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Underweight kitten. How much should she be eating?

Discussion in 'Cat Health and Nutrition' started by Penelope Jones, Oct 15, 2020.


  1. Penelope Jones

    Penelope Jones PetForums Newbie

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    It's difficult finding an answer to this online - lots of articles on how much to feed a kitten don't actually give any specific answers. What I have found is quite inconsistent.

    My almost-12-week kitten is a bit underweight and not very interested in food. She had her first checkup just after I got her at 10 weeks and was only 750g - she's quarter Bengal so I think she ought to be on the larger side not the smaller side of normal. (The vet actually assumed she was 8 weeks so in the back of my head I do wonder whether we were misled about her age - but I don't think so.)

    She eats about 50g wet food and 20g of dry food (Royal Canin kitten in gravy and kibble) each day. Most sources tell me this is far too little. We do give her a couple of kitten treats and a tiny bit of chicken/tuna/beef/plain yoghurt if we're eating it, but not enough to spoil her appetite. The kibble is out all the time and I mash up about 10g of wet food at a time several times throughout the day. If I don't mash it she just licks off the gravy.

    She does seem excited about the mashed wet food when I put it out, but usually she only eats about 5g in one sitting and then goes back to it later. I have to put her in front of it to remind her it's there. I left about 10g wet food out last night for her because she ate particularly little yesterday, but she never went back to it after her first go at it, so most of it was still there this morning and went in the bin.

    I don't necessarily think she's full after 5g. I think she either forgets it's there or gets confused and thinks she has finished it, because I've noticed that after she has eaten half and walks away, if I scoop what's left into a small pile and immediately put her back in front it it, she finishes it and basically does eat the whole 10g in one sitting! It's like she can't find the second half of her food when she's pushed it all around the bowl eating the first half. Also she'll finish it if I literally pick bits up and hand feed her on the end of my finger. I'm happy to do this to try to make sure she's eating the right amount while she's developing - but how much should I be trying to get her to eat?!

    She's always hassling us for food when we're eating something meaty so she does have appetite. She doesn't share food with any other pets and it doesn't make a difference whether she is alone or someone is with her or what time of day it is. She's not nervous or distressed. She seems to have plenty of energy when she's hyper, and sleeps most of the day on our laps and all night but I think that's normal.

    She does do a funny behavioural thing of pawing at the ground near her food when she's done eating, which I know is trying to bury her food like she would her poo to cover her tracks. Probably not relevant but just thought I'd mention it.

    I really want to know exactly how much wet food and how much dry food a kitten her age (and 3 months, 4 months etc) should be eating - or how much a kitten should be eating according to the weight of the kitten would also work.

    I want make sure she gets plenty of nutrients so she's as big and strong as she's supposed to be, because she's going to be an outdoor cat and we do have foxes and other cats around my area.

    Ideally I'd have answers in grams but can convert from imperial measurements. Measurements by number of pouches/cans are not very helpful because these vary in size. Just a link to an article/guide that reliably sets this out would work?

    Thanks if anyone can help!
     
  2. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hello @Penelope Jones and welcome :)

    I have always found the best diet for kittens is to feed them as much wet food as they will eat but be very strict about how much dry food you give them. I would never leave dry food down all day for a kitten as snacking on it will spoil their appetite for the wet food which is much better for their health.

    With a good quality wet food, high in meat protein and low in carbs I would feed around 50 grams per meal and feed 4 or 5 meals a day, i,e, about 250 grams to 300 grams of wet food a day. If they want more I give them more (wet food only)

    It sounds as though your kitten is not very keen on dry food. It also sounds as though she is often hungry as she gets excited when she smells your food.

    You can feed her home cooked meat but you will need to add a completer to it to ensure she is getting all the vitamins and minerals she needs as a growing kitty. It must be a supplement suitable for adding to cooked meat - Zooplus sells one called Felini Complete, Purrform sells one, as does Kiezebrink.

    Which wet foods do you feed her?
     
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  3. Penelope Jones

    Penelope Jones PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks so much for your reply chillminx!

    Gosh that is very worrying. I can't imagine her ever getting 50g of wet food in her at one meal, she eats 10-20% of that. She definitely takes more than a day to get through an 85g sachet of wet food, and I only refill the dry food bowl with 20g dry food once a day (when it gets low) so she is clearly eating far far too little.

    I don't understand why. She likes her food, is interested in it to start with, but then just abandons it until I point her at it again.

