Helping Kittens Grow: How One Foster Caregiver Adapts to Feeding Kittens
by Danielle Cookish
As a foster caregiver, I'm often asked about which types of food I'm feeding the kittens in order to maintain the same diet as they transition into their adoptive home. However, the answer to this question is not always cut and dried, and sometimes it may take me a week to determine the best diet plan for the kittens.
Like humans, kittens can be picky and stubborn about what they like to eat. One day they may love tuna flavor, and the next they may decide that tuna is the worst thing you could serve them. They’ll snobbishly turn their nose up and prance away as if the meal served is not good enough for them. Most cat lovers know, a kitten will quickly become the ruler of the household, insisting you cater to their every demand. That also means accepting their food preferences, while still ensuring they are getting the proper nutrition to grow and thrive.
When deciding which food to offer, some things I take into consideration are the kittens’ age and how much they weigh. Younger kittens, under 6 weeks and without their mother, are typically not fully weaned yet. This means that they are learning how to eat on their own, and may also need me to feed them with a syringe.
Supplemental feeding consists of mixing a really soft mousse-like kitten food. (I use Royal Canin Mother & Babycat, with some unflavored Pedialyte. The mixture gets warmed up in the microwave, and then drawn up into the syringe and fed to the young kittens. Before using the syringe, I first always let the kittens have the opportunity to try the mixture on their own in a food bowl. Once they begin showing interest in eating on their own from the bowl, things can get messy! There have been many times when my foster kittens try to “eat” by smearing their faces all throughout the food bowl, turning themselves into a little gravy-covered fluff ball.
Kittens should always have access to dry food, younger kittens typically enjoy Royal Canin Mother & Baby Cat dry food, while I serve older kittens Purina Kitten Chow. If the kitten is just learning how to eat dry food, sometimes adding a little warm water, or crushing the kibbles into smaller bits can be helpful. Each and every kitten is different, and paying attention to their diet preference is vital to make sure they are gaining appropriate weight each day.
When fostering kittens, I always keep a well-stocked supply of food in the house, which Dakin helps provide. This includes several varieties and flavors of dry kitten food, bland kitten food (dry and wet) for upset tummies, extra soft kitten pate, chunky wet food, and more! While it’s a big responsibility to ensure kittens receive a complete and nutritious diet, it is so rewarding to watch the babies grow bigger and stronger each day.
Written by Dakin foster caregiver Jackie Fanning