Your kitten may think she's as fierce as a lion—capable and independent—but when it comes to nourishment, she relies on her mother's milk and the solid food you provide. Most kittens are through the weaning process and have transitioned to solid foods by the time they're eight weeks old. So you might be wondering just how much to feed an eight-week-old kitten.

A kitten's nutritional needs begin to change at 8 weeks old.

First, a transitional time

A mother cat (called a “queen") will start her litter on the weaning process when they're about a month old. The kittens will begin to show an interest in cat food around that time. Slowly, they can be given tastes of kitten food that is soaked in water until it's quite soft. Solid food can be gradually increased as the kittens nurse less often over the next few weeks. When a kitten is about eight weeks old, the weaning process will probably be complete, and he'll be eating 100 percent kitten food.

How much and how often?

An eight-week-old kitten is about to enter a period in which she will gain weight quickly.1 Unlike an adult cat that might be fine with just one meal a day, kittens need multiple meals spaced throughout the day. One large meal that contains all of their nutrition for the day would be too difficult to digest properly. Kittens need those calories all day long! (One benefit of working from home: it makes it easier to take care of a kitten's extra meal times!)

At eight weeks old, a kitten can be fed four times a day, with approximately a half a cup served at each meal.2 This can vary based on your kitten's breed and body condition and your veterinarian's recommendation. Because a kitten has so much developing yet to do, a high-protein diet is ideal. And kittens should always have access to fresh, clean water.

What kind of food?

Kittens may be fed dry kibble kitten food or wet canned food. The choice is really up to you, based on your veterinarian's advice. Some kittens may have difficulty chewing dry food properly. If canned food is used, it shouldn't be left out for extended periods of time without refrigeration. Dry kibble food can stay out longer throughout the day. When a kitten is much older, some owners decide to feed their pet “free choice" kibble, where the food is left available for much of the day. Other owners choose to feed wet canned food in single meals.

Not quite grown-up yet

While a kitten is enjoying real food at eight weeks old, they aren't truly independent yet. Many kittens are still with the litter and their mother until they're about twelve weeks old, even though they're not nursing much. Kittens are still learning a lot of socialization skills during this period, and remaining in a litter environment helps them cement proper cat behaviors.3 And if you're a kitten, it's always playtime!

Feeding your 8-week-old kitten the proper nutrition he needs will help him transition from being in his mother's care to being an independent, spunky friend.

  1. VetStreet. “Feeding Your Kitten: What You Need to Know," August 25, 2011, http://www.vetstreet.com/cats/feeding-your-kitten-what-you-need-to-know
  2. Westfall, Angela. My Pet Needs That. “How Much Should You Feed a Kitten?" https://www.mypetneedsthat.com/how-much-to-feed-kittens/
  3. Syufy, Franny. The Spruce Pets. “ How Long Should a Kitten Stay With Its Mother?" October 21, 2019, https://www.thesprucepets.com/when-can-kittens-leave-mothers-555163