Having a kitten is an exciting adventure, but shopping for them at the pet store can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to food. Kitten food comes in cans, bags, and even pouches of both wet and dry options. Many owners find the ease of storing and serving dry cat food appealing but may also find themselves wondering if it is okay for their kitten.
So, when can a kitten eat dry food? Most kittens can eat a fully dry food diet when they reach eight weeks old. Prior to that, they are still learning to chew, and their teeth are building the strength needed for crunching up dry food pieces, so mothers’ milk or wet food should be given.
Thankfully, most kittens are only made available for adoption around the eight-week-old mark.
So that means you should be able to offer them dry food shortly after you bring them home.
Within reason, of course.
And it’s always good to speak with the breeder first, if possible. See what your kitten has consumed thus far and if any transition has started onto dry food.
Nevertheless, if you’re wondering how to move your young kitten towards eating dry food, and if it is a safe feeding choice, keep reading!
When Can I Start Giving My Kitten Dry Food?
When a kitten is 6-8 weeks old, it should be mostly weaned from its mother’s milk and be able to eat dry food. The process of transitioning from milk to dry food can start when a kitten is around four weeks old. This process takes time and should not be done overnight.
A newborn kitten has one major need – its mother’s milk.
Of course, if a kitten is unable to nurse from its mother, there are kitten formulas available as well.
As the kitten grows, it will begin to get sharp kitten teeth and stronger jaws that allow the kitten to explore more solid food types.
Anyone who has ever made an abrupt change to their diet can tell you that the process is not always easy on your stomach.
A newborn kitten’s stomach is designed for digesting its mother’s milk but by around 3-4 weeks old has the ability to absorb nutrients from other food types.
By slowly introducing new food to your kitten, you allow its stomach to adjust without becoming upset, and your kitten can try eating something new without losing the nutritional support of its mother’s milk.
If you begin transitioning your kitten to dry food when they are 3-4 weeks old, the process should be complete when the kitten is between 6-8 weeks.
At this point, the kitten should no longer need to nurse from its mother and should be able to chew and digest solid kitten food without problems.
Should Kittens Eat Wet Or Dry Food?
When a kitten is first learning to eat food that is not milk, it will need to eat wet food or dry food that has been soaked to make a soft, wet gruel. Eventually, you can choose whether you want to continue feeding wet food or would like to transition your kitten to eat dry food.
At first, your kitten will not know how to properly chew food that isn’t a liquid.
By giving your kitten wet food, you are helping them learn to chew and swallow food while building the jaw strength needed for later eating dry food.
This also gives their teeth time to grow and strengthen enough to easily break up dry food pieces.
For a young kitten, wet food is going to be a more nutritious option as your kitten will be able to easily chew and eat enough food to both feel full and meet the needs of its quickly growing body.
As your kitten becomes better at chewing and reaches the 6-8 week age range, you can begin to transition to a dry food diet.
Can My Kitten Just Eat Dry Food?
Once your kitten has stopped nursing, practiced eating solid wet food, and is at least six weeks old, your kitten can transition to just eating dry food. This food will need to be a dry kibble designed specifically for kittens. Dry food made for adult cats should not be fed until your feline is at least one year old.
Kittens under six weeks old who are eating dry food will need to have the food wet down with water or kitten formula.
This helps your kitten be able to chew the food until it has strong enough teeth to break apart harder food pieces.
Kittens under one-year-old have a different nutritional need than adult cats.
Kittens are growing quickly and are naturally very active creatures, especially when you compare them to adult cats who have reached maturity and tend to enjoy long naps in the sun.
This means that kittens need to eat more calories and have a boost of nutrients that older cats do not.
For this reason, it is important to feed your kitten a dry food designed especially for cats under one year old.
Finding dry kitten food is not usually a difficult task and is usually sold by the bag at most major stores or online on sites like Amazon.
