Best Kitten Food For Healthy Baby Cats: Reviews of the Top Wet and Dry Food Brands

Your kitten is totally dependent on her mommy cat for the first three or four weeks, but they’ll want to start using those new teeth as soon as they get them!

The active lifestyle and high-growth phase of a kitten’s life needs a diet that is high energy and full of nutrients that fuels their spirit and encourages healthy growth.

Kittens typically need to eat up to twice as much as an adult cat.

The best food for kittens will have:

  • More calories, protein, and fat
  • Omega fatty acid DHA, necessary for brain and vision development
  • Vitamin E and Selenium for the immune system
  • Calcium for bone growth

A balanced diet of food for your kitten that includes all of these nutrients will go a long way towards making sure that your frisky kitten matures into a healthy and happy cat.

The wet foods we suggest here are much better than the dry cat food options.

There are decent options for kibble, but if possible, choose a moist food for your kitty.

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Kitten-Specific Nutrition Requirements

One of the biggest questions we hear is whether or not kittens have different nutritional requirements when compared to adult cats or seniors. Is the best kitten food different from the best cat food?

The answer is: kind of.

The best cat foods we recommend for adult cats should all be excellent choices for your cat.

It’s just that kittens need to eat upwards of TWICE as much as an adult cat, since they’re growing.

Kind of how like human kids will pack away an insane amount of food and you’re left wondering if they’ve got hollow legs.

However, there are also a few other things to look out for, as we indicated above.

Things like making sure carbs are kept low and protein and fat contents are high. Omega fatty acids. A variety of vitamins and minerals for growth and development.

Learn More: See The Best Low Carb, High Protein Foods For Cats

Now, any food with the AAFCO label that says “All Life Stages” is meant to cover just that…all life stages from kitten to senior.

That means any food with that label will cover your kitten’s nutritional needs, and you don’t necessarily need to choose a kitten specific food.

However, there is another label, called “Growth”. These foods meet criteria specifically for growing kittens, and we’ll talk about why you might want to choose a Growth food below.

When Do You Need To Feed Kitten Food?

Kittens will typically exclusively eat their mother’s milk up until they are about 4 weeks old.

At this point, it’s safe to introduce a wet food.

They will combine this wet food while continuing to nurse until they’re about 5 or 6 weeks old.

After that, about one and a half months old, they should be eating “solid” cat food.

If you choose to feed a dry cat food (not recommended, but we understand that some people must do this), you must wet the food a bit to make it easier to chew and digest. In fact, you might want to do this for all kibbles, since dry cat foods lack the required moisture level that a cat’s body needs.

How We Choose The Best Kitten Foods

For the purposes of this article, we will include at least one All Life Stages food, and multiple Growth foods.

One of the main benefits of a Growth diet is that it will be more calorie dense. This means that your kitten will be able to get enough calories, without needing to eat a huge amount of adult cat food, which could upset her stomach.

What Cats Actually Want To Eat

Studies on both indoor, commercially-fed cats, and feral and stray cats show that cats will self-select food sources that result in a macronutrient profile in this range (dry-matter basis used):

  • Protein: 52-63%
  • Fat: 22-36%
  • Carbohydrate: 2.8-12% (with “wild” cats on the very low end of this range)

What we believe this shows is that cats have evolved to thrive on a high protein, moderate fat, and low carb diet.

Learn More: See The Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs

How We Rate Foods

Our database of cat foods contains over 2000 individual foods.

We collected all the relevant information on each product, including:

  • AAFCO Rating
  • Ingredient list
  • Macronutrient profiles (Guaranteed Analysis, Dry-Matter Basis, and Caloric Basis)
  • Price and price per pound
  • Calories per 100 grams
  • Whether meat is the first ingredient
  • How each food compares to the average of all foods on a macronutrient basis
  • Whether the recipe uses more than 4 controversial ingredients

Each of these data points works together to form a star rating on a 1-5 star scale (including half points).

  1. If the food’s first ingredient is meat, it gets 1 point.
  2. If the food does not use unnamed meat ingredients (“meat by-products”), it gets 1 point.
  3. If the food has an above average protein level on a dry-matter basis, compared to all other foods in the database, it gets 1 point. If it has an average amount, it gets .5 points.
  4. If the recipe contains fewer than 4 controversial ingredients (not necessarily bad ingredients), it gets 1 point. If it contains exactly 4 it gets .5 points.
  5. The final available point is a discretionary point that we award based on things like carbohydrate content, inclusion of probiotics and vitamins, and other points, and is our judgement call on a food’s quality and biological appropriateness for your cat.

We think that this system provides a fair, transparent system by which we can compare all foods on an equal footing, and give you the easiest possible time when choosing the best of the best.

