How Old Does a Kitten Need to Be Before Eating Treats?

Kittens love milk, but it can upset their delicate digestive systems.
i Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images

You naturally want to pamper your purr-fect feline friend, rewarding her for being so darned cute and cuddly. Kittens love treats, but wait until your whisker-laden pal is a few weeks old before tempting her taste buds. When you do offer treats, make sure they’re as nutritious as they are delicious.

Newborn Kittens

At this tender age, the only food a newborn kitten needs is his mother’s milk. Newborn kittens develop rapidly, doubling their weight within the first week, but tiny teeth won’t appear until the third week. Even then, tender kitten tummies aren’t quite ready for anything but mother’s milk or a suitable formula substitute.

Five Weeks of Age

Your kitten undergoes amazing changes in the first five weeks of life. Now, you can introduce canned or water-softened kitten food in small amounts. The best treats at this age are small pinches of high-quality canned kitten food. Your kitten’s digestive system is still developing, so stick with a single brand of kitten food for a few more weeks. Changes in her food can result in diarrhea until her digestive system matures.

Commercial Cat Treats

As your kitten grows, you can choose from shelves of savory and semi-soft cat treats. By 8 weeks of age, your kitten is ready to sample some tasty treats, but read the labels carefully. Choose treats that list a meat source in the first one or two ingredients and avoid cheap treats that include artificial flavorings and empty fillers like wood fiber. If your kitten receives many treats per day, offer a brand that is at least 30 percent protein. Kitten treats typically have more protein than adult cat treats.

Table Scraps and other Yum-Yums

Adult cats and kittens over 3 months of age love the smell of people food, but go easy on table scraps. Open a can of tuna and your kitten will turn up the meow volume until she gets a bite. Avoid giving her any people food that contains salt, sugar, preservatives or seasonings. Opt for a pinch of raw or cooked hamburger, cheese or hard-boiled egg. Kittens love lapping up lukewarm milk from a saucer, but start with only a spoonful. Some kittens do not tolerate cow’s milk and drinking it will have them running to the litter box every few minutes.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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