They grow up so quickly…
Most kittens start off life looking slim and boney, with many concerned that they are under-weight and not feeding well. Some owners and breeders may even need to top up with bottle feeds and syringe mashed-up kitten food, to ensure their kittens are gaining weight adequately. Before long though, they start to fill out and many will reach young adulthood with a plump little belly. All too often, this chubby kitten matures into a fat cat; something which we need to ensure doesn’t happen.
When nursing from their mother, healthy kittens are usually quite good at eating the right amount and growing as they should. As they begin to wean at a few weeks old, they should naturally know how much kitten food and milk to eat to meet their needs. Most problems arise after weaning.
Once kitten comes home at about nine weeks of age, they will be fully weaned. The trouble often begins at this time once they have settled in to their new home. At this time, there can be a tendency to over-feed as owners worry that their young kittens are too lean and are not packing on the pounds as they should be. Or, the kitten learns that if it asks for a treat, it gets one, and soon has us wrapped around its little paw!
As soon as they are weaned, these little tigers no longer require milk (or any other dairy products) and should be fed on a complete kitten food alongside water. Feeding a wet diet can be beneficial for kidneys and bladder health, while dry food helps to keep teeth in good condition. Many will choose to mix feed; offering both wet and dry. Whichever works best for you, the key is to give the right amount of food.
Assessing their weight
When kittens are seen for their first vaccines as well as for their pre-neutering appointment, the vet or nurse will always weigh them and assign them a ‘Body Condition Score’. The Body Condition Score is even more valuable than the weight, as it indicates if a cat is under or over weight. The scale goes from one to nine, with one being far too skinny and nine being obese. We aim for a four or a five, regardless of the cat’s age.
The effects of neutering on your kitten's weight
We tend to see a spike in weight gain after a cat has been neutered. This can be partly to do with the hormonal changes that occur and partly to do with their altered routine. Spayed females no longer go calling, while males tend to roam less freely and cover less ground. Weight gain is not an inevitability and can be prevented by feeding the correct number of calories.
Food manufacturers now produce foods that are specifically designed for neutered cats. Owners can follow the feeding guidelines on the back of the packaging, giving the correct amount for the weight their little one is meant to be. Studies have shown that ‘eyeballing’ the amount given or using a feeding cup is far less accurate than weighing the portion out on a kitchen scales each time.
To keep on top of your little one’s weight, follow these tips:
- Weigh out food portions every time
- Feed an appropriate diet
- Don’t go overboard on the treats
- Encourage as much play time and exercise as possible
- Check your furry friend’s Body Condition Score regularly.