Reviews Of The Best Kitten Foods

The Best Healthy Wet / Canned / Moist Kitten Foods

#1. NomNomNow Fresh Wet Cat Food (EDITOR’S CHOICE)

nomnomnow chicken

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 66.7%
Fat: 14.81%
Carbs: 8.15%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken thigh, chicken breast, chicken liver, carrot

NomNomNow is our number one choice across all cat foods, and it is a perfect fit as the top choice for your kitten.

It is suitable for All Life Stages, including kittens.

It is incredibly high in protein, featuring a variety of cuts of chicken, including organ meat.

The added chicken liver is vital to your kitten’s health, giving far more vitamins and minerals than muscle meat.

The ingredient list is short, and there’s nothing in there you don’t want to see.

NomNomNow actually makes all of their own food in their own kitchen, and then sends it to you as a delivery service.

Think of it this way: you get all the benefits of a veterinary-formulated, homemade diet, with NONE of the hassle.

Is there anything better?

Plus, it’s about the same price as other premium cat foods.

It’s not raw, which would perhaps be even better, but that leads into it’s whole set of issues.

While it does contain a few carbohydrate ingredients, they’re all whole-food and they’re added to mimic the stomach contents of a wild cat’s prey.

This is as natural, as ideal, as convenient, and as good as you can possibly get in a cat food.

Oh, and they’re offering our readers 20% off your first order.

Highly, highly recommended.

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#2. Nutro Soft Loaf Kitten Food

nutro soft loaf kitten

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 59.1%
Fat: 27.3%
Carbs: 0%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Pork Broth

This is one of the best ways to introduce your cat to “solid” food right from the start. The nutritional profile is very close to being perfect, with no carbs, high proteins, and moderate fat levels.

This kitten food has literally zero filler ingredients.

It’s just meat, guar gum to thicken it, vitamins, and minerals. That means your kitty will be starting her life on the right foot, eating a food that was tailor made to her little body.

After she grows to adulthood, Nutro offers similarly amazing adult cat foods, and the transition should be seamless.

It contains everything your growing kitten needs, and nothing she doesn’t.

As noted, the macronutrients are almost perfect (notice that there are no carbs, thanks to there being no fillers), and it does include the one organ meat with the real chicken liver. Organ meats are an absolute necessity to get a full 5/5 star rating from us, as they are packed full of minerals and vitamins not found in muscle meats.

If you don’t think a delivery service like NomNomNow will work for you, then get a canned food like this Nutro offering. It’s one of the very few kitten foods that scored a perfect rating in our system, and that’s why it’s so high on this list.

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#3. Instinct Original Grain Free Kitten Food

instinct original grain free kitten food

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 54.6%
Fat: 27.3%
Carbs: 4.6%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Beef Liver, Chicken Broth, Salmon (Source of DHA)

Every time I go to our database to pull a new kitten food, I go, “Oh, wow, I forgot that this was such a good food!”

That’s because most “kitten foods” are afterthoughts, seemingly, and contain all the same, (usually crappy) ingredients as the normal adult food recipes.

But this list proves (to me and hopefully to you!) that there are actually a lot of amazing foods to feed your growing kitty.

With a reasonably high 1.2 calories per gram, this is sure to fill your kitty up with the energy she needs to grow into adulthood.

The protein level is amazing, the fat level is perfectly reasonable, and there are almost no carbs to mention.

This is one of those NO FILLER foods.

There aren’t even any gums to bind it together!

Instead, Instinct turned to nature, and uses Montmorillonite Clay.

This is an all-natural ingredient that is an anti-caking agent, which means it stops food from sticking to the tin or getting goopy chunks in the middle of it. It’s also full of minerals and may act as an anti-diarrhea treatment.

You get chicken, eggs, and salmon for proteins and fatty acids, and interestingly they include beef liver for the necessary organ meat.

We don’t love the inclusion of beef, since cats would rarely, if ever, eat it in the wild. (Can you imagine your wild kitty taking down a fully grown cow in the wild? No? Me neither!)

However, since everything else is exactly right with this food, it’s not a huge issue, and at least is still an organ meat, where more vitamins and minerals are found than in muscle tissue.

One of the very few 5/5 star foods for baby cats on our list, highly recommended.

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#4. Halo Grain Free Kitten Food

halo grain free kitten food

Catological Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 47.7%
Fat: 38.6%
Carbs: 0%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Eggs

Are you looking for a grain-free, low carb kitten food? If so, Halo is exactly what you need.

There are no carbs in here, because there are no filler ingredients.

Multiple cuts of real chicken (including organ meat), egg, salmon oil for fatty acids, agar agar as a thickening agent (potentially safer than carrageenan), a couple of light greens for added nutrients and digestion. Plus added vitamins and minerals to keep your little furry friend healthy on the micro scale.

