Adopting a stray kitten is just as challenging as having a baby. You will also have to feed the little furball correctly for its proper growth and development. Knowing what to feed a stray kitten is of utmost importance to make sure that it will grow up to be a happy and healthy feline even without its mommy cat.
Stray kittens three weeks of age and below should be fed nothing but kitten milk replacer. Stray kittens that are four to five weeks old, on the other hand, maybe fed both kitten milk replacer and wet cat food. Stray kittens six weeks of age and older may be fed either wet or dry cat food or both.
It only takes nine to 12 months for stray kittens to become fully grown cats. The good news is that you don’t have to wait for a really long time before you could feed a stray baby cat wet or dry cat food and even some human food.
When kittens reach four to five weeks of age, you may pair kitten milk replacer with wet cat food.
The following week, you may stop giving them kitten milk replacer completely and make both wet and dry cat food their staple diet. As a matter of fact, stray kittens that are fully weaned may be given certain types of human food.
Continue reading to know more about what to feed a stray kitten and other related important matters.
Foods Safe for Stray Kittens to Eat
Especially during the first few weeks of their lives, it’s important to mind which foods make it past the tiny mouths of stray kittens. Giving them the wrong types of food can keep them from being properly nourished, and thus prevent them from growing and developing correctly and healthily. It may cause them unnecessary digestive upset, too.
Below, you will come across some of the things that you may give a stray kitten.
First things first: never give a stray kitten cow’s milk. Its digestive system cannot process lactose, a type of sugar found in milk.
Cow’s milk can make a stray kitten sick and have diarrhea, too, which can cause dehydration. Give the baby cat what’s called kitten milk replacer available at veterinary clinics and pet food and supplies stores.
When it comes to giving kitten milk replacer to a stray kitten, remember two things. First, ensure that the stray kitten’s temperature is not too low. Second, feed the stray kitten on its stomach, not on its back like a baby.
Adult cats can eat raw meat without any trouble. That’s because their fully developed immune systems can deal with the bacteria present in uncooked meat. On the other hand, kittens should be given cooked meat only.
Cooked beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey allows a stray kitten to get lots of protein and other important nutrients such as zinc, iron, phosphorus and B vitamins.
Just make sure that you avoid giving a stray kitten fatty and greasy meat. It’s also a no-no to offer it processed meat products like bacon, sausage and hot dogs.
Besides meat, a stray kitten can also have eggs.
And just like meat, eggs that you offer to the baby cat should be cooked for the very same reason — to protect it from bacteria present in uncooked eggs. Because a stray kitten has a weak immune system and a frail body, it should be offered nothing but cooked eggs.
While nutritious, sadly, eggs do not offer kittens the full range of nutrients they need. Due to this, it’s a good idea to offer a stray kitten cooked eggs occasionally only.
Tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout, herring — these types of fish are some of the absolute favorites of kittens and adult cats, too.
Alas, some people do not have easy access to fresh fish. If you are one of them, feel free to give a stray kitten canned fish. However, opt for water-packed and low-sodium canned fish to keep their health out of harm’s way.
Speaking of canned food products, canned seafood items exclusive for felines are available.
The website Chewy offers some of the best options, such as flaked tuna, ocean fish, salmon, and fish and shrimps.
In humans, it’s no secret that whole grains are some of the healthiest foods.
That’s because they are loaded with fiber and good amounts of copper, magnesium, zinc, iron and B vitamins. Kittens, stray or otherwise, can benefit a lot from consuming whole grains, too, and leading the list are oatmeal and brown rice.
Just make sure that you cook whole grains very well before feeding them to a stray kitten. Otherwise, it might end up with an achy tummy because raw whole grains are not the easiest for the feline stomach to digest.
Especially if you just welcomed a stray kitten into your home that’s old enough to eat solid food, but you have yet to head to the nearest pet food and supplies store, give it a small amount of bread.
While bread can be filling, unfortunately, it doesn’t offer kittens and even adult cats many of the nutrients they need.
Due to this, refrain from making bread a significant part of a stray kitten’s diet. And also, when giving a purring little kitty cat bread, check that it’s not covered in jams or spreads, many of which contain high amounts of sugar.
It’s no secret that carrots are good for your eyes, thanks to the loads of beta carotene in them. Well, it’s for the same reason why kittens can also benefit a lot from snacking on carrots.