    Can an 11-12 week old kitten really consume 250g of food a day?? That's almost third of her body weight! (She's up to 900g now, I have weighed her).

    Currently feeding her Royal Canin kitten food in gravy which I believe is a complete food.

    I only feed her small bits of cooked meat as a treat from my meal, it's not what I feed her as a meal for her. I do sometimes stir it into her wet food which encourages her to finish a bigger portion. But I'm talking about 2g max.

    I will try 50g of kitten food with her now and see if I can convince her to eat it all, but that's usually her intake for the whole day...
     
  4. OrientalSlave

    OrientalSlave Shunra Oriental Cats

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    Don't look at what she weighs, look at her bodily condition and her weight gain. She should feel slightly plump, not boney, and she should be gaining weight each week. Let her eat as much as she likes and yes, she could easily eat 250g wet food per day - or more!

    Withdraw the dry at least for now, and give her more small meals of wet each day. And yes, you were probably lied to about her age. This is incredibly common with BYBs. She may not be 1/4 Bengal either, but simply a nicely marked domestic tabby - or that's what the 'Bengal' might be.

    Has she been wormed? Kittens need regular worming for the first 6 months especially. Panacur granules in their food usually does the trick unless they have fleas, which can carry tapeworms.
     
  5. Spirited_Violet

    Spirited_Violet PetForums Junior

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    I'm no expert at all on this but my Freya is similar in that shes tiny. ( at just over 9 weeks she was 0.6kg at 12 weeks 1.2kg. But she does eat up to 300g of wet food per day. (Up from 200 when I first got her). (Shes 14 weeks old this sunday). Shes largely interested in play and what I'm doing so sometimes she will ignore her food. But she does feel encouraged to eat when she sees me eating. So sometimes I put her food bowl right next to me and I'll eat something and it oddly works xD. Idk if it makes her feel included?

    Saying that, I've never had a problem with her eating decent portions. She eats 100g for breakfast in one go and the other portions she halves.

    She also loves her wet food mashed. I'm not sure what royal canin wet looks like but Freyas on Smilla which looks literally like corned beef and she really enjoys that mashed. So maybe a different textured food might help?
     
  6. QOTN

    QOTN PetForums VIP

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    If your little girl is not keen on eating large quantities, I would suggest you feed her home cooked meat because it will give her more nutrients in a smaller portion. I always weaned my kittens on chicken and then added other food later so they were used to plenty of different types in the hope their new owners would have no problems with their diet. As chillminx says, you will have to supplement to ensure she is getting calcium which is lacking in muscle meat but I am using the Kiesebrink supplement at the moment and it seems to be accepted well. (I have fed my cats on meat for over twenty years so I know how good it is for them.) Make sure you use chicken thighs not breast and introduce turkey dark meat as soon as possible to ensure she has enough taurine.

    She does seem to be a very low weight for her age even if the 'breeder' lied so I would try feeding her multiple times a day especially if you think a larger quantity puts her off.
     
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  7. Penelope Jones

    Penelope Jones PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks all. I gave her 45g wet food right after my post above and I kept putting her in front of it but she just wasn't interested after having a little bit and has gone back to sleep. It's mostly all still there. I'd say she's eaten about 35g wet food total so far today (almost 6pm here, not sure if you're in UK) and maybe 15g dry.

    OrientalSlave I will remove the dry food for a while (this evening/tomorrow) as you suggest - but if it doesn't increase her wet food consumption I'll put it back because I really want her to eat. She is bony. She may be younger than we were told - we met and paid for her at 7.5 weeks and ended up taking her a bit early at 9.5 weeks because all the other kittens had gone and she wasn't really spending much time with her mum any more, so it didn't seem worth leaving her there for socialisation. For what it's worth, she's fully litter trained and very happy and sociable. The food thing is the only thing wrong. So perhaps when we met her she was actually 5.5 weeks...but I don't think so. She was already on normal food and fully litter trained at that point.

    I do believe she's part Bengal though. We met her mum (Persian) and dad (half Persian half Bengal) who are both loved family pets and her dad is pretty big! Also, we weren't at all interested in her being part Bengal - we just wanted a moggy - so no reason for the breeder to mislead us. Anyway, I'd be happy for her just to be normal kitten weight/food intake.

    She did have worming treatment a week ago (three days of Panacur syringed into the back of her mouth, but a small dose because she is so small) and she came to us with loads of fleas (we caught 50+ in the first three days) but five days of rigorous flea combing seems to have completely got rid of that - we haven't seen a flea in over a week.

