Can adult cats eat kitten food? Yes, adult cats can eat kitten food without any problems. But, while kitten food is safe for adult cats, it may not be ideal for adult cats with weight issues since it’s higher in calories. On the other hand, kittens should not be fed adult cat food, as kitten food is specifically designed for their growing health.
Many cat foods on the market are targeted to your cat’s specific age. But how much of a role does age play in determining if a type of cat food is right for your cat?
Kitten food is often attractive to many cats because it’s higher in fat, calories, and protein. But can adult cats eat kitten food safely? We’ll explore everything you need to know about adult cats and kitten food below.
Can adult cats eat kitten food: What you need to know
Understanding what to feed your cat is important. You want your cat to live a long, healthy, and happy life, which typically starts with feeding them a nutritious, well-balanced diet.
You may have heard kitten food is packed full of nutrients. So why wouldn’t you feed this to an adult cat — especially if your adult cat is a picky eater? Let’s start by examining how kitten food is different from adult cat food.
What’s the difference between kitten food and cat food?
A young cat is considered a kitten up to 12 months of age. After being weaned from their mother (or from kitten formula), kittens will consume a diet targeted to helping them grow and flourish into a full-grown cat.
The contents of kitten food are a little bit different from adult cat food in several ways. In general, kitten food contains:
- Higher levels of fat: Kitten food has a minimum of 22 percent protein versus adult cat food’s 18 percent protein.
- Higher levels of protein: Kitten food has a minimum of 8 percent fat versus adult cat food’s 5 percent fat.
- More vitamins and nutrients: Kitten food contains a larger dose of vitamins than adult cat food, such as calcium and phosphorus, needed for cats to grow and develop. Adult cat foods contain much lower levels since these vitamins are no longer needed for growth and can be harmful to some adult cats (particularly senior cats).
- Higher calorie count: Since kittens are growing, they need more calories. According to PetMD, kittens need roughly 520 calories per cup, while adult cats require only 500 calories (or less).
At what age should cats stop eating kitten food?
How long should cats eat kitten food? Since a kitten officially becomes a cat once they reach 12 months of age, they can be transitioned to adult cat food at this point. Making this switch from kitten to cat food may be difficult for some cats, though.
Since kitten food is higher in calories, fat, and protein, it’s generally more appealing to cats. To transition your pet from kitten food to cat food, it may be helpful to slowly introduce the new food as a treat throughout the day or to mix it in with their kitten food gradually. Once they’ve adjusted to the taste, you can try to stop mixing in the kitten food.
Why shouldn’t adult cats eat kitten food?
Let’s consider the original question, “Can adult cats eat kitten food?” The answer is yes, most adult cats can eat foods formulated for kittens without experiencing major issues. However, kitten food might not be the best choice for your adult cat — and it’s not ideal for every cat.
How to feed kittens and adult cats separately
If you have a kitten and an adult cat in the same household, feeding time might be difficult. Feeding multiple cats can always be a challenge, particularly if they’re on different diets. If you find your adult cat is more interested in your kitten’s food than his or her food, we recommend feeding them in separate areas.
You’ll need to avoid free-feeding if you’re unable to stop your cats from eating the wrong food and instead feed them at set meal times in separate rooms. You should be able to transition back to feeding them in the same room once your kitten hits 12 months and transitions to adult cat food.
5 types of cats that should avoid kitten food
1. Overweight cats and kitten food
If your cat is overweight or if your vet has recommended they lose a pound or two, avoiding kitten food is definitely in your cat’s best interest. Typically, overweight cats might be prescribed low-calorie or satiety foods that keep them fuller for longer, so they avoid overeating and taking in too many calories.
Since kitten food is higher in calories and fat than adult cat food, substituting this is generally not a great idea since it will be difficult for them to lose weight eating kitten food. Your cat might end up gaining more weight.
2. Senior cats and kitten food
Senior cats, or cats over 11 years old, are also not recommended to eat a kitten food diet. While eating a can of kitten food here or there is generally considered safe, long term intake can be an issue for many senior cats.
New evidence suggests that high phosphorus levels in kitten food can lead to serious kidney issues, particularly for senior cats. Consuming these phosphorus levels isn’t an issue for kittens since they only eat kitten food for their first year of life, but feeding a senior cat (or even a healthy adult cat) kitten food with increased levels of phosphorus can cause kidney issues and even kidney failure. The best cat food for seniors cats meets the specific nutritional needs of older cats.
3. Cats with health issues
Cats experiencing kidney issues should not eat kitten food due to the high phosphorus content, but kitten food may also be harmful to cats with other medical conditions. If your cat has a medical condition, it’s best to talk to your vet to determine what types of food are ideal for your cat’s health and what types of food and nutrients should be avoided.
4. Can kittens eat adult cat food?
It’s never a good idea to feed kittens an adult cat food diet. Since kittens are still growing and developing, they need more calories, protein, and fats than adult cats. Feeding kittens an adult cat food diet could deprive them of essential minerals needed, as well. Consider feeding your cat separately from your kitten.
5. Is kitten food ever a good choice for adult cats?
Yes, sometimes, kitten food can be beneficial to your cat’s health. Since it’s higher in calories, fat, and protein, kitten food might be an excellent choice to occasionally supplement or integrate within your cat’s regular food routine if they’re suffering from weight loss or struggling to gain weight.
As always, check with your vet before switching to kitten food, but if your cat is underweight, a great quality kitten food to try is Royal Canin’s Feline Health Nutrition for Kittens. This wet kitten food comes in morsels in gravy or a pate and is made with high fat, protein, and carbohydrate formula to help kittens gain weight quickly. As a result, it can help cats struggling to gain weight. Royal Canin also makes dry food for kittens, though it’s always best to feed young cats wet food primarily and dry food as a secondary option.
Kitten food is exceptionally healthy for growing young cats. But kitten food is not ideal for adult cats and can even be damaging to some. However, if your cat is underweight, a high-quality kitten food like Royal Canin can be a good option in this case adult cats can eat kitten food.
Cat food is designed for specific cat ages, and you should feed your cat a food that matches whatever lift stage they’re at, whether it’s food for seniors or ‘teens.’ Some cat foods will even specify “all ages” to let you know it’s safe to feed all cats, regardless of age.
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