Can Kittens Eat Adult Cat Food?

No, kittens cannot eat adult cat food, or you cannot make this a regular feeding habit. A kitten, just like a young baby, has different nutritional needs compared to adult cats. They need extra calories and nutrients in their food, which lacks cat food.

Besides, kittens are just too young and with delicate features to be subjected to adult cat food. Actually, they shouldn’t even be eating anything other than their mother’s milk in the first four weeks of life.

So, why can’t kittens eat cat food, and what more is there to kittens feeding?

When Is a Cat Referred to as a Kitten?

A kitten is basically a young one to a cat. You refer to a cat as a kitten if it is still under one year. Cats take just one year to graduate from kittens to cats. Nevertheless, if you have the big cat breed, the kitten may take a maximum of 18 months to graduate into a cat.

Kittens and cats have different nutritional needs, and their bodies have developed at different levels. Therefore, they will usually have different food combinations for their suitable foods.

Can Kittens Eat Cat Food?

When I first adopted my kitten, Whiskers, I was so excited to share everything with her. That included my love of adult cat food. I didn’t know any better! But soon enough, I realized that Whiskers was experiencing some issues. She was vomiting more often than normal and seemed to have a hard time digesting her food.

It wasn’t until I did some research and spoke with my vet that I learned that adult cat food wasn’t appropriate for my little Whiskers. I felt so bad for not knowing better, but I’m glad I was able to make the switch to kitten food and help her feel better.

Further, If you found your kitten stealing a bite of cat food, this will not cause the kitten any big harm. However, you cannot feed your kitten cat food as their primary source of nutrition. Here are a few reasons why you should not consider cat food for kittens;

  1. Very Young Kittens Only Feed on Nursing Milk

If your kitten is below four weeks, you cannot feed it kitten food, and adult cat food is even worse. Actually, you can even consider letting your kitten on exclusive nursing milk for up to eight weeks. It has a delicate gastrointestinal tract that only safely digests nursing milk.

Between four to eight weeks, you can introduce kitten food to your kitten. Start sparingly, alternating with nursing, until six to eight weeks when you wean it completely.

Trying to feed the kitten cat food would lead to gut sensitivities and more complicated situations during this period. Therefore, it is good to avoid it altogether.

  1. Kittens Require More Calories than Adult Cats

Kittens grow at a speedy rate so that they can triple their birth weight within a year. For this reason, they will need excess calories that will aid in their growth.

Unfortunately, these massive calories are not available in cat food, which is designed specifically for the needs of the adult cat. Hence, if you feed your kitten adult food, you will slow its growth. You may end up with a kitten with malnutrition or one that is underweight.

  1. Kittens Require More Nutrients than Cats

A growing kitten not only requires high amounts of calories and proteins but other nutrients as well. Taurine, for instance, is necessary for all cat food. However, it should be in large amounts when it comes to kitten food.

The same is the case with some other vital minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Therefore, these make cat food less nutritious to kittens as opposed to kitten food.

  1. Kittens Eat More Wet Food

Adult cat food could be dry or wet/ canned. However, kitten food will be, in most cases, wet food. Kittens under one year have small sensitive teeth, which cannot sufficiently chew on dry cat food.

Therefore, if they were to eat the food, they would probably swallow some particles without chewing. In the worst-case scenario, the kittens would try to chew the food, thereby affecting their gum.

Then there is a possibility that the dry food will affect their gut. Remember that they are yet to grow microbes necessary for dry food processing, and their gut is still sensitive.

Moreover, wet kitten food provides the kitten with sufficient hydration. Thus, even when they forget to drink freshwater, they still don’t suffer from hydration.

Most importantly, wet kitten food help in developing their gut. Since it is appropriate, the kitten will not have to deal with gut sensitivities, which slow the development process.

  1. Kittens Need to Eat More in a Day

Kittens’ bodies require higher energy to grow, develop and still be active as a cats. Therefore, you may find that they require four servings in a day.

Nevertheless, if you feed the kitten cat food, which says that two or one feedings are enough for a day, it will not be great for your kitten.

Hence, if you want to feed your kitten the right amount and get the approximate expected growth rate, try providing it with kitten food.

  1. Kitten Food Minimizes Trips to the Vet

Which cat parent always wants to knock at the vet’s because their pet is ill? You would do anything to reduce the trips to regular checkups and to deworming, right?

If you feed your kitten cat food, you will have to see a vet more often than not. The kitten may develop gut sensitivities and allergies from the food. Worse still, its growth rate reduces notably.

However, if you want to reduce these trips to the vet, feed your kitten its appropriate kitten diet. Start with ensuring that its mother feeds well for sufficient nursing. Then, get to the weaning stage before finally introducing cat food.

Following the correct procedure always works as a preventive measure.

How Do You Stop Your Kitten from Stealing Cat Food?

Sometimes you don’t even have to feed your kitten cat food; it does the job itself. It may even love the cat food more than its food, especially if it is the only kitten. So, how do you prevent the kitten from eating adult cat food?

  • Set the Same Feeding Time for Both the kitten and the Adult Cat. If your kitten is concentrating on its share of food as the other cats eat theirs, it will not have a chance to take the inappropriate cat food.

Also, during feeding, you can keep the bowls apart from each other. If your kitten refuses its share and goes for the cat kibble, set its food away from the cat food. Hence, it will not have the opportunity to eat cat food.

  • Only feed the cats enough cat food. This will prevent leftovers that could lure the kitten to the cat kibble.
  • Put a barrier to the adult cat food that only older cats can get to. The barrier should prevent the kittens from accessing the cat food at all.
  • If your kitten loves cat kibble, consider getting it kitten kibble. There are great formulas that have all the nutrients your kitten needs. They also keep the kitten from longing for the crunchy feel of adult cat kibble.
  • Ensure that your kitten eats more frequently than adult cats. Hence, it will not have hunger temptations to feed on anything that is in its way.
  • Finally, train your kitten only to use its feeding bowl and not any other. Though this is sometimes vain, you may find it working with your kitten. And it will not only prevent the kitten from taking cat food and dog and human food, which is unsuitable for kittens.

