Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > Kitten Food vs Cat Food: The Key Differences, Pros & Cons

Kitten Food vs Cat Food: The Key Differences, Pros & Cons

Kitten vs Adult Cat Food - Featured Image

When choosing the best cat food for your cat, many people focus on brand names, ingredients, and taste. While this is great, you should also try to choose foods that are appropriate for your cat’s current life stage. Luckily, for new cat owners who aren’t familiar with the differences between kitten food and cat food, manufacturers are required to put certain information on their food labels. Keeping your eyes open for things like, “for growth” or “for maintenance” are clear indicators of which food is suitable for your cat’s age. Let’s take a look at kitten food and cat food so you understand the differences and make the best choices for your cat, no matter their age.


Overview of Kitten Food

kitten eating wet food
Image Credit: Elizabett, Shutterstock

Kitten formula is the first food introduced to your kitten after they’ve been weaned from their mother. This means these foods should be packed with nutrients, proteins, and vitamins that a growing baby needs. A growing kitten also needs more calories than an adult cat. This is why choosing kitten food for a growing cat is so important. It’s the best way to get them off on the right foot for a healthier lifestyle.

How It Works

Kitten food is designed with certain criteria in mind. To ensure a young kitten grows into a healthy adult, balancing how much protein and fat they eat is important. The essential fatty acids and amino acids contained in this balance are ideal for growing healthy tissue. An adult cat doesn’t need the same amount of these proteins and fats since their bodies are already developed.

You will also notice that kitten food offers more vitamins and minerals than other cat foods. This is to help a growing cat form strong bones and teeth. The same can be said for the number of calories in a kitten’s food. A kitten’s growing body needs more calories due to its active lifestyle. A properly balanced kitten formula will provide all these necessities for your growing baby.

When to Use Kitten Food

Remember that weaning a kitten too early can be dangerous. Once your little one is ready and weans from its mother, it’s time for you as the pet parent to step in. Providing them with the proper amount of kitten food, several times a day will help them get all the nutrition they now need to grow up healthy. Kitten formula is designed to help aid your cat in the growth process up until they are 1 year old. At that point, it’s time to start the switch to adult foods.

  • Promotes healthier growth and development
  • Provides the needed calories, fats, and nutrients for growing kittens
  • Easier to digest
  • Not as readily available
  • Comes in fewer flavors

Hepper 360 Cat Feeder, Stainless Steel, Anti-Chew...
  • NO MESS - The 360° tray on this cat food and water bowl set has a raised design to catch and...
  • WHISKER FRIENDLY - Shallow and wide metal containers with flat bottoms ensure your kitty can enjoy...
  • CHEW-SAFE MATERIALS - Kittens and cats love chewing on silicone and soft rubber - but it's a choking...

Pet parents are faced with a few challenges when it comes to selecting new food and water bowls for their feline companions. The Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl combines cat-friendly features, such as shallow bowls and slight elevation that promote whisker relief, good posture, and digestion, with a beautiful modern design geared to keep floors free of mess during meal time. This bowl is entirely dishwasher safe, making life as a pet parent as simple as possible. Click here to learn why the Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl is right for you and your cat.

At Pet Keen, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!


Overview of Cat Food

persian cat eating dry food
Image Credit: Patrick Foto, Shutterstock

The foods we feed our adult cats are geared toward maintaining their health. By the time your cat reaches adulthood, it should be far more developed than a young kitten. This means the vitamins and minerals used in their cat food formulas are designed with maintenance in mind, not growth. A well-balanced adult cat food should also contain fewer calories to help avoid issues with weight gain as your cat grows, and in most instances, slows down a bit.

How It Works

Adult cat food provides your feline with a smaller amount of proteins and fats. This is due to the life stage they are in. Older cats no longer require all the extras kittens need, they simply need proper nutrition to keep them healthy and active. Most adult cat foods aim for better taste and texture than kitten formulas. Thanks to the finicky side of cats that seems to emerge as they age, this helps ensure they eat what they need instead of refusing their meals.

