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Feeding your kitten

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When it comes to nutrition, kittens are a lot like children -- they need a balanced diet to grow. Find out what brand of food your kitten was eating before you adopted it, and continue feeding it this food if possible. If you want to switch brands, do so gradually. Begin by mixing a little bit of the new food in with the kitten's old brand of food. Over time, mix more of the new food and less of the old. Eventually, you can feed your kitten only the new brand of food.

Dry or moist? Before you select a new brand of food for your kitten, decide whether you want to feed it moist or dry kitten food. Some veterinarians insist that dry food is best for kittens, but others say that canned cat food is just as good. Dry food is usually more convenient since it doesn't spoil

Labels. Read the labels on kitten food and make certain the brand you choose contains enough protein, which your kitten needs to grow. In general, dry food should contain about 30 percent protein and about 15 percent fat, while canned food should contain about 10 percent protein and about 6 percent fat. Extra protein won't harm your kitten. Canned food shouldn't be more than 78 percent water concentrated.

Kittens also need amino acids in their diet. Fish- and meat-based ingredients usually contain high concentrations of amino acids. Taurine is another essential nutrient found in meat and fish. Amino acids and taurine might not be listed on the label. However, if meat, chicken and fish are the first few ingredients listed, these nutrients are usually in the food.

If your kitten is a male, select a brand of food that's low in ash and magnesium so it doesn't develop urinary problems later in life.

Your kitten's food should meet the standards established by the Association of American Feed Controls Officials (AAFCO). If it does, you'll see this information printed on the label

Frequency. Kittens usually eat three times a day until they're six months old and twice a day until they're a year old. Full-grown cats eat once a day if they have dry food to nibble on. Adult cats don't need as much protein as kittens, so switch to adult cat food once your kitten is about a year old. Your vet will tell you how much and how often you should feed your kitten. Normally, you should be able to feel a kitten's ribs under its skin, but you shouldn't be able to see them.

Milk. Once a kitten is old enough to drink water, it no longer has the enzymes in its stomach to digest milk. Cats and kittens will get sick if you give them milk.

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