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10 Best Kitten Foods in 2021: Reviews & Top Picks

Nicole Cosgrove

July 5, 2021

kitten eating wet foodKittens need the right balance of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals, to help ensure that they grow up strong and healthy. They benefit from being given a species-appropriate diet: something similar to the diet they would eat if they lived in the wild. Although there is some debate over whether cats and kittens are better with a grain-free or grain-inclusive diet. You will also want a food that is appealing, easy to digest, and that won’t cause upset stomachs and other potential problems.

Below, we have included reviews of grain-free and grain-inclusive kitten foods, wet and dry formulae, and even some food that is suitable for pregnant and weaning moums, to help you find the food that best suits your kitten and its requirements.

divider-catA Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food
  • Cheap
  • 42% crude protein
  • Fortified with omega fatty acids
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Canned Kitten Food Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Canned Kitten Food
  • Wet food is moist
  • Palatable pate texture
  • Turkey and liver are primary ingredients
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned
  • Wet food hydrates
  • No artificial ingredients
  • Lots of meat-based protein ingredients
  • Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
  • Grain-free ingredients
  • Supports the 5 signs of kitty wellness
  • Primary ingredients are chicken ingredients
  • Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet Pate Kitten Chicken Entrée Canned Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet Pate Kitten Chicken Entrée Canned
  • Chelated minerals
  • Good source of DHA
  • Features a smooth texture and savory gravy
  • The 10 Best Kitten Foods – Reviews & Top Picks 2021

    1. Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food – Best Overall

    Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry Food
    Protein: 42%
    Flavor: Chicken & Rice
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Inclusive

    Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food is an inexpensive dry food. It is high in protein, with a 42% crude protein level. The grain-inclusive recipe includes the top three ingredients of chicken, rice, and corn gluten meal.

    Its ingredients are fortified with additional omega fatty acids that are good for vision, brain, coat, and fur health. Added calcium and phosphorus also help ensure good tooth and bone health so that your kitten grows up strong and healthy. Probiotics make it easier for your cat to digest and improve gut health. Available in a range of sizes, this is actually one of the least expensive foods on our list.
    It does contain grain, and ideally, it would contain more meat towards the top of the list. Otherwise, it is high-quality food at a low price point and represents the best overall kitten food we found.

    Pros
    • 42% crude protein
    • Cheap
    • Fortified with omega fatty acids
    Cons
    • Grain inclusive
    • Would benefit from more meat ingredients

    2. Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Canned Kitten Food – Best Value

    Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Canned Kitten Food

    Food Type: Pate Wet Food
    Protein: 11%
    Flavor: Turkey
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Inclusive

    Fancy Feast Kitten food is an inexpensive wet food. It is a pate texture, which means that it is smooth and easily palatable. Its primary ingredients are turkey, liver, and meat by-products. The ingredients also include supplemental vitamins including vitamins A, B, D, and K.

    Wet foods are considered beneficial because they are high in moisture. Cats, and especially kittens, do not naturally take to drinking water from a bowl. By feeding wet food, you can ensure that your kitten does stay hydrated, and food like Fancy Feast can be fed alone, fed in tandem with dry kibble, or used as a kibble topper.

    The cost of the Fancy Feast food is its biggest benefit, and the ingredients do include some good protein sources. However, the meat by-products ingredient would be better if it were a named animal and not a by-product. Also, although the crude protein level of wet food is expected to be lower than that of dry food, we would like to see it a little higher than 11%. All things considered, though, Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Canned Kitten Food is the best kitten food for the money.

    Pros
    • Turkey and liver are primary ingredients
    • Wet food is moist
    • Palatable pate texture
    • Cheap
    Cons
    • 11% protein could be higher
    • Meat by-product is one of the top ingredients

    3. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Kitten Food – Premium Choice

    Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Kitten Food

    Food Type: Pate Wet Food
    Protein: 12%
    Flavor: Turkey & Chicken
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Free

    Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate lists the top three ingredients as being turkey, chicken liver, and turkey broth. It also includes a good list of other meat ingredients, oils, and vitamin and mineral supplements, suggesting that the majority of the 12% protein found in this food comes from animal sources.