Besides promoting a sharper vision, which felines require for hunting, carrots also help strengthen the immune system and optimize the gut health of little cats.
When offering carrots to a stray kitten, it’s a good idea to boil it first. Raw carrots are a choking hazard, which is why they are a complete no-no for human babies.
Just like carrots, pumpkins are good for eye, immune and gut health. It’s due to this why it’s a wonderful idea to feed a stray kitten pumpkins occasionally. And similar to carrots, you should boil it beforehand.
Worry not because there is a way to avoid peeling, slicing, boiling and draining pumpkins just to keep a stray kitten full and nourished.
It’s none other than giving it canned pumpkin puree — the same one used for making pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie. However, ensure that the pumpkin puree is 100% natural and isn’t spiced, too.
Many cat owners believe that cats eat grass to deal with an upset stomach by inducing vomiting.
However, based on a survey, more than 90% of respondents said that their cats didn’t throw up after eating grass and that their pets didn’t seem to be sick before munching on some grass.
Since cats love eating grass, a stray kitten will surely fancy eating spinach. You can offer it raw or cooked spinach. However, avoid feeding a stray cat cooked spinach with seasonings or sauces.
We made it clear earlier that stray kittens (and kittens in general) should not be given cow’s milk because of its lactose content.
While yogurt is from milk, it doesn’t contain as much lactose — a cup of cow’s milk has 12 grams of lactose, while a cup of yogurt has less than four grams of lactose only.
It’s because of this why you may try offering a stray kitten yogurt. However, it’s a good idea to observe whether or not it’s going to end up with diarrhea. If the animal suffers from diarrhea, switch it to lactose-free yogurt.
Kittens of different ages can eat different foods. Needless to say, it’s a must that you feed a stray kitten food appropriate for its age to keep it from having digestive system-related issues.
So, before you offer it anything, you should determine how old it is. Later we will talk about telling a stray kitten’s age — don’t stop reading now.
Here’s a table indicating what to feed a stray kitten (and how often) according to age:
|KITTEN AGE||WHAT TO FEED||FEEDING FREQUENCY|
|One week||Kitten milk replacer||Every two to three hours|
|Two weeks||Kitten milk replacer||Every four to six hours|
|Three weeks||Kitten milk replacer||Every four to six hours|
|Four weeks||Kitten milk replacer and wet food||Two to three times a day|
|Five weeks||Kitten milk replacer and wet food||Two to three times a day|
|Six weeks||Wet and dry food||Two to three times a day|
|Seven weeks||Wet and dry food||Two to three times a day|
|Eight weeks||Wet and dry food||Two to three times a day|
How to Tell the Kitten’s Age
Earlier, it was mentioned that giving stray kittens the wrong types of food can have an unfavorable impact on their digestive system and growth and development, too. This is why you should feed a stray kitten food ideal for its age.
The good news is that there is no need for you to be a veterinarian or have been there since the mommy cat gave birth to its litter.
It’s because you can tell a kitten’s age just by having a keen eye and knowing which age-revealing signs to look for. By observing the little kitty cat, you can have an idea of how old it is and, ultimately, what to feed it.
Without further ado, here’s how kittens look according to their age:
A telltale sign that kittens are less than a week old is that their eyes are completely closed. It’s not just their eyes that are closed but also their ear canals — it’s only when kittens are three weeks old when their ear canals will fully open.
Besides having closed ear canals, newborn kittens will also have ears that are folded against their heads.
Kittens below one week old, needless to say, can neither see nor hear.
Breast milk is the only nourishment that newborn kittens can have, especially because they have no teeth.
And by the way, if you check the belly of baby cats and you spot an umbilical cord stump, it means that they were born just a couple of days ago — the umbilical cord stump will usually fall off around four to five days of age.
One week old
The eyes of kittens will open at about one week of age. However, they will not open completely — the peepers of week-old kittens are squinty.
Looking at their eyes, you will see that they are blue. Refrain from assuming that the kittens will grow up to be blue-eyed cats. It’s just that all very young kittens have bright blue eyes.
Refrain from attempting to pry open the half-open peepers of one-week-old kittens. Allow them to open fully on their own, which will happen at two weeks of age.
By the way, their eyes will still be unfocused.
During the first week of life, the ears of kittens will begin to unfold. Their ear canals will slightly open, too, like their eyes. It’s also at this age when baby cats will start to crawl.
