Are kittens like babies or cats?
January 25, 2013 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Should kittens be chubby, like human babies, or lean, like adult cats?

You'd think google would know the answer to this, but all I can find is information on the ideal weight of adult cats; I know that adult cats should be lean.

Our adorable kittens, Essie and Res, are growing up so fast! They were just over two pounds each when we adopted them at 2.5 months old, and now that they're a bit over 4 months, they're five+ pounds each (this is Essie today, this is Res a little while ago). Essie in particular has an adorable little chubby tummy. They are of course not just heavier, but much bigger / longer than they were a couple months ago.

We are currently free-feeding them kitten-specific dry food; we picked a food that seems to be a decent compromise between ingredients and price. We were planning to free feed them for a year, then move to twice a day feedings - I read that free feeding is generally okay for young kittens, but not great for adult cats. But, we can absolutely move to 2-3x a day feedings now, if that would be better (4x a day feeding seemed like a bit much, and that's what they would have needed at 2-3 months old, or so I read).

Specific questions:
- Is it okay for kittens to be a little chubby, will they naturally grow out of it, does it just mean that they're about to grow? Or does it mean we need to adjust feeding?
- If we need to move to scheduled feeding, how many times a day? 2, 3, or 4?
posted by insectosaurus to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They look fine to me. My cats (when I had them as kittens) have always had the most adorable kittens bellies until they hit their "teen" growth spurt at around 11 months-ish, regardless of how lean or big boned they seemed to naturally end up as adults. And yes I've always free-fed. Exercise would seem to be the best thing with kittens, and the most fun on both sides, if you are really concerned.
posted by dness2 at 6:12 PM on January 25, 2013

We adopted Cosette at 14 months a few years ago but we adopted our Herbie at 5 months this past summer. He has always been on the small side and still is, at almost 12 months. We do feed them both 2-3 times a day, wet food only, per our vet's insistence.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:14 PM on January 25, 2013

They will start leaning out as they get older. It's normal for kittens to have round tummies.

A plethora of examples.
posted by something something at 6:17 PM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

As I remember our kittens growing up, a few of them might have been construed as chubby, but they grew up to be chubby cats. Their leaner siblings were lean all through kittenhood. Your cats look fine to me. Look at pictures of tiger cubs versus adult tigers to see the difference with a little different perspective.
posted by gjc at 6:24 PM on January 25, 2013

My cat did spurts of chubby-lean-chubby-lean all through kittenhood. Basically she'd put on a belly, and then overnight get longer, and the belly would disappear. We free fed then and now, although nowadays she only bothers to eat twice a day anyway. She is very lean as an adult.

If the belly is super round, though, and the rest of the body skinny, that could be a sign of worms.
posted by lollusc at 7:24 PM on January 25, 2013

We free fed our Siamese Mondo Destructo kitten food until he cleared 8 lbs at the bonny age of 5 months. I figured that at that point he weighed what an adult cat weighed and would henceforth be fed adult food, which the vet agreed was OK. He's now 15 1/2 lbs and very, very large.

Our other cat was a tiny kitten and remains a tiny adult cat. She would eat until she looked like she was going to explode and then wouldn't eat for another 6-8 hours so maybe you could put them on a schedule. But if you don't need to stop other animals from eating their food, I'd just free feed them until they're old enough.

I can't see the mitts on your cats but about 4-6 months you can sort of tell how big they're going to be by how well their hands fit their body (ok, not hands - front paws). The more outsize they are, the bigger your cat will likely be. That could help you gauge what their adult weight should be. If they clear 8-9 lbs while less than a year old, they're going to be huge.

I agree with lollusc that if their belly is ALWAYS super round, it's probably worms.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:16 PM on January 25, 2013

Response by poster: It's definitely not worms; they've had stool samples tested and were given the all-clear, and they are indoor-only so could not have picked up anything new. The bellies don't look disproportionate - Essie in particular is just slighly chubby, with most of her chub in her belly. It sounds like it may be normal kitten roundness.

I'll keep an eye on her weight & size; if she grows & leans out in the next month or two, I'll keep food the same, if her belly grows, I'll think more seriously about scheduled feedings. She is the smaller one in terms of length and has tiny little paws, too. Res bigger but leaner & has gigantic polydactyl paws!
posted by insectosaurus at 8:36 PM on January 25, 2013

I've got plenty of experience with cats and kittens and I don't think I've ever seen an overly fat kitten. They do have little round tummies when they're kittens, then they get lean and sort of tube-shaped as adolescents, then settle into their adult weight. If they're going to get fat, that's when they seem to do it. If they're running around and playing and have just been seen by the vet, I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:02 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

What does their vet say?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:11 AM on January 26, 2013

chiming in to say that it will also depend, to an extent, on the adult body type your cat will tend to, which may or may not be helpful if you don't know their ancestry (as is the case with many rescues/DSH from shelters, etc.).

We have a 3 year old Ragdoll and an 8 month old Birman. The Ragdoll was a feral foster, but we're pretty convinced (as is our vet) that he has fairly typical Ragdoll traits and background. He is a long, big-boned, 15-pound cat that conforms to all the traits of a Ragdoll, including his coat and coloring. We got him at 18 months old, at which point he was slightly overweight at 13 pounds. He leaned out on a proper diet and went through a few "weedy" phases where he was downright skinny, but this is pretty normal for adolescent cats. I agree with the poster who recommended paw size as a guide; at 18 months our guy looked like he was wearing clown shoes. He has since grown into his feet.

Our Birman, on the other hand, is from a breeder, so we know his background and history to an exacting degree. Birmans are a bit more "cobby" breed so they'll naturally tend to be a bit more round and compact, and his adult size will very likely not be as big as our Ragdoll. His breeder says that the largest Birman boy she's ever bred was just over 13.5 pounds. Justin has had the typical round kitten-belly since we got him at 4 months old. I expect over the next couple of months he'll "lean out" and become more adolescent-looking, but he'll never be as "long" as Marlowe, our Ragdoll, because that's not his breed standard.

Cat breed shapes tend from the extremely long, angular "Oriental" (think modern Siamese), to the extremely short, thick "cobby" type (think modern Persian), and a random bred DSH / alleycat can run the gamut along this continuum.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:13 AM on January 26, 2013

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