Cat Food Vs. Kitten Food: Two Differences That Matter




cat and a speech bubble saying "Cat Food Vs. Kitten Food: Two Differences That Matter"


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As a first-time cat owner, you may be looking at the cat food aisle and thinking, “are there any differences between adult cat food and kitten food? Or does it not matter the type of food that you give your cat?” well as it turns out, there are differences between the two.

The two main differences between adult cat food vs. kitten food are: the quantities of ingredients that are put into the food and the purpose of the food; maintenance or growth? Adult cats need food for maintenance, and kittens need food for growth, and the two different foods should reflect that.

Now that we know that there is a difference, let us take a closer look at exactly what the difference is in the ingredients used and why they would make a difference if they are in both adult cat food and kitten food.

Cat Food Vs. Kitten Food – What Is The Difference?

The first difference between cat food and kitten food is the concentration levels of the key ingredients that go into the different cat foods (adult cat food and kitten food.)

The purpose of kitten food is to help them grow from being tiny little newborns into being strong adult cats.

Most kittens will start eating kitten food from around four weeks old, although it will be a combination of kitten food as well as milk from their mom still, too.

Kittens will continue with drinking milk and eating kitten food until around six to eight weeks old when they will be able to make the transition into eating only kitten food alone.

Since kittens will then be relying solely on the kitten food for their growth, kitten food has to be densely packed with all of the nutrients and vitamins that the kitten will need for the first year of life.

Because of this, kitten food will have a higher concentration level of nearly all the ingredients that are in their food compared to cat food, and this is to ensure that the kitten will be getting everything that they need nutritionally from their food.

Adult cats obviously still need nutrition from their food too, but they will need a different amount of the ingredients in their adult cat food.

Adult cats need their food to help them maintain and manage their size, health, and weight – these amounts will be different than what gets put into kitten food, as sometimes they need higher volumes and sometimes they need lower volumes of ingredients.

This is the reason that it is important that your adult cat only eats adult cat food and that your kitten only eats kitten food, or your cat may not be getting the correct amount of nutrition that they need in their diets.

Kittens and adult cats will need different levels of fat, protein, calories, and vitamins and minerals in their diets.

If kittens do not get the right amount, they face malnutrition, and it is very possible they could face a stunt in their growth.

If adult cats do not get the right amount, they too could face malnutrition and possible health problems from getting too much of one ingredient they should not have.

For example, there are overall far more calories in kitten food than there are in adult cat food.

If your adult cat were to be eaten kitten food on a regular basis, there is a high chance that your cat would become quite overweight as they would be getting more calories than their bodies would need or use.

Let us look at the different levels of protein, fat, calories, and vitamins and minerals in kitten food vs. adult cat food and compare the difference in nutrition.

Fat In Adult Cat Food Vs. Kitten Food

The fat content in kitten food is far higher than the fat in adult cat food; kittens need far more fat in their diets than adult cats do, not only for nutrition and growth but also for their energy levels.

Kittens need the energy to grow and to run around and play all at the same time, and this means they burn a lot more fat (and calories) a lot quicker, as opposed to an adult cat who will only need their fat for energy, as they are no longer growing.

The average amount of fat in kitten food is dependent on the type of kitten food your kitten is receiving.

Dry kitten food contains a fat percentage of around twelve to twenty-four percent, whereas wet kitten food will generally have less in as it is diluted down with water.

Adult cat food does not need to have as much fat in it, as we discussed above, and will therefore have a lower percentage of fat in it.

The average percentage of fat in adult cat food is usually between nine percent to twenty percent and will depend on each brand of dog food and the amount each brand chooses to use.

An important thing to try to remember is to not try and buy cat food that is low in fat, thinking it will help your cat lose weight.

Fat is important in your cat’s diet, and if you are concerned about your cat’s weight, you should speak to a vet – do not cut fat out of their diet.

Protein In Adult Cat Food Vs. Kitten Food

Cats will require a much higher level of protein in their diet than other pets (like dogs, for example) do.

Protein in a cat’s diet, kitten or adult, is considered to be the most important ingredient by far; this is just something that their diets require and is crucial in their nutritional needs.

The reason that protein is crucial in a cat’s diet is that they need an amino acid called taurine.

Where humans can produce this amino acid, cats can only get this amino acid through their diet, which means that it is very important to ensure that your cat is getting an adequate amount of protein for their age.

Dry kitten food will generally have an average of thirty-five percent protein in it, and that is a good amount for a kitten (although if it is slightly higher, that is fine too.)

And adult cat food will actually require even more protein in their diets, which means that they will generally have a percentage of around forty percent protein in their food.

Cat’s nutritional requirements will change with their age, and this is why adult cats will need higher levels of protein in their diet.

Older cats will need more protein in their diet to avoid things such as organ dysfunction and premature aging in cats – a diet that is low in protein in older cats can even be fatal to them.

Carbohydrates In Adult Cat Food Vs. Kitten Food

When it comes to carbohydrates, cats will generally not need as much in their diet as you may think.

Other animals such as dogs will require a lot of carbohydrates in their diet as they are high-energy animals and need to use carbs as their main energy source.

Cats are generally not very active animals and do not require a very high level of carbohydrates in their diet.

