Two vets’ guide to the 12 best kitten foods 2024

kitten eating
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Choosing the best kitten food involves considering several factors to ensure your kitten receives the appropriate nutrition for growth and development. Optimum nutrition is crucial for their health, well being and safe journey into adulthood. Inappropriate or poor quality foods can have a range of negative effects on young kitties that may vary from the mildly unwanted to the devastating.

Choosing kitten food requires assessing many requirements such as, does it meet industry standards, does it contain the right ingredients in the correct quantities for young kitties and is it made by reputable manufacturers? Feeding adult cat food to youngsters, even if it is the best cat food, simply won’t cut it as adult cats require different nutrition from kittens. If you are looking for inspiration, expert guidance and unbiased opinions on the top kitten foods, then you have come to the right place! 

We selected the following kitten diets based on the quality of their ingredients and nutritional value which best support a kitten’s development. Vet Dr. Diana Hasler, then weighs in on each product to show you which ones stand out.

At the end of this guide vet Dr. Joanna Woodnutt adds interesting information on frequently asked questions from pet parents, for example, whether to feed wet or dry food. Looking ahead or if your kitten is about to turn the corner into adult life then do check out the helpful guide on best dry cat food to see what to move on to next.

Expert opinion in this guide is provided by:
Dr Diana Hasler
Expert opinion in this guide is provided by:
Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

Dr. Diana Hasler graduated with distinction from the University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in 2018. She has experience working as a small animal veterinarian in general practice, where she has treated many dogs, cats, rabbits, and rodents.

Dr Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS BVMedSci MRCVS
Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS

Dr Joanna Woodnutt qualified as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham where she then went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She really took to the consulting side of things and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition - anything that involved helping clients understand their pets better.

PetsRadar's pick of the best kitten food

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Royal Canin Kitten food gravy

(Image credit: Royal Canin)

Royal Canin Kitten

Best overall kitten food

Specifications

Item Form: Wet (Gravy)
Protein: 11% min
Fat: 3% min
Moisture: 80% max

Reasons to buy

+
Thin slices make it easy for young kittens to eat
+
Excellent protein, fat, and carbohydrate ratio
+
Antioxidants boost immune system

Reasons to avoid

-
High price point for a staple diet

This food is made up of the ideal ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to support your kitten as they grow and become more active. It also contains antioxidants to support their developing immune system. The thin slices help kittens transition from milk to more solid foods. Royal Canin also produces dry and loaf formulations.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

If you’re keen to ensure that your new four-legged friend has a balanced and nutritious diet, it’s hard to look past Royal Canin’s Kitten food. 

Royal Canin is a hugely respected cat food brand, earning praise from owners and veterinarians alike for its specialist formulas. It may be a little pricier per can than others on this list, but there’s little substitute for knowing that you’ve got your kitty some quality dinner from a trusted brand. 

The ratio of proteins to fat and carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients, in Royal Canin’s Kitten food is perfectly set up to deliver everything a growing kitten needs. This means that unless you’ve found yourself a fussy little fluff ball who craves a bit more variety, Royal Canin can easily be your kittens-only food. Though it’s useful to note that Royal Canin’s dry kitten food is formulated to complement the wet stuff so you can add a bit of crunch to your little one’s diet.

The meat comes in gravy (which can be a bit messy), and is deliberately sliced small and thin to make it easier on tiny mouths transitioning to solid food.

Of course, we do have to return to that price point, a kitten will need to be going through three or four of these cans a day to get everything they need. That might mean it’s a little much for some people to keep as a staple diet – it is worth noting that Royal Canin is often prescribed for kittens with digestive issues though. So, as long as you manage it properly, Royal Canin Kitten food could work well as part of a regular rotation. 

Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Kitten FoodPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Amazon)

Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Kitten Food

Best kitten food runner up

Specifications

Item form: Dry
Protein: 40%
Fat: 18%
Moisture: 12%

Reasons to buy

+
High in protein
+
Real chicken as the first ingredient
+
Rich in DHA for vision and brain development

Reasons to avoid

-
Contains chicken by-products

This diet has a high protein content to support your kitten’s muscles as they grow, and it lists real chicken as its first ingredient. It contains DHA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid found in their mother’s milk that supports the development of vision and the brain.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

Purina has long been regarded as one of the most reputable brands on the market when it comes to producing high-quality, nutritious and delicious formulas for our furry friends of all ages and stages. And this kitten kibble is no exception!

Featuring real chicken as the first ingredient and clocking in with 40% protein to fuel muscle growth, this formula also comes jam packed with DHA for healthy brain and vision development as well as all the vitamins and minerals your little one needs for a strong immune system, bucket loads of energy and a shiny coat.