    As obligate carnivores, cats and kittens should get the vast majority of their protein from high-quality meat sources. Not only does Wellness food not contain any grain ingredients it is also free of artificial ingredients and controversial ingredients like carrageenan. Other than the price, the main issue with this food is that some cats do not like the flavor.

    Pros
    • No artificial ingredients
    • Lots of meat-based protein ingredients
    • Wet food hydrates
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Not all kittens like it

    4. Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

    Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

    Food Type: Smooth Loaf Wet Food
    Protein: 11%
    Flavor: Chicken
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Free

    Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is another pate-style wet food that is grain-free and that offers chicken as its main ingredient.

    In fact, the first three ingredients in this food are chicken, chicken liver, and chicken broth. The food is made up of 11% protein, which could be slightly higher, but the wet food consistency is such that it encourages good hydration levels from your kitten. Supplements in the food include vitamin D and B supplements. The ingredients are free from grains, and they do not use peas, which are sometimes included in cat food as an inexpensive filler that increases protein but with minimal nutritional benefit.

    The food also contains prebiotics and probiotics to help with digestion and good gut health, but you will find some quite large chunks of carrot that will put some kitties off eating the food and are not considered species appropriate for an obligate carnivore like a cat.

    Pros
    • Grain-free ingredients
    • Wet pate food hydrates
    • Primary ingredients are chicken ingredients
    Cons
    • Contains chunks of carrot
    • Not ideal for picky eaters

    5. Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet Pate Kitten Chicken Entrée Canned Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet Pate Kitten Chicken Entrée Canned Cat Food

    Food Type: Pate
    Protein: 11%
    Flavor: Chicken
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Inclusive

    Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet has the primary ingredients of chicken, chicken liver, and chicken broth. It also contains fish oil, which is a good source of DHA, fruit, and vegetables, and is fortified with vitamins and minerals to provide kittens with a fully balanced and healthy diet. DHA is found in mother’s milk and can be lacking in the diet of some kittens.

    The minerals listed in the ingredients are chelated minerals. Chelated minerals are bound to protein, which means that they are more easily digested and have greater bioavailability than non-chelated minerals.

    There are plenty of reasons to like this food. Unfortunately, it does contain carrageenan, which is considered a controversial ingredient because it is believed that it can cause inflammation and toxicity. The ingredients also contain rice, and the 11% protein could be a little higher even in wet food.

    Pros
    • Good source of DHA
    • Primary ingredients are chicken-based
    • Chelated minerals
    Cons
    • Contains carrageenan
    • Contains rice
    • 11% protein could be higher

    6. Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Ultra-Soft Mousse in Sauce

    Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Ultra-Soft Mousse in Sauce

    Food Type: Pate
    Protein: 9%
    Flavor: Chicken
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Inclusive

    Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Ultra-Soft Mousse in Sauce is a food that is designed for kittens or for nursing mothers. It is an ultra-soft pate that is easy to digest and consume. It is packed full of nutrients like DHA, which are vital for developing kittens, and its primary ingredients are chicken, chicken liver, and pork by-products.

    The mousse consistency of the food is especially beneficial because it makes it easy for kittens to transition from milk to solid foods. It also digests easily, but it is still popular with mother cats, who can get the protein they and their kittens require.

    Although this food does contain meat ingredients at the top of the list, it also contains carrageenan, which is an ingredient that a lot of cat owners try to avoid. It only has a 9% protein level, too, which is lower than the 12% or so that kitten owners usually look for in wet food, and it has a high moisture level. Wet food is beneficial for its moisture level, but if it’s too high, it means that the food is lacking in quality ingredients.

    Pros
    • Primary ingredients are meat-based
    • Good source of DHA
    • Soft pate consistency
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Contains carrageenan
    • Low 9% protein

    7. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food

    Wellness CORE Grain-Free Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry Kibble
    Protein: 45%
    Flavor: Chicken and Turkey
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Free

    Wellness CORE Grain-Free Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food is a grain-free recipe cat food. It has an impressive 45% protein level and it is reasonably priced for dry food.

    A lot of owners prefer to give wet food, especially to kittens, because cats are not naturally good at taking on moisture from water bowls and other water sources. While wet food is a good source of the required hydration that a cat requires, dry kibble is virtually moisture-free and can actually dehydrate a cat further.

