New kitten seems stuck on eating adult cat food
June 27, 2016 4:17 PM   Subscribe

I was unable to resist adopting a stray kitten from a co-worker. During the five days the co-worker had her, she was eating dry food meant for indoor adult cats. Now she won't switch. Is this a problem?

This is my first time with a cat of any kind (!!) so I'm a little New Mother anxious. The vet thinks this baby girl is about 2 months old. Because I mostly work during the day, I can only feed her about wet food in the mornings and evenings, but during the day she free-eats dry kibble.

When I got her, she came with a bag of Halo Spot's Stew, the salmon flavor, and she seems pretty keen on it. I bought a bag of Wellness dry kitten food, but she refuses to touch it. I've done a side by side taste test with the Halo, and she definitely prefers the Halo. I've tried mixing the Wellness into her wet food, and she (tricky bastard) eats around the dry food.

Should I keep trying different brands of dry kitten food? Should I try mixing the two types of dry kibble? Should I even bother with dry food? Is it doing her a disservice to be on food meant for indoor cats of all ages? I've compared the dry food and the Halo kibble has less protein and fat by percentage. Is it not going to matter, since I should switch to wet food entirely once she stops being a baby? Help me be less anxious.
posted by twoif to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I have a kitten and also an adult cat. Our kitten will eat the kitten food, but she wants to do everything Grownup Cat does, so she also delves into the adult cat food from time to time. We also had trouble keeping Grownup Cat out of the wet kitten food, so we ended up transitioning kitten to adult wet food fairly quickly.

Kitten is gaining weight like a champ and thriving in general. So my advice is not to overthink it and give her whatever she'll eat.
posted by Sara C. at 4:23 PM on June 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Perhaps start with the Halo's with a tiny bit of Wellness kitten food, then gradually decrease the Halo but increase the amount of Wellness until she gets used to it. Worth a try before you go spending more $$$ on other food. Whatever you don't use can be donated to a cat rescue or shelter, perhaps.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:52 PM on June 27, 2016

It'll be okay!

Kitten food supposedly has more protein and vitamins and a higher calorie count than adult cat food. But the difference isn't really all that much, and since she's eating her wet food too then the overall difference is even less. Like, if you were a breeder trying to raise show quality kittens or something then there might be something to worry about but your job is to make sure she's not hungry and forms good habits with and around eating and learns to play nice and climb safe and all that kitten stuff.

I think since you're an anxious new cat mom you should take this as the right time to form a good relationship with a trusted vet. Lots of vets these days are happy to talk about things like this over email, and of course kittens need regular checkups no matter what. Your vet might suggest some supplements you could mix into the wet food to help make up for any deficits in the kibble, or they could just be like "naw it's fine!" or suggest some treats or ways for you to check that she's growing up healthy or not.

Many pet stores will happily give you free or discounted small amounts of different foods as "testers" if you ask. It's totally normal for cats to have pretty strong flavor preferences, so it could just be that the Wellness stuff isn't to her taste and some other kitten food is. Also, though, how long have you had her? Because it can take a few weeks to transition to a new food. Start with mixing the two together at a 1:5::new:old ratio and then gradually bump it up until it's almost entirely the new food. If she's so meticulous as to leave the new kibble clinking around the bowl and carefully eating the old ones from among them, then it's time to try a different food.
posted by Mizu at 5:37 PM on June 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't worry about it. As long as the kitten is gaining weight, you're doing fine.

It might be a concern if you were feeding them low quality, high-grain adult cat food. But IIRC the Halo stuff is pretty good. (General quick check: first ingredient should be meat, not vegetable or grain!)

I use the same food for my 7 year old cat that I give to 4-6wk old kittens (Nature's Variety Instinct) but again its a fairly high protein, meat-heavy food which is good for almost any cat.

(The only real worry with too much protein is in cats with kidney diseases)

(Disclaimer, however, I am not a vet but have done a lot of fostering/raising kittens/cat).
posted by thefoxgod at 5:44 PM on June 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

It'll be ok. I once worked with a foster group with a kitten that was rescued from behind the dumpster of a KFC, who would initially only eat fast food. That cat got over it and ate cat food in no time. So long as your kitten eats food, it'll all work out. If you're worried, get a scale and weigh the kitten to make sure she's gaining.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:50 PM on June 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's better that she eat the adult cat food she likes, than reject the kitten food and just not eat enough of anything. She'll be okay, but you can always get a professional opinion from your vet.

And she's adorable! What's her name?
posted by easily confused at 6:08 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

What a great facie!

Should be fine, just make sure she gets a lot of it. Kittens should be eating way more than adult cats of equal size.
posted by 168 at 6:22 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you haven't already:

Try mixing the two foods together, in small enough quantities that she can't just pick out the adult kibbles and be completely full (but if she absolutely refuses to eat the kitten food, put more adult kibbles in there so she gets a full meal). She may get used to the kitten food over time.

