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When an adorable kitten joins your family, one of the most important things you have to do is figure out what type of food you’re going to feed the fuzzy little fellow. 

There are a lot of kitten food options on the market, but choosing one isn’t as simple as going to the store and grabbing whatever is on the shelf—there is a lot to consider. Do you want to go grain-free? Do you want to feed your kitten wet food, dry food, or both? Do you have room in the fridge or do you need the food to be shelf-stable? Before you make any decisions, here is what you should keep top-of-mind when choosing the best kitten food for you and your pet.

Kitten Food vs. Cat Food: What’s the Difference?

Kittens have different nutritional needs than adult cats, so it’s important that you feed kittens food that is specifically formulated for them. “Both kittens and cats are obligate carnivores, so they require a certain amount of protein and amino acids in their diet to be healthy,” Dr. Emily Swiniarski, chief medical officer of PAWS Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, explains. “Where they differ is that kittens need more fat and protein in their diets than adult cats. This is because kittens grow very rapidly and need to support that growth.” 

A kitten’s metabolism starts to slow around 8 or 9 months, and that’s when Swiniarski recommends transitioning your cat to adult food. “Don’t just swap out the food suddenly, though,” she cautions. “That can cause your cat to become ill.” She recommends introducing the adult cat food mixed in with the kitten food and eventually phasing the kitten food out. 

Kitten Food: What to Look For

Any food you feed your kitten should, at the very least, meet the requirements of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). “That’s the bare minimum,” Swiniarski says. Pet parents can see if their pet food has the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement on the label.

It’s also critical that kitten food be “cooked.” Not in the traditional sense, on the stovetop or in your oven, but you should avoid feeding a kitten raw food, Swiniarski says. “Raw food is more likely to carry harmful bacteria like salmonella, and kittens are particularly susceptible to food-borne illness,” she explains. 

You’ll also have a choice between grain-free and grain-inclusive kitten foods. In addition, you’ll notice that some recipes feature deboned meats whereas others may include bone meal and organ meats. Swiniarski says there is no reason to avoid a kitten food that contains grain or bone meal if your kitten likes it. “There are a lot of myths about the harm foods with these ingredients can cause pets, but most of them are false,” she says.

Pet parents who are still unsure about what constitutes a high-quality food should ask their veterinarian. “They’ll help you make the right decision for you and your cat,” she says.

6 Best Kitten Food Formulas to Try

These are the best kitten foods that have it all—good reviews, good price, and good nutrition. Keep reading to see if any might be the right fit for you and your family.

Best Kitten Food: Overall Winner

Our pick: Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Wet Cat Food

kitten eating Smalls human-grade fresh food

Smalls is a subscription meal service for cats that offers high-in-protein, human-grade wet food with no fillers. It only includes USDA-certified, humanely-harvested, sustainably-sourced ingredients. It is available in three proteins—chicken, beef, and turkey—and two textures, smooth and ground, making it ideal for cats who can be a bit picky about what they eat.

We like this food for kittens for two reasons: The super-high quality of the ingredients and the variety of tastes and textures. We also like that it is a delivery service, so you can set up a delivery schedule and you never have to worry about running out of Fluffy’s favorite food.

Highlights

  • Shows up at your doorstep—no trip to the store required
  • High-protein food without any fillers
  • USDA-certified and sustainably sourced ingredients 
  • Made in the USA
  • Contains enough taurine to exceed AAFCO standards

Things to Consider

  • They don’t offer age-specific food, but it’s suitable for cats of all ages
  • Food arrives frozen and should only be thawed 24 hours before you are ready to use it
  • Open wet food must be kept in the fridge and only keeps for 5-7 days
  • This food is only available through a subscription service 

Best Kitten Dry Food

Our pick: Purina ONE Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food

Purina ONE Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food is specially formulated to help kittens grow into strong, healthy cats. It has high protein content, includes four sources of antioxidants, and even contains DHA, a nutrient that supports brain and vision development. The number one ingredient in Purina ONE Kitten Formula is chicken, but the recipe also includes peas and carrots to help ensure your kitty is getting vital vitamins and nutrients. Most impressive is that every single ingredient in Purina ONE Kitten Formula has a nutritional purpose—there are no fillers.  