Kittens will need more carbohydrates in their diets than adult cats will, as growing still uses a lot of energy on top of all of their playfulness that burns up a lot of calories in a day. Therefore, carbohydrates can actually be very useful in a kitten’s diet.

Adult cats will not need this extra energy, though, so they will not need as many carbohydrates.

Surprisingly, the main reason behind cat food having such a high level of carbohydrates in it is that cat food manufacturers use carbohydrates, such as rice and cereals, to “bulk up” the food.

These starchy ingredients cost less to use and act as a great binding agent in the cat kibble, which means it makes sense for them to use a lot of it.

Most companies even make their cat food with up to forty or even fifty percent starch, making sure they only leave room for the protein and fat with the other fifty or sixty percent they legally are required to put in their kibble.

Vitamins And Minerals In Adult Cat Food Vs. Kitten Food

Since the only vitamins and minerals your adult cat or kitten will get are from their food, it is extremely important to make sure that they are getting all of the vitamins and minerals that their bodies need out of the food you choose.

Kittens need more of the following vitamins and minerals in their cat food than adult cats do:

  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Iodine
  • Vitamin A

All cats need these vitamins and minerals; however, these specific ones are required more in kittens than adults, and a good kitten food will reflect that.

The vitamins and minerals that both adult cats and kittens both need in their diets are:

  • Iron – To help keep your cat strong and prevent anemia.
  • Calcium – For healthy bone and tooth growth and maintenance, blood coagulation, growth, and formation, helps mother cats produce milk for their kittens and more.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is essential in your cat’s body as it helps their bodies absorb nutrients that it needs. It also aids in protein production, bone growth, and much more.
  • Potassium – Potassium is a crucial enzyme in your cat’s body. It helps aid in the function of muscle contractions, heart function, and nerve impulses.
  • Sodium – sodium aids in the removal of waste products in your cat’s body, which is essential for a well-functioning body and immune system.
  • Chloride – chloride plays an essential role in your cat’s stomach, aiding in digestion. It is also important as it keeps your cat’s alkaline levels in their body at the correct levels.
  • Vitamin A – Vitamin A helps with your cat’s eyesight as well as helping their whole immune system.
  • Vitamin D – this vitamin that usually comes from sunshine helps in the functioning of most organs in your cat’s body, as well as helping with the absorption of most other vitamins and minerals such as calcium.
  • Vitamin B1 – is essential for normal growth in a cat, as well as aiding in the digestion process of things such as carbohydrates.
  • Vitamin B2 – Helps oxygen be used correctly in the body as well as helps with the breakdown of proteins, fats, carbs, and more.
  • Vitamin B3 – helps keep your cat’s nervous system, skin, and stomach functions healthy.
  • Vitamin B6 – vitamin B6 helps with red blood cell function and maintaining a healthy immune system.

Both adults and kittens need all of these vitamins and minerals in their cat food, but once again, they will each need different quantities, and it is important that their individual cat foods reflect the amount that they need.

It is for these reasons that it is so incredibly important that your cat only eats age-appropriate food, as it will correctly meet all of their dietary needs.

Difference Between Cat Food “For Growth” And Food “For Maintenance”

The first difference between cat food and kitten food is the quantities and concentration levels of the ingredients, and the second difference is their purpose in the food.

Adult cat food is made for the maintenance of a cat and its overall health.

This means that the food that they eat will simply need to help keep them in their current health state as well as meet all of their daily nutritional needs.

Kitten food is made with the purpose of growing a cat from a baby all the way into adulthood.

This means that their food needs to give their bodies enough nutrition to not only meet all of their daily nutritional needs but also give their muscles and other all body the fuel and nutrition that it needs for your kitten to grow daily.

So there is a very critical difference between food that is made to maintain a cat and food that is made for the growth of a cat.

Cat food companies are required by law to list whether a food is made for growth or whether it is made for maintenance, and this is with the sole purpose of helping you choose the correct cat food to match your cat’s needs.

An adult cat may not be incredibly affected by eaten kitten food; however, there is a high chance that your adult cat may put on a lot of weight.

They also stand the chance of losing out of essential nutrients that they need as there are not high enough levels of it in the kitten food that they would generally have in their adult food.

Kittens, however, can be very badly affected by not eating kitten food and rather being offered adult food.

Kittens need to grow, not have their current size maintained. This means that when they are given food that is made for maintenance, there is a high chance that it may stunt their growth and negatively affect their overall health.

This is why it is extremely important to read the cat food that you are buying and ensure that you are buying an adult cat food that is made for maintenance and that you are buying a kitten food that is made for growth.


As it turns out, there is a big difference when it comes to adult cat food and kitten food.

The two different types of food being swapped out for one meal by mistake will not cause any harm to either the adult cat or the kitten; it is just not sustainable for long-term use.

Kittens specifically need kitten food to help them grow and to give their bodies all of the correct levels of nutrients that it needs to sustain that growth as well as giving them their daily energy.

Adult cats need food that will help them maintain their current level of weight, size, and overall health, as well as giving them their daily energy.

The difference between the two types of cat food is extremely important when it comes to the well-being of your cat, so be sure to always read the cat food bag carefully and buy the right food for your cat, whether they are an adult or a kitten.


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