    The primary ingredients are deboned turkey, turkey meal, deboned chicken, and chicken meal. Chicken and turkey meal are beneficial sources of meat protein, effectively like a concentrated form of the protein in those meats. The recipe does also include peas, which are considered a cheap filler and do not provide nutritional value to cats, as well as potatoes and tomatoes, which are similarly low quality.

    The protein ratio of 45% is high which is beneficial, as long as your kitten can keep the food down. It has been known to cause loose stools and gas in unprepared cats.

    Pros
    • The top ingredients are meat-based
    • 45% protein level
    Cons
    • Contains some cheap fillers
    • Too rich for some cats

    8. Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry Kibble
    Protein: 33%
    Flavor: Chicken
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Inclusive

    Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Chicken Recipe is a dry kibble with the primary ingredients of chicken, brown rice, and wheat gluten. It has a protein ratio of 33%, which could be much higher for a growing kitten to ensure that it gets everything it needs from the food.

    With ingredients like rice featuring high in the list of ingredients, this food’s recipe could be a lot better. Rice is not considered species-appropriate for cats. They are obligate carnivores, which means that the majority of their protein needs to come from meat-based sources, rather than from plant-based. Plant-based protein does not have the essential vitamins and minerals that your kitten needs.
    With that said, the recipe is popular with cats, and this is one of the cheaper foods to make our list.

    Pros
    • Cheap
    • The primary ingredient is chicken
    Cons
    • Too many plant-based ingredients
    • 33% protein could be higher

    9. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry Kibble
    Protein: 40%
    Flavor: Chicken
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Free

    Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness Kitten Chicken Recipe is a grain-free dry food consisting of 40% protein and with the primary ingredients of deboned chicken, chicken meal, and pea protein.

    The meat-based protein ingredients are high quality, although it is always disappointing to see pea protein as a primary ingredient, especially in cat food. What’s more, the ingredients also list peas and pea fiber. If the three constituent pea ingredients were combined and listed as peas, they may feature higher still in the list of ingredients.

    There is a very long list of ingredients in this food, although this does include probiotics and prebiotics as well as chelated minerals, which are beneficial ingredients in kitten food.

    Pros
    • Contains chelated minerals
    • Contains probiotics
    • Primary ingredients are chicken and chicken meal
    Cons
    • Contains a lot of plant-based ingredients
    • Pea is a cheap filler

    10. Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe With Real Chicken Freeze-Dried

    Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe With Real Chicken Freeze-Dried

    Food Type: Dry Kibble
    Protein: 42.5%
    Flavor: Chicken
    Grain-FreeGrain Free Or Inclusive?: Free

    Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe is a chicken recipe freeze-dried kibble. It is 42.5% protein, which is a good protein ratio for kitten food. Its primary ingredients are chicken, turkey meal, and menhaden fish meal, which are good meat-based protein sources.

    The list also includes peas, which are considered a low-quality filler and offer minimal nutritional value to a carnivore like a kitten. The ingredients go on to list freeze-dried meats, although these ingredients are near the bottom of the list so are minimal, as well as probiotics and prebiotics, and the recipe is a grain-free and gluten-free recipe.

    It is rich food, however, so you may need to transition your kittens over to it, and it is quite an expensive dry kibble.

    Pros
    • 42.5% protein
    • The main ingredients are meat-based
    Cons
    • Freeze-dried ingredients are very low on the list
    • Rich food not suitable for all cats

    Buyer’s Guide

    Choosing the right food for your kitten is important. It will help ensure that your kitty grows up to be strong and healthy. It will ensure good cognitive as well as physical development and it will also help ensure coat, fur, eye, and teeth strength. It needs to be appealing to your cat because even easy-to-please cats will turn their noses up at certain foods if they don’t like the way they smell or taste.

    Food Type

    There is ongoing debate as to whether dry food or wet food is better for cats, although it is important to remember that the two are not mutually exclusive. That is, you can feed a diet that is primarily dry kibble, but supplement this with wet food, or use a wet food topper that gives the food more appeal.