Highlights 

  • Optimal levels of protein, fat, calcium for a growing kitten
  • No fillers
  • Immune support
  • Extremely well-reviewed
  • Inexpensive and readily available

Things to Consider

  • If you’re serving your kitten a dry food-only diet, you have to be sure there’s fresh water available at all times
  • You can also add water to this dry food to make it more appealing to smaller kittens, but it will need to be changed out regularly, several times a day
  • Some reviewers note that this food has a strong odor

Best Grain-Free Kitten Wet Food

Our pick: Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula

If you’re looking to go the canned kitten food route, Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula is a fantastic option. It’s grain-free and lists chicken as its first ingredient. This kitten wet food is also rich in omegas from flaxseeds and fish oil (which support a healthy skin and coat) and contains antioxidants, taurine, vitamins, and minerals that support growth spurts. Further, the pate is served in a savory sauce that not only tastes delicious, but also keeps your kitten hydrated.

Highlights

  • 100% grain-free recipe
  • Contains antioxidant-rich cranberries, vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids, and taurine to support growth and development
  • Contains broth that helps keep your kitten hydrated and supports urinary health 
  • Made in the USA

Things to Consider

  • Like all wet cat food, this needs to be refrigerated after opening
  • Comes in 3-oz cans
  • Some Amazon customers noted issues with getting expired food

Best Kitten Wet Food Up to 12 months

Our pick: Royal Canin Kitten Loaf in Sauce

Specifically formulated for kittens up to 12 months of age, this canned kitten food provides a healthy balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates for growing felines. A blend of antioxidants, including vitamin E, help support your kitten’s immune system, while the high-quality protein in this food is combined with prebiotics for digestive health and balanced gut bacteria. We like Royal Canin as a brand because it has a pet-first mindset and develops its recipes with the input of veterinarians and nutritional experts. 

Highlights

  • Contains a blend of antioxidants to support a kitten’s immune system
  • Promotes healthy growth and digestion
  • Easy-to-chew loaf texture 

Things to Consider

  • Not grain-free
  • On the expensive side
  • Like all wet cat food, this needs to be refrigerated after opening

Best Grain-Free Kitten Dry Food

Our pick: Wellness CORE Grain-Free Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food

The first two ingredients of Wellness CORE Grain-Free Kitten Formula Dry Cat food are deboned turkey and whitefish. This protein-rich kibble is formulated to help your kitten develop strong and healthy muscles. It’s also packed with DHA omega-3 fatty acids (from salmon oil) that contribute to healthy brain and eye development, as well as taurine, vitamins, and minerals that support immunity and overall well being. This food is also fortified with Wellness’ proprietary ActiCoat probiotic coating, which supports healthy digestion, as well as flaxseeds, which keep your kitten’s coat healthy with omega-6 fatty acids.

Highlights

  • 100% grain-free recipe
  • First two ingredients are turkey and whitefish
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Provides optimum calories for growth and development
  • Made in the USA 

Things to Consider

  • If you’re serving your kitten a dry food-only diet, you have to be sure there’s fresh water available at all times
  • You can also add water to this dry food to make it more appealing to smaller kittens, but it will need to be changed out regularly, several times a day
  • Many reviewers note it has a strong odor

Best Budget Friendly Kitten Food

Our pick: Purina Fancy Feast Kitten Classic Pate 

Fancy Feast Kitten food differs from the others on this list in that it contains real milk, which provides extra calcium for growing bones. It comes in four different recipes, and each recipe features poultry or fish as the number one ingredient. Fancy Feast Kitten also has a smooth texture that is easy to eat. It’s also one of the most affordable kitten food options out there.

Highlights

  • Real poultry or fish is the number one ingredient 
  • 100% complete and balanced nutrition for kittens, so you can help her grow into a strong and healthy cat.
  • Made with real milk, which provides calcium
  • Smooth pate texture is easy for small kittens to eat

Things to Consider

  • Not grain-free
  • Not as moist as other wet foods (does not come in “gravy”)
  • Only available in 3-oz cans
  • Like all wet cat food, this needs to be refrigerated after opening

How Much to Feed a Kitten

To ensure kittens get the nutritional support they need, Swiniarski recommends giving them access to both wet food and dry food, and not limiting their food intake until they are grown. “Kittens need to have an unlimited supply of food at all times,”she says. “You can offer canned food twice or even three times a day and then have dry food available for when they’re hungry in between meals. They should be allowed to eat whenever and however much they want.” She adds, “As I mentioned before, kittens are rapidly growing. When they’re hungry, it’s because there is a nutritional need.”

Swiniarski also notes that pet parents should look for a cat food that offers a variety of flavors and textures within the same brand. “You want your kitten to grow into an adult cat who isn’t picky, and the best way to do that is to give them a variety when they are young.”

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