Some cats will eat stuff more readily if it's fed to them from your fingers. Try holding out a single kibble and see if she'll take it then.

Hand feeding the cat will help her bond to you a little, too. If she'll go for it, give it a try with whatever food you think she'll like.

Final trick: if you can find puréed chicken (maybe baby food, if you can find some without onion or garlic in it - those are toxic to cats), or pure chicken stock (no onion again) you can try putting a little of that on the food you'd prefer her to eat.
posted by amtho at 6:32 PM on June 27, 2016

The trick for this when I was a kid breeding cats (long story, hobby with my grandma) was to mix the two dry foods. You could start with 10-35% kitten food so she starts off getting mostly the stuff she thinks she prefers (because it's consistent and what in her short life hasn't been upheaval. She's sticking with the familiar here!). Every few days increase the ratio of novel to familiar until after a few weeks she's just eating kitten food.

It'll be the same process in reverse when it's time to switch her to adult food.

We did this with every food change because sometimes the diet change causes an upset tummy. Which isn't fun for cats (or their people).

But really, she's also probably fine on the adult food if she's drinking plenty of water and getting wet twice a day.
posted by bilabial at 6:53 PM on June 27, 2016

I would probably add kitten milk or kitten wet food for a while and let her continue to eat the adult dry food, monitoring to make sure she is getting bigger.
posted by jeather at 7:20 PM on June 27, 2016

She's a sweetie! And, high-5 to you for rescuing! If she's getting wet when you're there and free feeding dry, you're fine. Kitten food, with its marginally higher protein, won't do much if she doesn't want to eat it or eats very little of it. As long as she's gaining and growing, you're fine.
posted by quince at 7:32 PM on June 27, 2016

Really - do your best and don't sweat it. The kitten food is worth making a little bit of an effort for, but as long as she's healthy and happy and growing, it's not going to make a real difference.
posted by wotsac at 7:46 PM on June 27, 2016

Some cats will eat stuff more readily if it's fed to them from your fingers. Try holding out a single kibble and see if she'll take it then.

My grown ass cats think it's fun when I line kibbles up in a row in front of them. Kibble flavours that were totally unacceptable in the bowl become super tempting when it's a game.
posted by kitten magic at 7:48 PM on June 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nah, this stuff is just marketing.
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

My cats will occasionally be fickle (or I'll forget exactly which kind of supplemental kibble they love) and after bitching about it in line at the PetSmart the clerk mentioned that I should keep my receipt and return bags of food they don't like. From what I'm seeing online, the store just throws the open bag of food out so its wasteful, but they'll happily exchange for a different flavor/brand and let you keep trying until you find one she'll eat.
posted by carsonb at 8:48 PM on June 27, 2016

CatFoodDB has the nutritional breakdown for both Wellness Core Kitten Food and (what I think is your other food), the Halo Spot's Stew Salmon. Looking at them both (you want to compare the Dry Matter Analysis to account for the different levels of moisture), The Wellness Kitten does have more protein and fat, translating to a few more calories/ounce over the Halo, but to be honest - I wouldn't sweat it. They're both decent quality foods, but a cat's gonna eat what a cat's gonna eat, and a 14% increase in protein isn't going to be a big deal in the long run. I'd mix them together (they're both dry food, correct?) and see what happens. You can start with only a small amount of the kitten food and gradually transition to 100%.

Full disclosure: CatFoodDB is my site. I'm pretty sure I'm in the clear here because I can actually answer the question, but mods feel free to delete if not.
posted by cgg at 10:36 PM on June 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

I raised my furballs on carnivore-specific adult cat food (Orijen and Acana), and they grew up to be gargantuan, healthy cats to whom my vets are all "omigod beautiful cats!!!" on seeing them. So yeah, nthing that as long as you're feeding quality food and kitten is gaining weight, all is well.

Looks like a beautiful kitty ^_^
posted by fraula at 1:10 AM on June 28, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses! I'm going to start the gentle mixing of her food. I've tried feeding some of the adult kibble to her by hand, and she crunched on one piece but was uninterested in finishing it, so maybe it's just a work in process. One contributing factor might be that the kitten kibble is surprisingly larger than the adult kibble, so she's not used to all the biting and crunching? But I will report back.

easily confused, kitty doesn't have a name yet -- I'm waiting for my significant other to come back from a vacation to meet her and help me name her!
posted by twoif at 6:40 AM on June 28, 2016

When I was a kid there was no such thing as special kitten food. All cats ate the same thing, so I think she'll be fine eating grown-up food. If you're worried she's not getting enough concentrated nutrition you could get her some special cat milk which is supposedly rich in vitamins and minerals. (Disclaimer)
posted by essexjan at 8:51 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

kitty doesn't have a name yet

In that case, I'd like to get in an early vote for Baroness Priscilla von Fuzzywuzzy.
posted by easily confused at 4:21 PM on June 29, 2016

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