Vet-recommended, this kibble is highly digestible, making it great for sensitive stomachs, and it's made without artificial flavors and preservatives. It's worth pointing out that chicken by-products are used in this kibble, so if that's an issue for you, it might be worth considering another brand. 

IAMS Proactive Health kitten food

(Image credit: IAMS)

IAMS Proactive Health

Best budget kitten food

Specifications

Item Form: Dry
Protein: 31% min
Fat: 21% min
Moisture: 10% max

Reasons to buy

+
Omega-3 DHA promotes brain development
+
Natural fiber and prebiotics
+
Taurine promotes strong vision

Reasons to avoid

-
Contains animal by-products

This food contains real chicken as its first ingredient. It includes a unique fiber blend of prebiotics and beet pulp to support your kitten’s digestive system. It also has vitamin E to support their immune system, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

Dry foods often work out on the cheaper side when it comes to cat and kitten foods, because you get so much of it in a pack. IAMS Proactive Health dry kitten food is well priced even among its direct competitors.

Affordability is IAMS whole thing. They’ve got a reputation for putting together solid, nutritionally strong pet food at a price that won’t put a strain on your wallet. This is not different.

The nutrition profile here is strong, with taurine to help develop your kitten’s vision, natural fibers and prebiotics for digestion, omega-3 DHA for promoting brain development and Vitamin E for boosting immune systems. 

Kittens seem to be big fans of IAMS Proactive Health’s taste but some pet owners might take issue with how the product is made. With the inclusion of animal by-products some people may have ethical concerns. 

This food isn’t grain-free, and while a small amount grain as part of a well-rounded diet shouldn’t be problem, it’s worth baring in mind for cat parents. It’s also worth noting that while this product does claim to be free of fillers (foods that bulk up a product while adding little nutritional value), corn grain and whole grain sorghum are ingredients that many consider to be fillers. 

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the fact that IAMS is a very popular and well-trusted brand. If those issues don’t affect you, then in IAMS Proactive Health you have a well-rounded, nutritious dry kitten food at a very reasonable price.

Royal Canin feline gastrointestinal kitten dry cat food

(Image credit: Royal Canin)

Royal Canin Feline Gastrointestinal Kitten Dry Cat Food

Best for sensitive stomachs

Specifications

Item Form: Dry
Protein: 33% min
Fat: 22% min
Moisture: 8% max

Reasons to buy

+
Designed for cats with very sensitive stomachs
+
Smaller portions provide high nutrition
+
Contains fatty acids to soothe digestion
+
Vet recommended

Reasons to avoid

-
Need vet consultation to buy
-
Expensive

Kittens’ developing digestive systems predispose them to dietary sensitivities, so this food is made up of highly digestible ingredients to allow them to effectively absorb nutrients. It also contains prebiotics to help establish a balanced microbiome within the gastrointestinal tract, as well as antioxidants to support kittens’ developing immune systems. This diet should be fed under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

If your kitty is recovering from surgery, or suffers regular stomach upsets and chronic diarrhea, you need to find a cat food that their sensitive stomachs can cope with. The same is true if they are finding the transition from their mother's milk to solid food an uphill struggle and are losing weight because of it. 

Royal Canin Feline Gastrointestinal Kitten Dry Cat Food is specifically designed to ensure your furball gets all the nutrition it needs, even if it is only able to eat smaller portions. It is also available as a soft mousse product – although the dry formula is designed for you to be able to add water to it for extra kitty hydration.

Note that because it is very high in fat and protein you need to get veterinary advice before you can buy this product. When Royal Canin says vet recommended, they mean it! It is specifically designed for kitties that can't eat much, and contains adapted levels of nutrients, including protein and calcium to help support healthy digestion – which means a healthy cat would find it too much.

If your vet agrees though, users have called it a godsend. The formula includes fish oil to provide Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, to help soothe the gastrointestinal tract, while it's formula of digestible proteins and prebiotics support digestion and optimal stool quality. This combination allows it to act quickly, relieving your kitty's digestion issues in a matter of days. 

The downside is that it is very expensive, but if your kitty is finding normal foods difficult to eat and process, this is a very sensible investment to stop their suffering fast.

Wellness Complete Health Pâté kitten foodPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Amazon)

Wellness Complete Health Kitten Pâté

Best wet kitten food

Specifications

Item form: Wet
Protein: 11%
Fat: 6%
Moisture: 78%

Reasons to buy

+
DHA for brain development
+
High quality ingredients
+
Gentle on the digestive tract

Reasons to avoid

-
Picky eaters may turn their nose up at it

The wet formulation of this food keeps kittens hydrated, while the ingredients provide enough calories, fat, and protein to keep up with an energetic, growing kitten. It includes DHA in its recipe to support brain development, as well as antioxidants to support the immune system. It comes in two flavors for kittens—chicken and whitefish & tuna.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

Wellness Complete Health Kitten Pâté has been specially formulated to meet the extra energy needs of kittens, coming packed full of the perfect ratio of calories, fat and protein to fuel their busy days of growing and playing.