When to Use Adult Cat Food

As mentioned above, once your cat is 1 year old, they are ready to take on adult foods. Be prepared for a challenging time, however. With the variety of adult cat food available in pet stores, you’ll be checking labels and ensuring only the best ingredients are used. You may also deal with a picky cat that only wants certain textures and flavors. Unlike the search for kitten food, you’ll have an easier time finding the right foods to keep your adult cat both happy and healthy.

When feeding an adult cat, keep in mind that they don’t require the high amount of calories young cats need. This allows you to reduce the number of feedings your cat receives in a day. While leaving kibble available to them all day may seem like a good idea, it isn’t. Feed your cat an appropriate amount of food, twice daily to avoid obesity.

  • Many tastes and texture varieties are available
  • Helps maintain health as the cat ages
  • Available in most stores
  • Quality varies according to brand
  • Can become expensive

divider-catCat Food Options

Whether you are feeding an adult cat or a kitten, you’ll find there are two main types of cat food available: dry and wet food. While most cats seem to prefer wet food, kibble can be just as tasty and offers a bit of convenience for pet owners. Let’s take a look at both of these cat food options to help you make the right choice for both your kittens and adult cats.

Wet Food

cat eats from a plate with wet cat food
Image Credit: correct pictures, Shutterstock

Whether you are feeding an adult cat or a kitten, you quickly realize that this is often the one your cat will favor. When attempting to buy this type of food for your cat, you’ll find several options to choose from. Unfortunately, when it comes to your kitten, that’s not the case. Wet food options for growing cats are often hard to find. They can also be quite expensive. This is why many pet owners choose to wait until their kitten is older before introducing this type of food into their diet.

Two big pros you’ll discover when selecting wet food as an option for your cat or kitten are the protein and moisture content this food type contains. Both kittens and adult cats require lots of moisture in their diet due to felines dehydrating so easily. They are also obligate carnivores which means the protein is a necessity for them to live. These important criteria will be met easily with this type of food.

Dry Food

Image Credit: Okssi, Shutterstock

Dry food is often the go-to for cat owners. This type of food is easier for people on the go who need to feed their cats before heading out to work or school. While cats of all ages may prefer wet food, providing your cat with kibble may be the right choice for you. Unfortunately, finding high-quality kibble may be harder than cat owners realize.

While dry food for kittens and cats can be found on most store shelves, they aren’t exactly balanced for what your cat needs. Keep this in mind when making a selection. Read all product labels, especially on kitten food, to ensure the dry food isn’t only life stage correct but offers the protein, vitamins, and nutrients your cat or kitten needs.

How to Choose Kitten Food
  • Check the label for “promotes growth” or “growth formula”
  • Look for added amino acids and fatty acids
  • Compare protein amounts
  • Know the calorie content of the food
How to Choose Cat Food
  • Check the label for “maintenance formula” or “for maintenance”
  • Ensure proper protein amounts are included
  • Look for lower calories to help avoid obesity
  • Choose textures and flavors your cat enjoys


Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Image Product Details
Our Favorite Kitten Food Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Chicken Kitten Food Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Chicken Kitten Food
Our Favorite Cat Food Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Chicken Canned Cat Food Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Chicken Canned Cat Food

Our Favorite Kitten Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Chicken Kitten Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Chicken Kitten Food

Our favorite kitten food is from Blue Buffalo. This formula is designed to help kittens grow healthy and strong. The ingredients include real chicken and the added vitamins and minerals a growing kitten needs. This food is also free of unwanted additives like corn and meat by-products to make it easier for little ones to digest.

Our Favorite Cat Food

Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Chicken Canned Cat Food

Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Chicken Canned Cat Food

Instinct is our favorite cat food due to it providing cats with the same health benefits they would receive by eating raw protein. This cat food is nutritionally balanced to help your cat maintain its healthy lifestyle while providing the addition of fruits and vegetables for a better flavor.



As you can see, feeding your cat the proper foods is the best way to ensure they grow up healthy and stay that way. Kitten food will help a young cat learn life away from its mother and get the nutrition and calories necessary to become the beautiful, healthy cat they are meant to be. Cat food is waiting, when the time comes, to ensure that health is maintained and your cat lives a long and happy life.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: Left & Right – MaraZe, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets