When you're faced with the adorable duty of bringing up a fluffy little kitten, you want to do everything just perfectly, and understandably so. A large part of properly raising kittens involves good nutrition, as their dietary needs are not exactly the same as those of adult cats.
Until a kitten is old enough to be weaned, all that she needs for healthy growth and development is her mother's milk. According to the ASPCA, queen cats typically begin the weaning process when their kittens reach roughly 4 weeks. Weaning doesn't happen overnight, however. The process moves slowly, with kittens usually stopping nursing completely between 8 and 10 weeks in age. If a kitten's mama isn't in the picture and a foster queen cat isn't available either, bottle feed her with a kitten milk replacer.
Until a kitty reaches weaning age, she has absolutely zero dietary requirement for any other "food" than her mother's milk. Never give a kitten cow's milk, as that could lead to stomach distress and diarrhea issues for the poor thing -- no, thanks. Not to mention, cow's milk doesn't offer the sufficient amounts of protein and fat that are necessary for growing kitties.
Around 4 weeks when weaning begins, a kitten can slowly make the transition into eating some solid foods. At this point, you can offer your fluffball dry cat food, although make sure it's formulated specifically to cater to the nutritional needs of kittens. The ASPCA indicates that kittens require significantly more energy than fully grown cats, and kitten food can satisfy that. The wee cuties need a lot of protein in order to grow strong, too.
Kittens Without Mother Cats
When a kitten lacks either mama or a foster, the timeline is slightly different. In these situations, you can feed a kitty "solid" food when she's around 3 weeks old. Try to get the kitten to lick it from a spoon. Add some moisture into kitten-specific canned food by blending it in with formula from a kitten milk replacer. As you observe the little one becoming more and more comfortable eating this mixture, slowly but surely start reducing the formula while upping the actual food.
Take note that it is not uncommon for kittens to experience a little bit of mild diarrhea while weaning. In general, the diarrhea is harmless. If you are concerned, however, notify your veterinarian about the situation.
Adult Cat Food
A kitten is typically classified as being so until she gets to her first birthday. Continue feeding your growing young cat quality food that is made especially for kittens until she reaches this landmark. When a cat is about 1, she can finally start eating "real" cat food -- hooray!