This highly digestible recipe is supported by additional prebiotics with plenty of minerals for healthy teeth and bones. DHA and Taurine support brain development and eye health and there's an abundance of protein to fuel muscle growth.

We love the natural ingredient list for this wet food which features chicken as the first ingredient and comes with carrots and flaxseeds for fiber and cranberries for a powerful hit of antioxidants that will also keep the urinary tract healthy.

Free from grains, carrageenan, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, this wholesome and natural formula ticks all the boxes.

Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Kitten raw kitten food

(Image credit: Nature's Variety)

Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Kitten

Best raw kitten food

Specifications

Item Form: Dry
Protein: 42.5% min
Fat: 22.5% min
Moisture: 9% max

Reasons to buy

+
100% natural ingredients
+
Made without grain, potato, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meats, artificial colors, or preservatives
+
Made with cage-free chickens

Reasons to avoid

-
Not enough moisture for kittens

This diet contains cage-free chicken as its first ingredient, and it is complete and balanced according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines for kitten food. Before making the decision to feed your kitten raw, it is important to note that raw diets can harbor bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, which can cause gut infections in your kitten and any humans who touch them, handle their food, or clean their litter box.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

It’s sometimes difficult to know what’s actually in the foods we feed our four-legged friends. Foods that make it easy for us are always welcome; Nature’s Variety’s commitment to raw ingredients make their Instinct Original Kitten dry kibble super easy to understand.

The Instinct range from Nature’s Variety is committed to 100% natural ingredients, although it might be easier to demonstrate the Original Kitten lines commitment to nutrition by first telling you what’s not in it. This dry kibble is grain free and contains no soy, wheat, corn, potato, by-product meals, artificial preservatives, or colors. 

81% of this kibble comes from real animal ingredients and oils, which puts its protein content at a whopping 42.5% and fat at 22%. That’s exactly what a calorie-hungry kitten needs. The food includes taurine, DHA, and probiotics for promoting everything from healthy brain and vision development to nice soft fur.

The remaining 19% of the product is made up from vegetables, fruits, and what Instinct calls ‘other wholesome ingredients, and while some have criticized the product for including ingredients like carrots, deeming them unnecessary, the kibbles nutritional profile is very strong.

Given this food’s raw and natural ideology, we think we’d be remiss in not mentioning that Instinct have had to issue recalls on their food twice for potential salmonella. The last of these coming in 2015 after a confirmed FDA test, though we have no reason to believe this is likely to happen again.

As with most dry cat foods, Instinct Original Kitten isn’t going to give your kitten all the water it needs so you may want to think about pairing this with a wet food rather than as your kitten’s sole diet.

Applaws Kitten Tuna Fillet in Broth

(Image credit: Applaws)

Applaws Tuna Wet Kitten Food

Best gourmet kitten food

Specifications

Item Form: Wet (broth)
Protein: 13.5% min
Fat: 2% min
Moisture: 82.4% max

Reasons to buy

+
Dolphin-friendly tuna
+
High in protein
+
No artificial additives

Reasons to avoid

-
Not nutritionally complete

This wet food contains tuna, which is not only delicious, but also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids to promote healthy skin, coat, and joints as your kitten grows. Because this is a complementary food, it should not be your kitten’s primary food—instead, it can be fed as a special treat alongside a complete kitten diet.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

You could be forgiven for being skeptical when a brand claims to supply everything your kitten needs – most of them are doing that, after all. Refreshingly, Applaws isn’t one of them. Instead, it has built its reputation on creating fresh tasty meals that are designed be part of a well-rounded diet, rather than a staple of it.

Applaws’ whole brand is centered around using simple ingredients that haven't been tampered with, using human-grade meat with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Indeed, very little of anything is added. For example, the Applaws Kitten Tuna Fillet in Broth had just three ingredients; tuna fillet, fish broth, and rice. This way, you're left in no doubt as to exactly what you're getting.

While this is all great, like we said previously, this isn't a staple, so you shouldn't be providing it in every meal. It simply doesn't provide everything your kitten should be consuming as part of a balanced diet, so this high-protein tin should be treated as a gourmet treat rather than something to be included with absolutely every meal.

Moreover, this additional treat doesn't come cheap, and you'll find that the cost mounts up with every 24 cans you buy – quite a lot more than is normally the case with many other brands, in fact. Regardless, what you're getting for this is a protein-rich gourmet experience for your kitten, and there's nothing wrong with treating them once in a while. As long as you only dish these out once a day at most, you'll get plenty of longevity out of it, and your mini cats will definitely thank you for it.

