Growing up, I was quite the hungry child, always ready for the next meal. Seeing a similar insatiable appetite in my newly adopted kitten took me by surprise.
Despite feeding him regularly, he seemed to have an endless hunger.
If you’re caring for a kitten right now, you might be asking yourself, “Why is my kitten always hungry?”
Kittens are hungry all the time because of their rapid growth and high metabolic rate. Think of them as growing kids that need all the nutrition that they can get. There can also be certain health issues that can cause a kitten to be always hungry and this requires medical attention.
Let’s take a look at the required nutrition that a growing kitten needs and some possible medical conditions that can be fueling your kitten’s insatiable hunger.
Is It Normal For My Kitten To Be This Hungry?
If you have never seen a hungry kitten before, you have no idea how ‘hangry’ (hungry+angry) they can get when their little but bottomless bellies need food.
Kittens are eating machines due to their growth spurts and high energy levels. You need to keep feeding the meowing machine.
When kittens are first born, they are very dependent on their mother for food. The kittens will always be crying for their mother for attention and milk until they are old enough to fend for their own.
Mother’s milk is best for them as it contains all the required nutrients and antibodies that help to bolster the weak immune systems of her kittens.
For the next 5-6 weeks, the mother cat will be kept very busy from the constant feeding that is required to keep her kittens growing and satisfy their healthy appetite.
How Many Times A Day Should A Kitten Be Fed?
There are different milestones during the growing years of a kitten. The number of times that you need to feed your kitten largely depends on its age.
There are times when a mother cat will bring her kittens to you because she is unable to feed all of them properly.
Another important point to note is not to remove the kitten from its mother before 12-15 weeks.
Just because the kittens are weaned off their mother’s milk at 5 weeks means they are ready to conquer the world.
Removing kittens from their mother prematurely can result in behavioral and health issues as they get older.
Newborn To 5 Weeks Old
If your kitten is still less than 5 weeks old, it needs to be bottle-fed on a regular feeding routine. And by regular, I do mean every few hours even throughout the night.
Pretty similar to how you would care for a baby.
This might not be the best time for you to let your kitten sleep alone downstairs or in a room. Your little kitty requires round the clock feeding every fwe hours.
When feeding a kitten at such a tender age, please only use kitten milk formula from the vet.
Do not feed the poor cat cow’s milk that you have in your fridge or you will be dealing with explosive diarrhea for a few days.
6 To 12 Weeks
At this age, most kittens will start to wean off their mother’s milk. If you have been feeding your kitten a milk formula for the last few weeks, you can slowly start to transition to solid food.
Start off with some good quality canned food a few times a day. You can slowly stop feeding your kitten milk once it has gotten used to solid cat food.
At this age, your kitten will still be a very hungry cat and feeding more than three meals a day is pretty normal.
Keep the food portions small as a kitten’s tummy is still small and can’t hold much food.
It is best to not leave out the wet food for too long to prevent any form of contamination.
12 Weeks To 6 Months
As your kitten gets older, you can start to increase the food portion size and decrease the feeding frequency.
Your cat’s tummy has more space to contain more food and keep them full for longer periods of time.
This will be the optimal growing phase for most kittens which is why you still need to feed them as much food as they want.
Not only is the quantity of food important but the quality of your cat’s diet as well.
If you are keen on transitioning your cat to a raw meat diet, now is a good time to do so.
You’ll be surprised as to how well a kitten can take to eating raw meat at such a young age.
6 Months And Above
Most kittens will start to slow down in their growth rate once they reach about 80-85% of their adult size. In most breeds, kittens become adult cats at 12-14 months of age.
There are some breeds like the Maine Coon that can take 3-4 years to reach maturity which also explains their huge size compared to other breeds.
A fully grown male Coon can weigh a hefty 25 lbs.
Once the kitten’s growth rate slows down, it will probably start to eat lesser as well. Feeding your cat about twice a day is more than enough for many breeds.
Should I Let My Kitten Eat As Much As It Wants?
In theory yes because kittens require as many calories as possible to support their rapid growth, especially during the first 6 months,
There are so many recommendations as to how much you should be feeding your kitten based on their age vs daily caloric intake.
Truth be told, it is confusing and can cause some cat owners to feed their kittens lesser than required for optimal growth.
Here’s what I did instead when my cat was a kitten.
Every time that my cat was hungry, I just feed him till he wasn’t interested in the food dish.