    There are benefits to each type of food.
    • Dry Food – Dry food is dried kibble. It is a small biscuit that should be nutritionally balanced and offer everything that your kitten requires. It is considered beneficial because it is easy to store and has a long shelf life. It can also be left out, so if you intend to free-feed your cat, you will need to offer a dry biscuit. It also tends to cost less than wet food. However, it is by its very nature, dry food, and you will have to find ways to offer hydration to your kitten. Another potential pitfall associated with this type of food is that it is not necessarily as appealing in its flavor or aroma.
    • Wet Food – Wet food is made up primarily of water. This might sound like lower quality food, but the moisture in wet food is a big advantage. It can be difficult to convince cats to drink from a bowl or other water source, so offering them food that also gives them the hydration they require, is a good way of ensuring that a cat stays hydrated. Wet food is usually more palatable to the cat, too, but it is more expensive, has to be picked up and disposed of once it has been down for a couple of hours, and if you only feed a portion of the tin or sachet, the remainder will smell the up the fridge out.
    • Combination Feeding – Combination feeding means giving both dry and wet food. You will need to reduce the amount of both that you give, according to the instructions, but this method enables you to offer hydration and ensure that your cat gets the protein, vitamins, and minerals it requires. It enables allows you to leave some food down all day and feed an appealing wet meal once or twice a day. Be prepared, however, for the fact that your cat may turn its nose up at dry food and instead wait for the wet food meal.

    Protein Levels

    The protein levels in cat food vary according to the make and ingredients of a meal, but also the type of food. Kittens need high protein levels. When buying dry food, you should look for a protein ratio of at least 35% and ideally 40% or higher. Wet food has much lower protein levels, and you will find that most offer 11%. Where possible, find one that provides 12% protein for your kitten.

    Can Kittens Eat Adult Cat Food?

    Kitten food is calorie-densecalorically dense. This enables your kitten to grow to full size quickly. Feeding an adult cat food, too early, can lead to stunted growth and may mean that your cat remains small. Feeding adult food to a kitten can lead to malnutrition, at worst, and dissatisfaction with the food, at best. You should wait until the kitten reaches about 12 months of age before transitioning to adult food.

    Chelated Minerals

    Cat food, and especially kitten food, includes supplemental vitamins and minerals. Ideally, you should ensure that the minerals are chelated minerals. This means that they are bound to a protein, which means that the kitten’s body is better able to digest and utilize the minerals. Effectively, chelated minerals have better bioavailability than non.

    Probiotics

    Similarly, you should look for foods that include probiotics. These help good gut bacteria thrive, supporting a cat’s immune system and ensuring better all-round health. They can also help to steady an upset stomach and ensure good ongoing digestive health.

    DHA

    DHA, or dDocosahexaenoic aAcid, is a specific type of omega-3 oil. It is found in fish oil and chicken oil, and it is a component in the brain, skin, and other biological elements of the cat. Kittens get this essential amino from their mother’s milk and benefit from having an additional source of it within their food.

    The ingredient is not necessarily listed individually but it is found in fish oils and in ingredients like chicken fat, so ensure that these are found in the kitten food you choose.

    Grain-Free or Grain-Inclusive

    Kittens are obligate carnivores, which means that, in the wild, they would survive almost entirely on meat-based proteins. The only plants or vegetables they would eat would be in the stomach of their prey. Rarely, if at all, would this include grains, and nutritionists argue that this means cats should not be given grains and grain- inclusive foods when they live in our homes.
    Grain-based ingredients tend to be used as filler ingredients, and if your cat suffers an allergy or sensitivity to their food, the sensitivity may be specifically sparked by grains. Grain-free and grain-inclusive foods can be found for your kitten.

    divider-cat
    Conclusion

    Getting the right food for your kitten is important to its development and its continued good health. Choose between grain-free and grain-inclusive, dry or wet food, and use our reviews of the best kitten foods, above, to choose the one that best suits your cat’s requirements.
    We found Purina Pro Plan offered the best value and combination of good quality ingredients, while Fancy Feast Kitten food represents the best value-for-money kitten food we could find, especially with its primary ingredients of turkey and liver.


    Featured Image Credit: Elizabett, Shutterstock

    Nicole Cosgrove

    Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.


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