Kittens can be weaned onto commercially balanced kitten foods starting at 3–5 weeks of age. Growing kittens at 10 weeks of age have a very high energy requirement of 200 kcal/kg body weight/ day compared with 80 kcal/kg/day at 10 months of age. Generally, kitten food preferences have been reported to be highly influenced by the queen (i.e., the primary effect),86 although these preferences can be modified in the adult cat based on experiences.83 Behavioral and ethological research both suggest that cats prefer to eat individually in a quiet location where they will not be startled by other animals, sudden movement, or activity.87,88 Natural feline feeding behavior also includes predatory activities such as stalking and pouncing. These may be simulated by hiding small amounts of food around the house, or by using a food puzzle from which the cat has to extract the food (if such interventions appeal to the cat).19 Implementing these options during the kitten life stage is recommended and also provides opportunity to enrich the environment.
Obesity prevention starts with kittens. As neutering is associated with weight gain,89 this is an excellent time to evaluate the nutritional needs, obesity risks, and prevention strategies for the individual patient. Recommendations can be found in the AAFP’s Feline Feeding Programs Consensus Statement.19
Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, Dechra Veterinary Products, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis Petcare supported the development of the 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines and resources through an educational grant to AAHA.