Yes, you can feed kitten food to your adult cat; however, only under specific circumstances. If you are asking whether any harm will come to an adult cat if they eat kitten food accidentally, rest easy as nothing will happen to them.
If you want your cat to live a long and happy life, it is crucial that you understand the specific dietary requirements your pet needs. In the pursuit of that knowledge, pet parents discover that the kind of food they feed their furballs changes over their lifespan.
For example, kitten food is recommended for cats up to the age of 12 months (24 months for Maine Coons), upon which you have to switch to food formulated for adults. Why is this the case, and why would it be a bad idea to give kitten food to an adult cat?
Here is everything you need to know.
The Differences Between Kitten and Adult Cat Food
Adult cat food and kitty food are formulated differently since they serve the needs of different physiologies. The following are the main differences between them:
Number of Calories
Kitten food contains more calories than adult cat food. The reason for this is because kittens are still growing, meaning that there is a lot more going on in their bodies than those of mature cats. As such, they have a higher energy requirement.
Additionally, it does not help that kittens are endless balls of energy, burning through calories rapidly. This means that they must consume a lot of food to avoid a calorie deficit, which can compromise their well-being. However, their tiny stomachs cannot allow them to hold down a lot of food. The solution to that problem, therefore, is to make their food as calorie-dense as possible.
On the other hand, adult cats do not have any more growing to do. Therefore, their food is strictly for maintenance purposes. Moreover, mature cats are not as playful as kittens are, meaning that they are not expending energy stupendously. As such, they do not need nearly as many calories in their food as kittens do. You have to remember that any unused calories are converted into fat. A high-calorie diet, therefore, is terrible for adult cats since it promotes unhealthy weight gain.
However, pregnant cats should be on a high-calorie diet, as they need them to take care of their unborn babies.
The average adult cat requires 50–70 calories per 2.2 pounds (1 Kg) of their body weight every day to remain healthy. Your vet should help you work out the ideal daily requirements for your cat.
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Amount of Protein
As is the case with calories, kittens also require higher levels of protein in their food to facilitate the tissue-building process. This is the reason for commercial kitten food having a much higher protein content (35%–50%) than adult cat food (25%–40%).
Fats and Fatty Acids Content
Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they eat meat and meat products exclusively. This can make it difficult for a pet parent to ensure that their cat is getting all the necessary nutrients from their food. This is especially true when it comes to fats and fatty acids. Since cats do not consume starch, they need high amounts of dietary fat in their food for energy.
Kittens, especially, need much higher amounts of fats in their diet due to how active they are. Fatty acids, on the other hand, are crucial for optimal growth and development. They also support organ functions.
As a result, kitty food has a higher fat and fatty acid content than adult cat food.
Minerals and Vitamins
Regardless of age, any cat requires a healthy amount of minerals and vitamins to stay healthy. Nonetheless, kittens require almost twice as much phosphorous and calcium to facilitate the process of bone-building. This is why kitty food has higher levels of these minerals than adult cat food does.
Can Kitten Food be Beneficial to Adult Cats?
After comparing the nutritional profile of kitten food to that of adult cat food, it would seem like an adult cat food has no business eating kitten food. However, there are certain times when kitten food would be beneficial to an adult cat.
When adult cats become seniors (past the age of 11 years), they become susceptible to a number of diseases, some of which cause a decrease in their appetite hence resulting in weight loss.
If your senior cat is losing weight due to a lack of appetite, you should consider giving them kitten food. The benefit of kitten food is that the cat does not have to eat a lot of it for it to meet its daily caloric requirements. As such, you will not have to force-feed the cat.
Additionally, thanks to the fatty nature of kitten food, cats find it extremely tasty. This means that the taste alone will be enough to get your senior cat eating again. The same goes for choosy cats. True to their feline heritage, some cats will not eat food that does not interest them, and this might cause them to lose weight. If that is your cat, consider using kitten food as a temporary solution, as they will not be able to resist it.
Nonetheless, before getting your senior cat on a kitten food diet, make sure that you have consulted with your vet.
How to Introduce Kitten Food to an Adult Cat
If you decide that kitten food or treats could do your adult cat some good, introduce it gradually to them. Restrain from making abrupt changes, as they can cause gastrointestinal problems thanks to the sudden increase in calories.
The best way of going about this transition is by mixing equal parts of their standard food with kitten food. After doing that for about 2 weeks, you can now increase the portion size of kitten food while decreasing that of their normal food until their entire meal consists of pure kitten food.
Adult cats can eat kitten food. However, it is not recommended, as its calorie-dense nature promotes obesity in adult cats. Pregnant or senior cats with appetite issues are the only two groups of adult cats that should be fed a kitten diet. Healthy adult cats should not eat kitten food.