    A weird thing I've noticed is she takes a very long time to eat compared to family cats we had when I was younger. She doesn't pick up the wet food with her front teeth and chew it a lot, she just licks it to try to get bits in her mouth which is really ineffective! I wonder if it's a mouth issue....

    Also she sleeps a lot. All night and most of the day, she's only awake (although very awake and hyper) about 5 hours in the day, maximum. I don't know if that's unusual, if it is then perhaps she has low energy from her low food intake.

    I have just booked her an appointment with the vet tomorrow to see if they think anything is wrong. She is bony despite having constant access to food. I don't think her dry food is filling her up too much but I'll try removing it to see if she eats more wet.

    SpiritedViolet I'll try eating with her but it does sound like Freya is quite different because she can at least handle a big portion. I'll get a couple of other kitten food brands in though to see if that's the problem..

    QOTN, I'll speak to the vet about your suggestion for her diet - it sounds like she could put weight on that way then go back to eating regular kitten food? I wouldn't want to be cooking for her forever!
     
  8. OrientalSlave

    OrientalSlave Shunra Oriental Cats

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    You only had the breeders word for it she was 'on normal food and fully litter trained'. I have 6, 6 week old kittens here. They are definitely not fully litter trained, and are only just more or less weaned, and that was their mum's choice not mine.

    Edit: I've read your post more thoroughly. She sounds like she is much younger than the age she is alleged to be. Sucking food is how my kittens start weaning.

    As to the fleas, that is absolutely shocking. In fact the whole setup is shocking. If their 'Bengal' and 'Persians' are registered I'm sure they were not sold to be bred from, but they quite likely came from someone else who didn't give a f*ck what happened to their kittens.

    This is most definitely a BYB you brought from, not a Breeder or even a 'breeder'. I suspect they are breediing kittens as fast as they can to make money. Most of the expenses of raising my registered pedigree kittens comes after 6-8 weeks. They start eating massive amount of food, using mountains of cat litter, they get vaccinated, wormed, chipped & neutered. What is astonishing is people will pay as much, or almost as much, for an unregistered 8-week old kitten. By the time it's 14 weeks old it will have cost them a lot more than one of mine would.

    Additionally the sooner the kittens are gone the sooner the female will call again, and the sooner more kittens can be born.


    A kitten of 900g would be about 8 weeks old. As she is bony, maybe a week or so older.
     
    #8 OrientalSlave, Oct 15, 2020
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
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  9. gskinner123

    gskinner123 PetForums VIP

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    Reading between the lines of your posts, though perhaps I'm off track, she doesn't sound as bright and active as a young kitten should be. That would worry me, in combination with her appetite and that she feels bony.

    The breeder may have not been truthful regarding her age but, regardless, her appetite and the amount she is eating should be substantially greater. Is it possible she just doesn't like the brand of wet food; but I assume you have tried other wet foods to get her to eat?

    Her behavior, picking at food in small amounts, taking a long time to eat small amounts, eating a tiny bit more when encouraged to do so, etc, to me sounds like a kitten who is unwell in some way..and finding out why can be difficult

    I do hope your vet appointment can throw some light on it.
     
  10. Summercat

    Summercat PetForums VIP

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    @Penelope Jones
    Hi,
    To me, spreading several small meals over the course of a day, sound fine for a kitten but the amount she eats overall per day is worrying - about 70 grams. It does not seem like enough for a growing kitten.

    I agree with the others, it may be she is unwell and you might have been mislead about her age. Your vet thinking she was younger is also a sign. It may be a health issue, age or both.
    Do you have a photo of her we could see?
     
  11. Penelope Jones

    Penelope Jones PetForums Newbie

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    OrientalSlave to be fair to the breeder, I only say "breeder" because I can't think of a better word for "the woman I bought the kitten from". She didn't hold herself out to be a professional breeder, or say that her cats were registered pure breeds, which was fine by me. When we saw the kittens at "7.5 weeks" I did spend a good 30 mins with them, see their food bowl and litter tray and saw other kittens (although possibly not ours) using both - and their mum wasn't in the room or even really nearby, the owner struggled to locate her, which is why it does seem at least plausible that they were fully weaned and not that tiny. No kittens weed or pooed outside the litter box while we were there. From when we got her at "9.5 weeks" she was totally litter trained (other than a couple of annoying duvet wees) and fine eating and crunching up dry food (just not a lot of it), and she'd pick up treats and bit of meat, it's only the wet food that she is an idiot about and just licks at.