The one below, for instance, is a particularly well-reviewed dry kitten food and is of the highest quality ingredients:
- High protein kitten food made with real chicken as the number 1 ingredient helps support her strong, growing muscles
- DHA, a nutrient found in mother’s milk helps support her vision and brain development, and four antioxidant sources support a strong immune system
- Easily digestible, SmartBlend of high-quality ingredients comes together for a chicken cat food for kittens that supplies 100 percent complete and balanced nutrition to help her thrive
- Great tasting, deliciously crunchy bites of kitten cat food kibble plus added calcium support her strong teeth and healthy gums while giving her a texture she loves
- Feline natural cat food with added vitamins, minerals and nutrients is crafted by a veterinarian-recommended brand in Purina-owned, U.S. facilities with no artificial flavors or preservatives
The size of the bag you buy will depend on if you have one kitten or many and how often you go to the store or are willing to purchase online.
If you look at the outside of the food bag, it should be clearly marked as dry food for kittens under one year.
Once your kitten has celebrated its first birthday, you will want to switch to adult dry cat food.
How To Transition A Kitten To Dry Food
Transitioning a kitten to dry food is not usually difficult but does take a little bit of time to do correctly. The following steps should help you transition your kitten to dry food.
Offer A Young Kitten Dry Food That Has Been Wet Down
If your kitten is young and has only been nursed by its mother, you will want to begin by offering your kitten dry food that has been soaked with kitten formula or water to make a very wet mash called gruel.
This step introduces your kitten to the idea of eating something other than milk and helps your kitten to practice chewing and swallowing solid food while building a taste for dry food.
Mix Dry Food In With Wet Food Or Gruel
After your kitten is eating soaked food, start adding bits of unsoaked dry cat food to their usual mash.
These bits of dry food mixed in will let your kitten practice using its teeth to break down hard food pieces while still making sure your kitten gets plenty to eat from the wet bit mixed with it.
Offer Your Kitten Small Completely Dry Meals A Few Times A Day
When your kitten has mastered eating a mix of dry and wet food together, start offering small meals of just dry food a couple of times a day.
When first offering these meals, also offer separate small meals of soaked food.
This gives your kitten time to get comfortable eating bowls of completely dry food while still giving them something familiar to eat during the change.
When your kitten is easily eating the small dry meals, make them a bit larger and eliminate any wet food you do not wish to feed long term.
If you start the process of introducing your kitten to completely wet food around four weeks and build up to eating completely dry food, your kitten should be able to eat dry food by around eight weeks old.
How Do I Get My Kitten To Eat Dry Food?
If your kitten is slow to warm up to eating dry food, there are a few things you can do to encourage them to start eating. The first thing is to keep offering your kitten a mix of wet and dry food together while waiting a bit longer before introducing completely dry food. Some kittens just need more time to grow and mature before making the switch from soft food to harder dry food.
Another option is to add a touch of chicken broth to the dry food to give it a more appealing scent or flavor.
Dry foods have a different scent than canned foods, and this may be giving your kitten some hesitations about chowing down.
Chicken broth is a scent many kittens cannot avoid!
Try Different Brands
Some kittens only prefer certain types of dry food, so trying a different brand may help.
Also, different brands have different sizes and shapes of their kibble, which can make a difference in your cat’s desire to eat.
Check-In With The Vet
If your kitten still won’t eat dry food after trying these ideas, it is a good idea to do a quick check-in with your veterinarian.
They can rule out any health reasons your kitten may be experiencing that make eating dry food difficult.
When it comes to feeding a kitten, an owner does have several options.
Some owners will want to do a mix of canned and dry food for life; others appreciate the ease of a completely dry food diet.
As long as you feed your kitten food designed for young growing cats and make sure that they are eating what is provided, your kitten will grow to be a happy and healthy companion.
Have other questions related to the diet of your kitten? Then my following guides may be of interest!
- How To Burp A Kitten [All You Need To Do & Consider]
- How Many Pouches Should I Feed My Kitten? [Per Serving, Per Day]
- How Long Can Kittens Go Without Food? [Before Its Unsafe]
- Why Does My Kitten Eat Cat Litter? [And How To Stop Them!]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.