Two weeks old
At two weeks old, there are three things about kittens that you will surely notice.
First, their ear canals will be more open.
Second, their ears will pop out — kittens that are just a couple of weeks old will have small and rounded ears, pretty much like the ears of baby bears.
Lastly, their eyes will be fully open.
Despite being completely open, the eyes of kittens will still be blue. Their pupils won’t be able to dilate, too.
Kittens at two weeks old will be better at crawling, although they will still be wobbly when attempting to move from point A to point B. Baby cats at this age will also love snuggling with each other.
Three weeks old
When kittens are three weeks old, their ears will be fully functioning, as evidenced by their totally open ear canal.
It’s also for this reason why baby cats at this age will get startled by loud noises. Also, their ears will appear more like the ears of kittens instead of the ears of cubs.
Another milestone when kittens reach three weeks of age is that their incisors (teeth in the front center of the mouth) will emerge. Kittens have a total of 12 incisors — six incisors above and six incisors below.
Three-week-old kittens will walk so much better.
It’s also during this time when kittens will develop the so-called righting reflex, which means that kittens will be able to orient themselves properly as they fall in order for them to land on their feet. However, please refrain from putting to the test a kitten’s righting reflex.
Four weeks old
During their fourth week of life, the canines (fangs) of kittens will emerge — all four of them. While canines are for tearing food, four-week-old baby cats will still rely on their mother cat’s milk for nourishment.
It’s also when kittens are four weeks old that their vision will become sharper.
Regarding motion, kittens at four weeks of age will walk with lots of confidence.
Because of this, all members of the litter will also play with one another, albeit in an extremely clumsy (and adorable!) manner. By the way, they will also start to attempt to groom themselves instead of leaving the job to their mom.
Five weeks old
Kittens at five weeks of age will have their premolars or bicuspids emerge, which means that they can have the breast milk of their mom and solid food at the same time.
Because five-week-old kittens will be a lot more confident with their ability to walk, they will explore their surroundings more. Also, they will be at that age when they tend to observe their mom and learn basic life skills from it.
While their fully opened eyes will still appear blue, the ears of kittens will appear bigger and more pointed at the fifth week of life.
It’s also during this age when they will be able to retract and extend their claws, which means that little cats will be capable of learning basic hunting skills anytime soon.
Six weeks old
It’s when kittens are six weeks old when their eyes will change from blue to their permanent adult eye color, except for those that are meant to be blue-eyed adult cats.
What’s more, a complete set of teeth will be in place, establishing the fact that kittens will be able to turn their backs on the milk of their mommy cat and stick to solid food completely.
However, some six-week-old kittens may still want to have breast milk and solid food at the same time.
Movement-wise, kittens at six weeks of age will be so much better with walking and running, too, which is why they will spend most of their waking hours active and playing with one another.
Seven weeks old
At seven weeks of age, kittens will look like the majority of kittens at animal shelters. Besides being able to walk and run without much trouble, little kitty cats this old will also climb a lot.
Male kittens, when observed from the back end, will be easier to distinguish from female kittens.
That’s because their testicles will descend into their scrotal sac at seven weeks old. It’s due to this why a litter that’s less than seven weeks is often mistaken by many as an all-female brood.
Besides wet cat food, seven-week-old kittens will be eating kibbles, too. However, it’s a good idea to mix them with wet cat food to make the transition from wet to dry food go as smoothly as possible.
Eight weeks old
The body of kittens at eight weeks of age will look proportional, which is why they will look like miniature versions of adult cats.
Besides looking like their bigger and older counterparts, eight-week-old kittens will also eat and sleep at regular intervals like their mother cat or any other adult cats.
It’s also at this time of their lives when they can be spayed or neutered — kittens at eight weeks old are sterilized at animal shelters before they are adopted out.
Kittens that are eight weeks old will be more independent than ever, which is why they can be spotted from time to time away from their mom or siblings.
While they will continue to have increased muscle tone, which is essential for hunting and carrying out daily feline lives, it’s unlikely for eight-week-old kittens to double their weight anytime soon.
Just Before You Feed a Stray Kitten
It’s important that you determine the age of a stray cat before feeding it.
Besides making sure that its rapidly growing and developing body will be properly nourished, you should also see to it that the stray kitten won’t experience an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea due to giving it food that’s not appropriate for it.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.