about foods your kitten should avoid, read our pet home safety guide.

When to Feed Your Kitten (and How Much)

Since they’re so small, kittens can’t eat enough food in one sitting to get them through the day, so frequent feeding is necessary. Most vets recommend feeding either 4 times per day or offering “free feeding” (when food is always left out to graze on). Free feeding is especially good for kittens who don’t eat much at once, or who aren’t gaining weight as quickly as they should.

That being said, free feeding can be a challenge if you have other pets in the house, or if your kitten eats so infrequently that wet food has time to spoil. If you choose this route, vets recommend tapering down to regular meal times at six months of age, as free feeding can lead to weight gain over time.

kitten playing

Regardless of the feeding option, make sure to stick to your food’s package guidelines for the right amounts to give your kitten. It’s also smart to get your vet’s recommendations on this.

Once your kitten is neutered, its growth rate and metabolism will start slowing down, so it’s even more important to keep an eye on any weight gain. After all, it’s much easier for a cat to keep weight off than to lose it.

What About Treats?

Treats are fine for kittens in moderation, though they should never exceed 10% of their daily caloric intake. They also shouldn’t be considered a source of nutrition. Make sure your kitten is getting all their nutrients from their regular food, and think of treats as icing on the cake.

Transitioning From Kitten Food to Cat Food

Since kitten food is designed to support growing felines, it’s a fast track to obesity for less-active adult cats. Most vets recommend transitioning from kitten food to regular cat food when your kitten turns one year old, though your vet’s advice may vary depending on your cat’s body type.

However, that doesn’t mean you should wake up and throw out your kitten food entirely — switching foods too quickly can make your kitten’s stomach upset. Since many cats are picky about their food, it’s important to give them time to adjust to the new taste and texture.

To switch gradually, try putting the new and old foods in separate bowls, and slowly reduce the amount of old food until you’re no longer putting any out.

10 Day Food Transition for Your Cat

Here’s a food transition that’s similar to most manufacturers’ suggestions:

Days 1-3: ¾ old food, ¼ new food

Days 4-6: ½ old food, ½ new food

Days 7-9: ¾ old food, ¼ new food

Day 10: All new food

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I feed my kitten?

You should ideally feed your kitten a mix of high-quality wet and dry food formulated specifically for kittens. And water! Kittens need lots of water, so be sure that they have access to it at all times.

How much food should you feed a kitten?

Veterinarians recommend feeding your kitten at least 4 times per day or, depending on their needs, through free feeding. Because they’re growing fast and have high energy levels, they require a lot of nutrients. Check your food’s label for guidance or consult your vet on the amount, as it will vary based on their age and weight.

When should you switch a kitten to regular cat food?

At one year old. Veterinarians recommend keeping kittens on a growth formulated recipe until this age.

Can my kitten eat normal cat food?

No; kittens have different nutritional needs (they expend more energy and are growing at breakneck speed!) than cats and may not get adequate nutrients from regular cat food.

My kitten is a picky eater. How can I find a food they like?

Instead of mixing foods, try feeding them separately to your kitten. Sometimes if they dislike one food, mixing it with another will result in the kitten hating both. You can also switch up foods every six months to keep them on their toes and prevent boredom.

What foods should I avoid feeding my kitten?

A good rule of thumb is to avoid feeding them any type of human food, as this ensures they won’t eat something that can make them sick.

Which is better: wet or dry food?

Wet and dry food each have their own pros and cons, though a mix is usually a winning combination. In the least, be sure to purchase only high-quality foods.

How do I know if kitten food is high-quality?

Read the label! Look for meat, poultry, or seafood listed in the first three ingredients. Also be sure to locate a statement from the AFFCO about providing a complete and balanced diet for “growth and reproduction” or “all life stages”.

A final word: this guide should be used for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Speak with your vet to make sure you’re providing your kitten with the right diet for their healthy growth and development.

References

University of Wisconsin-Madison Veterinary School: https://www.uwsheltermedicine.com/library/guidebooks/guide-to-raising-underage-kittens/caring-for-kittens-from-birth-to-eight-weeks

Fetch by WebMD, Feeding Kittens: https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/feeding-your-kitten-food-and-treats#1

Best Friends Animal Society: https://bestfriends.org/stories-blog-videos/latest-news/how-care-orphaned-kittens-feeding-and-weaning-motherless-kittens

ASPCA Cat Nutrition Tips: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cat-nutrition-tips

RSPCA: What Should I Feed My Kitten? https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-should-i-feed-my-kitten/

How Much to Feed Your Kitten, Dr. Phillips Animal Hospital: https://drphillipsanimalhospital.com/2019/06/28/how-much-to-feed-a-kitten-or-puppy/

All About Cats Veterinary Hospital: https://weareallaboutcats.com/how-often-and-how-much-should-i-feed-my-kitten/

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