When can kittens eat adult food?

The best part about cats is that they really grow first. Therefore, after one year of life, you can finally introduce your kitten to cat food. Some larger breeds require an additional six months of kitten food before transitioning.

What should the transition be like?

It is typical to be nervous when introducing cat food to kittens. Sometimes they will not even eat the food at first. Besides, immediate switching on the foods could work against the kitten.

Hence, start with tiny amounts of adult cat food mixed in their foods. Increase the serving gradually, observing the reaction and the aftermath.

Start with about a quarter of cat food, and three-quarters of kitten food for at least two days. When this is successful, make the cat portion half and the kitten portion half. Again, feed the kitten for a minimum of two days. Then, switch to more cat food compared to kitten food. Finally, you can completely switch to a cat’s diet without risking the cat’s health.

You can also introduce your kitten to taking more water, as the dry food will be less hydrating than their previous food type. Also, after introducing adult cat food to the growing cat, give it more wet food and less dry food until you can balance the two safely.

The transition stages of a cat are clearly explained in American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guideline.

According to AAFP, cats life can be staged as follows.

Feline Life Stages

  • Kitten: Birth up to 1 year
  • Young adult: 1 to 6 years
  • Mature adult: 7 to 10 years
  • Senior: 10 years and older
  • End-of-life: Any age

Do Kittens Eat Dry Food?

Some kittens are really interested in dry kibble, and you will find them occasionally stealing from older cats’ bowls. Since absolutely dry kibble is not suitable for the kitten, you can introduce wet kibble to the cats.

There are kibble formulas for kittens that you can also purchase. The best part about kibble for kittens is that it is softer for the small cat’s teeth. It is also quite moist as opposed to adult cat food. If you put this into your kitten’s bowl, it will not be tempted to steal adult cat kibble food.

Is Kitten Food Different from Cat Food Nutrition?

Yes, it is. The percentages of nutrients differ between kitten and cat food. For instance, kitten food has higher rates of fat and protein content. On the other hand, cat food is richer in fiber compared to kitten food.

Some of the specific nutrients that kittens need in higher amounts include:

  1. Protein: Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, making enzymes and hormones, and maintaining a healthy immune system. Kittens need higher amounts of protein to support their growth and development.
  2. Fat: Fat is a concentrated source of energy and is essential for the absorption of certain vitamins. Kittens need higher amounts of fat to support their high energy needs and to aid in the development of their nervous system.
  3. Taurine: Taurine is an amino acid that is essential for the development and function of the heart, eyes, and immune system. Kittens need higher amounts of taurine than adult cats to support their growth and development.
  4. Calcium and Phosphorus: These minerals are important for the development of strong bones and teeth. Kittens need higher amounts of these minerals to support their rapid growth and development.
  5. Vitamins: Kittens need higher amounts of certain vitamins, such as vitamin D and vitamin E, to support their growth and development.

On top of that, kitten food has higher hydration, strengthening the gut and the urinary tract. Adult cats already have these in place, hence minimal wet food requirements.

Can I Give My Kitten Different Kitten Food?

Yes, you can, and it is actually advisable. When you start weaning your kitten, offer it different food tastes to appeal to its taste buds. You can give it chicken, fish, beef, and other food options available.

You can also try different brands, but ensure that each of the brands offers quality kitten food. If you don’t know what food to feed your cat, consult its vet for recommendations. You can also check the packaging is ASPCA certified, assuring you of quality for your kitten.

The more diverse your kitten food options are, the better chances you have of a kitten without allergies. Your cat will also not be fussy, regardless of the cat food you get in the supermarket. After all, this will give you the confidence to travel with your cat without fearing what cat food will be available.

Other than the kitten food, provide different types of food for your older cat. It will help its taste buds to take different tastes and quickly adapt to them.

Is It Necessary for Cats to Transition to Adult Cat Food?

Yes, it is. Just as kittens eat kitten food because it is suitable for their nutrition, adult cats eat cat food because it is best for their nutrition. There’s a difference between kitten food and cat food, and the most significant difference is in nutrition.

Cat food has higher fiber content compared to kitten food, which aids in ease of digestion.  It also has fewer fats and proteins compared to kitten food.

Thus, if you continue feeding your older cat kitten food, surprisingly, the cat may get gastrointestinal problems for a lack of sufficient fiber. The excess calories in the kitten food are also stored in the cat’s body as fats, making your cat obese.

Can Kittens Eat Cat Food?

No, they can’t. Cat food has different nutritional composition compared to kitten food. Therefore, it will not serve the optimal purpose in a kitten’s body. Some complications come with kittens feeding on cat food. These include gastrointestinal sensitivities, allergies, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Rather than let your kitten feed on cat food, always have a sufficient kitten food supply.


Kittens should not feed on cat food since their nutritional needs are different from those of adult cats. While a single bite will not hurt, the kitten should not feed on cat food more consistently.

Kitten food is wet and suitable for its gut, hence the best for kittens.  Besides, younger kittens, under one month, usually rely exclusively on breastmilk for all their nutrition. Feeding them anything else could ruin your dream of a healthy kitten.

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Amelia Kteylor

Amelia Kteylor, DVM, attended the University of Georgia. She is a cat expert with 20 years of experiences in field. She has a passion as a writer and editor for pet publishing industry too. Amelia contributes to numerous pet magazines in the areas of pet health and groom. Further, she volunteered in cat rescue centers in her leisure time.

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