Adult cat food has a different list of ingredients compared to kitten food. While some sites might tell you that you should never feed a kitten food made primarily for adults, it will do if you have nothing else available.
The food will not hurt the kitten in any way, and if the animal is ravenous and hasn’t had any kibble or wet food in a while, even adult food will supply them with the nutrients that are necessary for them to produce energy for the next few hours.
What does have to be noted here is that kittens should not be consistently fed an adult cat diet as they have different dietary requirements. To find out more, keep on reading!
Different Dietary Requirements for Kittens
All felines are obligate carnivores, whether they are young or old. That means that compared to other species, they should have a greater amount of fat and protein in their diets.
Kittens get the most important nutrients they need from their mother’s milk until the age of about eight weeks.
While kittens have pretty much the same dietary needs as their adult counterparts when it comes to fat, vitamins, and a variety of fatty acids, that rule does not apply to other nutrients, such as proteins, minerals, as well as antioxidants.
Kittens need more protein because it helps them have more energy, which is essential for a normal development process. Also, minerals are extremely important during a cat’s first 12 to 18 months of life as they can ensure that all of the processes going on inside the animal’s body are functioning properly; they can also prevent some diseases, such as rickets.
Although regulating the amount of food that a cat ingests every day is a good idea, especially for adults and seniors, some of whom might be predisposed to obesity, that does not apply to kittens.
It would be best if you let young cats eat as much as they want – they need as many calories as possible, especially in the first part of their life. However, if you do not want to practice free feeding as it can be challenging to teach your cat otherwise when they are older, you can feed them several meals throughout the day.
What Makes Adult Cat Food Different from Kitten Food?
Kitten food is generally seen as being denser and richer in calories compared to adult cat food.
For the sake of comparison, we are going to name a brand in this case (although we do not tend to do this) and look at the labels – one of its adult cat food and one of its kitten food. We’ll also compare them to a senior variety.
In this section, we’re looking at IAMS Proactive Health Healthy Adult with Chicken, IAMS Proactive Health Healthy Kitten, and IAMS Proactive Health Healthy Senior.
The first has 32% in crude protein, 15% in crude fat, and 3% in fiber, and has some added calcium (.8%), potassium (.7%), L-carnitine (80mg/kg), taurine (.15%), omega-3 fatty acids (.3%) and omega-6 fatty acids (3%).
The kitten variety contains 32% crude protein, 15% crude fat, 1.7% fiber (about half of what can be found in the adult one), 1% calcium (.2% more than the adult variety), .1% magnesium (absent in the adult food), vitamin E (100 IU/kg) – also absent from the adult food, the same amounts of taurine and L-carnitine, and slightly lower quantities of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
The senior cat food has 34% in protein, 17% in crude fat, 3% in fiber, .8% in calcium, .7% in potassium, 250 IU/kg vitamin E, the same amount of taurine as in the other two varieties, similar amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, and some interesting new ingredients – glucosamine (375mg/kg) and chondroitin sulfate (35 mg/kg). This variety could do with a bit less fat (maybe even less protein) in our opinion since seniors are known for their tendency to be overweight.
The conclusion, in this case, is that the kitten food contains more calcium and magnesium. It also has vitamin E, which is absent in the adult variety, but it is lower in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
The rest of the ingredients are virtually the same. So, while nutrition-wise the adult and the kitten diets in this case do not differ too much, the kitten ones are slightly richer in some nutrients. Your vet can also recommend supplementation with vitamin and mineral products for a healthy development.
In any case, if you feed your kitten adult food for lack of a better momentary option, you will not be putting their health in danger in any way.
When to Switch Kittens to Adult Cat Food
Even though most people tend to think that a kitten becomes an adult around the age of 12 months, the truth is that it can vary from one animal to the next. If you continue feeding your cat a kitten diet for a couple of more months after their first birthday, you are not going to do them harm.
Some larger breeds have to be fed kitten diets for a longer period of time, such as those that are particularly large. Maine Coons, Siberians, Norwegians, Chausies, and Savannahs are several examples, and they need more calories and more minerals and vitamins compared to their smaller counterparts. These breeds usually reach adulthood when they become 18 months of age.