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Dry Kitten FoodPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Amazon)

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Kitten Dry Cat Food

Best natural kitten food

Specifications

Item form: Dry
Protein: 36%
Fat: 19%
Moisture: 10%

Reasons to buy

+
Quality ingredients
+
Extensive range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
+
Free from common allergens 

Reasons to avoid

-
High carb content

This kitten food contains real chicken as its first ingredient, and it does not have any unwanted chicken by-products. It also provides omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to support your kitten’s growth, development, and immune system. It is formulated with calcium to support growing kittens’ bones and joints.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

If you're looking for a clean and natural formula that uses high quality ingredients, then this real food kibble from Nutro is well worth parting with your pennies for.

While the 5lb bag is more expensive than many other brands, this is definitely a case of getting what you pay for. With real chicken as the number one ingredient and source of protein and nourishing brown rice as a filling carbohydrate, this kibble has everything your new kitten needs to thrive.

You'll find an extensive list of included vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including plenty of omega-3 fatty acids for growth and development and calcium for strong bones and joints. We love the addition of beet pulp too, which provides a good hit of fiber and will help keep your kitten's digestive system running smoothly.

The limited ingredient list means there's little chance of this kibble causing any kind of allergic reaction in your kitten. It's free from corn, wheat, and soy, as well as all artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. There's no chicken by-products here either, which is really great to see.

Overall, this is a complete, nutritious, and balanced formula that's getting rave reviews from both pet parents and their young feline furkids. If your budget can stretch to the extra cost, we think this one is definitely a worthy contender of a place in your shopping cart. 

Purina Pro Plan Kitten Food Variety Pack

(Image credit: Purina)

Purina Pro Plan Kitten Favorites

Best variety kitten food

Specifications

Item Form: Wet (Pate)
Protein: 12-13% min
Fat: 5-6% min
Moisture: 76.5% max

Reasons to buy

+
Made with real poultry and fish
+
3 meaty flavors
+
DHA for brain and vision development

Reasons to avoid

-
Larger meat chunks

This variety pack contains three different chicken or fish flavors of wet food for owners who want to provide their kitten an assortment of foods. All three flavors provide complete and balanced nutrition for growing kittens, and they have formulas that are both easily digestible and tasty.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

Many kitten food brands these days tend to stick to one or two products that they identify as the best things you should be feeding your little meow machine. This is a great approach that allows a consumer to know, pretty much, exactly what they’re getting – but for the little ones, it can get a bit samey. Purina’s Prop Plan Kitten Favorites variety pack has 3 flavors to choose from. Variety is the spice of life after all.

The three flavors, Chicken & Liver, Ocean Whitefish & Tuna, and Salmon & Oceanfish are made with real poultry and fish as the number one ingredient. They add taurine for eyesight and DHA for brain development, as well as a blend of vitamins and nutrients to develop a healthy immune system. 

There is a slight difference in protein and fat between the chicken and fish flavors – with the Chicken & Liver having slightly less protein and slightly more fat – but all within what works for healthy kitten growth. 

However, some people have had trouble with larger meat chunks in the pate, meaning their kittens struggle or give up. Not all kittens have a problem with larger chunks, but if yours do, this might be one to wait until they’re a little bigger. 

Lastly we’ll point out the perennial problem with variety packs: you may end up with a flavor your kitten doesn’t like. This will happen to us all at some point but sometimes kittens don’t react well to the unfamiliar, so either try introducing the flavor again slowly with another or find yourself a fellow cat parent to swap foods with. Either way, the benefit of a variety pack is that you wont be wasting the whole case.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Kitten FoodPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Amazon)

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten Chicken Recipe

Best for protein

Specifications

Item Form: Dry
Protein: 40% min
Fat: 20% min
Moisture: 9% max

Reasons to buy

+
Full of natural ingredients
+
Very high in protein
+
Supports healthy oxidative balance

Reasons to avoid

-
Less finer than average

This diet has a high protein content compared to many other kitten foods, with a minimum crude protein level of 40%. It contains real chicken as its first ingredient, without the addition of unwanted poultry by-products. It is also rich in antioxidants to support your kitten’s immune system as they grow.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

Blue Wilderness claims to provide kittens with the finest of food, using real chicken as its first ingredient and promising not to use any poultry by-product. This dry food is also free from soy, wheat and corn and there are no artificial flavors or preservatives. It's as healthy a food as they come, making use of a host of natural ingredients.

At the very least, you can be sure your kitten will get an abundance of protein to support their muscle development and energy. The food also contains fish oil which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and DHA so your kitten will not only retain a healthy coat but benefit from improved cognitive function too.

Vitamins A and C along with potassium and fiber are provided by the inclusion of blueberries. Potatoes boost the vitamin C and potassium levels while also providing vitamin B, iron and magnesium.

Pumpkin is included because it's rich in beta-carotene, vitamin A, and zinc, while spinach is thrown into the mix along with apples