They also offer a fish recipe which is slightly higher in protein, but since it’s much higher in fish than we’d like to see, we recommend the chicken option.

This is such a good, clean, natural kitten food that it’s hard to find fault.

In fact, there’s really nothing negative that we can say about it.

It just ticks all the boxes, and also gives you the ability to swap seamlessly with an adult food from Halo, of which there are many good options.

The smooth pate texture will be easy for your little cat to gobble down, and the 1.25 calories per gram is slightly higher than most adult foods, so she won’t have to gorge herself to get enough to eat.

Fantastic kitten formula all around.

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#5. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten Flaked Food

blue buffalo wilderness wild delights kitten food

Catological Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 52.8%
Fat: 25%
Carbs: 2.8%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Water, Trout, Chicken Liver

An excellent kitten food from Blue Buffalo, one of the only reasons this doesn’t get a full 5 stars is that the plain chicken recipe has slightly below average protein, and other recipes include fish, which we don’t recommend giving to cats as a long term diet.

The best of the lot is the chicken and trout recipe, though…yes, even though I just said we don’t recommend fish!

For a kitten food, it delivers an enormous amount of protein with virtually no harmful carbohydrate ingredients.

You get the added benefit of chicken liver, and the important fatty acids from the trout.

Now can you see why we think this is one of the best? Remember how important we said fatty acids were for kittens earlier?

While we’d recommend switching to a non-fish recipe when feeding adult food, this particular kitten formula is excellent for growing cats.

It does include potato starch, guar gum, and carrageenan, which we know some people like to shy away from, but otherwise there are NO fillers.

The Wilderness line from Blue Buffalo is one of the few “big brand” cat foods that we actually stand behind, so it is nice to see they continued their quality right through to their kitten food.

The chicken and the salmon options have a higher calorie count than their adult counterparts, though this chicken and trout sits at around 1 calorie per gram, which is about average for an adult wet cat food.

This is a very good food for young, growing kitties!

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#6. Blue Buffalo Freedom Kitten Food

blue buffalo freedom kitten food

Catological Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 45.5%
Fat: 31.8%
Carbs: 6.8%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Carrots

Blue Buffalo’s Freedom Kitten recipe has an excellent macronutrient profile with a very low amount of carbohydrates.

This is somewhat rare, and many of the larger pet food companies are not well known for their low carb foods. Often they use a lot of fillers to keep things cheap.

Happily, this particular food bucks the trend.

With multiple cuts of chicken, including the extremely important organ meat, liver, your kitten will get a great boost to her growth with the amount of protein in here.

The fat is also quite high, which is also important.

Although there are a few small filler ingredients in here, they are not offensive. We’re talking about things like carrots, sweet potatoes, cranberries and blueberries.

It does have a number of ingredients that, while not necessarily dangerous, are considered to at least be controversial.

Those are: guar gum, cellulose, carrageenan, and cassia gum.

That’s quite a lot of thickening agents.

However, it’s much better than seeing a bunch of corn or preservatives!

This food contains a ton of added vitamins and minerals, including chelated versions of some minerals, which may help your kitten digest them better, allowing for better bioavailability.

The chicken flavor should be fairly easy on her belly, and it does include about 30% more calories than Blue Buffalo’s similar recipe for adults.

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#7. Wellness Core Pate Kitten Food

wellness core pate grain free kitten food

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 54.6%
Fat: 34.1%
Carbs: 0%

First 4 Ingredients: Turkey, Chicken Liver, Turkey Broth, Chicken

With relatively high calories per gram and a whole lot of meat, this is one of the top rated options on our list.

Turkey is an excellent source of protein, as is chicken, and the addition of chicken liver fulfills the micronutrient requirements of young cats.

Interestingly they use turkey broth, rather than “water sufficient for processing”. While it won’t make a huge difference, it’s a small detail that will provide just that bit more vitamin and mineral quantities from a whole, natural food source. That means there needs to be fewer synthetic vitamins added to the recipe, and is great news for your cat.

It also includes a fish oil for the important omega acids, and has very little in the way of fillers…just cranberries and a variety of thickening agents.

Speaking of which, the only negative we can find on this particular brand is that they use three separate gelling ingredients: guar gum, cassia gum, and xanthan gum.

While these are all safe, there are always studies out there suggesting that in large quantities, they may be detrimental to your kitty’s gut health.

We believe they are in small enough quantities that they are completely safe for your cat, though, and because this is such a well rounded food otherwise, we still strongly recommend it.

With a great macronutrient profile and again, no fillers, this is one of the best gifts you can give to your cat – a proper kitten food!

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Top Rated, High Quality Dry Kitten Foods

#1. Instinct Original Kitten Food (EDITOR’S CHOICE)

instinct original dry kitten food

Catological Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 47.8%
Fat: 22.5%
Carbs: 16.5%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal

Instinct’s Original Grain Free kitten food recipe is our top rated dry food, hands down.

