A lot of cat parents had been through running out of the regular cat food their cats always eat. Sometimes the store doesn’t have it, sometimes they do overtime at work and can not go to shop in time, etc. If there is a kitten at home and the only thing you can find is adult cat food, they start wondering “can kittens eat adult cat food”. In the end they reluctantly buy whatever they can find just to save the day.
The answer to this question is very simple though. Kittens can safely eat adult cat food as long as there is no choking risk but this should not be a regular thing because kittens have special dietary needs as they grow up. First let’s check what kittens need in terms of nutrition and then have a look at the differences between adult cat foods and kitten foods.
What Do Kittens Need For a Healthy Growth Period?
First of all, we need to define what a kitten is. Although most sources will tell you that after 12 months your feline friend is considered an adult which is true for most breeds, some large breeds such as Maine Coon may take their time to reach adulthood and be considered a kitten up to 2 years. This means that the special dietary needs of the large breeds may continue after 1 year until they are adults.
Kittens completely depend on mother milk for the first 3 to 4 weeks of their lives. After 4 weeks they can start eating wet food or moistened dry kibble. Between 6th and 8th weeks they are completely weaned from their mother’s milk and are ready to start eating dry or wet cat food. However, it is generally up to mama to decide when to wean the kittens.
After they are weaned, kittens need more than double the energy adult cats need so their dietary requirements are a lot different than adult cats. Most of this huge amount of energy comes from proteins which is about 30%. They also need different amounts of minerals and vitamins in order to maintain a healthy growth. This is why there are special kitten foods which include what your kittens need and adult cat foods that are not as packed as kitten foods as the excess nutrients in kitten food might cause weight gain for adults.
All the extra calories, protein and fat that kittens need are calculated and put into kitten foods and adult cat foods just don’t have those extras.
What Happens if Kittens Eat Adult Cat Food?
To be honest, adult cat food does not harm your kitten and it is perfectly safe for kittens to eat adult cat food as long as they don’t try to swallow big pieces as they are. However, as mentioned earlier, your kitten need a lot of nutrients and adult cat foods just don’t have those amounts.
As a result, providing your kitten adult cat food over long periods of time might harm or slow down its healthy development. The kittens that are fed with adult cat food from the start are known to be underweight, malnourished and show signs of illness or stunted growth. So they can not be the best versions of themselves.
The signs of a poor diet can show itself in many ways but you must keep in mind that the signs I am about to list are not necessarily the symptoms of malnourishment but may as well be the symptoms of a totally different health condition. Generally the signs of a poor diet are:
- poor coat and skin quality,
- scavenging for food
- weight loss or being underweight,
- poor dental health,
- muscular weakness or lethargy.
Remember that malnutrition is a slow way to develop health issues and may be even fatal in the long run. Having said that, occasional adult food does not do any damage so if you have a cat and kitten living under the same roof and your kitten happens to steal food from its elder, don’t panic. There is no harm to the little rascal.
Also adult cat foods generally include a lot of fillers such as corn, wheat, soy, etc. This means that if your kitten keeps eating adult cat food. It might be full but malnourished anyway. In the end, not having enough food and not having enough nutrients are not the same.
To sum it up, we can say that occasional adult cat food consumption does not harm kittens but for a healthy growth, it needs the extra protein, fat, vitamins and minerals that kitten food consists. If you are unsure on the nutritional needs of your kitten, you can always ask your veterinarian about how a kitten diet should be.