I tried following the instructions on the can label but my cat reacted like I was starving him.
You can follow those recommendations as a guide but your kitten’s appetite would depend on its activity level, breed and genetics.
It is better to overfeed your kitten than to underfeed it.
If you have a young kitten and plan to leave it alone at home while you’re at work, that isn’t going to work.
You will need to get someone to come by to feed your kitten or it will get too hungry.
How Do I Know If My Kitten Is Overeating?
Yes, I share your concern about overfeeding your kitten and your cat turning into a giant furry lardball.
I don’t know about you but in all my years of keeping and fostering cats, I’ve never seen a fat or obese kitten before.
Even the ones that seem a little chonky can still play all day long.
It is hard to overfeed your kitten if you are feeding it a good quality diet.
Most kittens know when to stop eating when they are full but there will always be one or two who will be too enthusiastic about meal time.
Here are some ways to know if your kitten is overeating.
The main symptom that I look out for is diarrhea. Kittens that overeat tend to have loose stools.
The poo of a healthy kitten should be firm and light/dark brown in color. Just like when we gaze in pride in the toilet bowl after having a good number 2.
If your kitten is having the runs, try feeding it lesser during meal times to see if that clears up within a day or two.
Otherwise, you need to bring your cat to the vet for an examination.
Diarrhea in kittens can be fatal as they will lose a lot of water and electrolytes.
An important heads up.
Your cat’s poo stinks according to what they eat. My cat’s poo smelt like radioactive waste when he was on kibbles for the first few months.
And his poo smelt the least offensive when he was on a raw meat diet.
You have been warned.
Swollen Looking Belly
It is normal for your kitten to have a little belly bulge after a full meal.
But if the bulge looks distended and uncomfortable for the kitten, it means that the kitten is eating a tad too much each time.
A good way around this is to feed smaller amounts per meal but increase the frequency.
Cats that eat too fast and too much at one go will tend to regurgitate their food shortly.
This is because the stomach wall expands too quickly which causes the brain to send the signal to “Eject! Eject!”.
Smaller and more frequent meals can help solve this problem.
Why Is My Kitten Always Hungry But Skinny?
The growth spurt of a kitten is very noticeable, especially during the first 6-7 months of its life.
If you are nursing a very young kitten, it is good practice to keep track of the cat’s weight to make sure that it is putting on weight at a healthy pace.
A good gain rate would be 3-5 ounces a week and it should be at a healthy weight of about 2-3 lbs when it is about 8 weeks old.
However, there can be times that despite all the food that your cat eats, your little feline friend doesn’t seem to gain weight.
It is common for many kittens to have intestinal parasites during their early years. more than 50% of cats are infected by these pesky intestinal parasites.
Most of the time, these kittens can get it from their mother or when eating contaminated food.
The more common parasites are:
These worms will enter your cat’s body and take up residence in its digestive system, feeding off the nutrients from your cat’s food.
Your cat might be eating a lot, a good portion of the food is being leeched off by the worms.
This can cause unexplained weight loss in your kitten even though it is acting hungry all the time.
These worms can multiply to be in the hundreds and thousands if nothing is done to eliminate them.
If your kitten has yet to be dewormed, take it to the vet for a check. You will have to provide a stool sample for the vet to examine.
Once these parasites have been identified, your cat will be given dewormer tablets to remove these worms.
Most indoor cats have to be dewormed only once. But if your cat is allowed to roam outdoors, you must check for worms regularly.
Underlying Medical Problem
There are many health issues that can cause your kitten to lose weight even though it is eating well. Kittens don’t have very strong immune systems and can fall sick easily.
If you notice that your kitten has been having diarrhea, nausea or feeling lethargic, you need to get it to the vet right away.
Don’t sit on it as kittens only have a small window before the cat’s health can worsen dramatically.
Should I Free Feed My Kitten with Dry Food?
I know of many cat owners who leave out huge servings of dry food for their kittens to munch on the whole day long.
This isn’t good for them.
Firstly, dry food or kibbles is just really bad for cats in general let alone kittens who require top-quality nutrition. And please don’t feed you kittens human foods as well.
Most dry food contains very little protein and too much carbohydrates. All cats are obligate carnivores and require protein from animal meat to survive.
Secondly, leaving out dry food in the open the whole day long can result in it getting stale and being contaminated. This is especially so if you live in a warm and humid country.
The last thing we want to happen is for our kitten to be eating spoiled food and getting food poisoning.