While we still recommend feeding a moist diet to all cats, especially kittens, if you really need to choose a dry food, this is the one you should pick.

Just make sure to mix a bit of water in with the food to soften it for those little baby teeth.

For a dry food, it is very low in carbs, and has a very high protein count. The fat is also decent, which is nice.

It provides a wide range of nutrients from chicken, turkey, salmon, lamb, and menhaden fish, all of which combine to provide a big punch of complete protein with all the necessary amino acids.

Fillers are sparse, as Instinct uses only tapioca, peas, and some fruits.

It uses Montmorillonite Clay as a de-caking agent, which helps the food from sticking together, and is a natural anti-diarrhea remedy.

And, while they’re at the very bottom of the ingredient list, it’s still important to note that this recipe includes freeze dried chicken heart and liver. As we’ve noted above, these are very important ingredients for any cat.

One extra benefit is the inclusion of a probiotic strain, Bacillus coagulans.

This has a better profile and ingredient list than many wet foods, and has a whopping 4.7 calories per gram.

If you need to serve a kibble, it’s hard to beat this one.

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#2. Merrick Purrect Bistro Healthy Kitten Food

merrick purrect bistro healthy kitten dry food

Catological Rating: 4/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 46.1%
Fat: 19.1%
Carbs: 21.9%

First 4 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Dried Potato

While very few dry foods will meet the expectations set of our first choice, this is still a fairly good kibble, and quite a bit cheaper than our first pick.

With lots of chicken and turkey, including chicken liver, which is not common in dry foods, the protein is high.

The carbohydrates are of course higher than the wet food options above, but for a dry food, they’re well below average.

While we never like to see fillers, at least they use non-grain fillers like potatoes and peas.

One thing we don’t love is the fact that whey protein is included in this. That means they’re bumping up the protein with a non-meat source, although at least it is an animal protein.

It also includes a variety of probiotic strains for good gut health.

Not great, but much better than most dry foods out there.

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#3. Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Kitten

Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Kitten

Catological Rating: 3/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 42.2%
Fat: 22.2%
Carbs: 22.2%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Peas

This is definitely a step down from our other options, but is still decently priced and has a lot of different meats in it.

You’re getting chicken (including chicken fat, which is a good ingredient, and chicken liver, which we’ve mentioned is very important), duck, salmon, and fish oil.

Those are all great ingredients, and you love to see such a wide range in a basic kibble.

However, it also includes quite a lot of peas, as well as fillers like brewer’s dried yeast, rice, and oats.

That’s not great, but with just over 20% carbohydrates, it’s still better than most other dry foods.

Most of it’s competitors are much worse, so that’s why we’re listing this here just in case one of the other brands doesn’t work for you.

Happily, it includes probiotics, high quality minerals, and natural preservatives.

Not the best, but definitely not the worst.

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Things To Stay Away From

There are a lot of kitten specific foods out there from big brands, but unfortunately, most of those brands wind up on our worst cat foods list. The link I just provided also outlines the 15 worst cat food ingredients. Things like artificial preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, meat by-products, etc.

You want to see lots of named meat protein sources on the ingredients list (e.g., “chicken”, “turkey”, etc., NOT “animal by-products” or “poultry meal”).

You also want to see a low carb count, and a high protein count.

Many of these foods, like Hill’s Science Diet, Purina, Friskies, and Fancy Feast, are just downright bad, and use TONS of fillers and low quality meat ingredients. There’s a reason they’re so cheap.

You should be able to see a bit of a pattern with our recommendations above. If in doubt, we highly recommend buying one of the foods on this list.

How Much Should Kittens Eat?

So how much should you feed your kitten?

There is actually a formula to find out how much your cat should eat:

  • 70 x (Weight in kg)0.75 x Lifestyle Factor (0.6-2.5)

For kittens, that Lifestyle Factor is 2.5.

That means that whatever your normal, adult cat would eat (Lifestyle Factor around 1.0), you should double it, or more.

Kittens put on a lot of weight in the first few months, and they need a lot of food to fuel that growth.

Here’s an example.

An average 10 pound cat should eat about 216 calories per day. That’s about 2.5 ounces of a “typical” dry cat food, or 8 ounces of a “typical” wet cat food.

If your kitty can reasonably be guessed to hit this weight when she’s an adult, she might need to eat up to 400+ calories per day!

It can be helpful to feed multiple small meals throughout the day, so as not to overwhelm her stomach. Plus, kittens seem to love snacking, so they should have no trouble coming to the food bowl more often.

For more information, check our our article on “How Much Should I Feed My Cat?“.

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Emily Parker
 

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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