    That said, you definitely know more about this than me. I just don't want to accidentally character assassinate a woman who was very nice to me! The fleas absolutely were shocking but she had lots of pets so I understand that it must be a struggle.

    I appreciate it's much better to adopt, or buy kittens from proper breeders, but the adoption shelters we approached weren't happy with our setup (two house rabbits, no private enclosed garden, currently no cat flap) and proper breeders were so expensive given that we didn't even want a pure breed cat, just a moggy.

    At this point it would be a GOOD thing to believe that she is younger than I was told, because it would explain her low appetite. But given the factors above indicating she may be the stated age, I think it would be risky for me to just explain her appetite away that way.

    Gskinner123, thanks for your thoughts. I didn't try a different food until last night after you all helpfully settled the question of whether her food intake was worryingly low or not. I picked up some James Wellbeloved kitten food sachets. As usual she was excited and licked off all the gravy and with extensive prompting and hand feeding and reminding I managed to get her to eat about half a sachet (40g) over the evening and night but I've put down the other half of the sachet this morning and she's licked the gravy off and that's it. The dry food has been gone since yesterday afternoon.

    Hopefully the vet will have an answer this evening... I'll closely monitor how much she eats over the 24hrs between taking away the dry food and the vet appointment.

    Here are a few pictures SummerCat. One for cuteness and others which better show her body - and also her size relative to the pile of my sister's books. All taken a few days before/after 11 weeks. We have noted for a while that her belly seems quite distended - wasn't worrying us until now we know she's eating too little. She's called Paksenarrion (Paks).

    IMG_20201012_200531~2.jpg IMG-20201009-WA0004~2.jpg IMG_20201009_105016~2.jpg IMG-20201015-WA0008.jpg
     
    #11 Penelope Jones, Oct 16, 2020
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
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  12. StinWom

    StinWom PetForums Junior

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    Zelda wasn't eating much when we got her and she is now eating only around 250g a day at 5 months and a half, but she isn't bony and is quite healthy. We haven't heard any concern from the vet and she looks fine, increasing her weight steadily. She is still eating half a portion at a time (around 42 g), and when she was smaller she was eating even less at each meal (but not as little as 5g though). She only started eating that much around a month ago, at 2-3 months old she was content with 150-200g a day and wouldn't eat more even if we were leaving it out for her. It just seemed to increase naturally with age.

    Regarding the food, ae are currently phasing out the James Wellbeloved turkey pouches because she doesn't like them anymore (first time she's getting fussy!) and she has a tendency to just let it sit around in her bowl. But she still loves her Lily's Kitchen, Rosie's farm and Animonda pates, and seems fine with the Bozita chunks in jelly.
     
  13. QOTN

    QOTN PetForums VIP

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    It is interesting that your little girl will eat the meat that you have which presumably is not sloppy so she can eat solid food, yet she seems to be trying to lap the wet food. Perhaps you could try moistening it and mashing it so she can lap it to see if she prefers it like that.
     
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  14. Penelope Jones

    Penelope Jones PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks StinWom and QOTN. She is eating a bit more of her new wet food than her old wet food but that's probably because I've removed the dry and and I'm putting food in front of her constantly. Interestingly, she's been awake more than usual today. Not sure if that's because she has more energy from the extra calories or because I keep giving her food.

    QOTN she can definitely eat solid food, since we got her over two weeks ago she's been fine eating the crunchy dry food and larger crunchy kitten treats and bits of cooked meat. I tried last night mashing up the usual Royal Canin with additional warm water so it was almost like a thick soup - she wasn't a fan.

    I'm not mashing the James Wellbeloved and shes eating it (going back for the chunks a while after licking off the gravy), but still only about 1.75 sachets since yesterday evening. I do think it's appetite now, not a mouth/weaning issue, as I've seen her eating the chunks. I've not given her anything else today except 1 kitten treat.

    I weighed her this afternoon and she's a tiny bit over 1kg now which is 250g gained in 2 weeks. So she is gaining weight at least.

    Will see what the vet says! Thanks so much everyone. The vet practice on the phone was a bit disapproving about me getting advice from a forum, but if I hadn't then I wouldn't have even known to go to the vet so...
     
  15. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    @Penelope Jones - tell your vet that forums can be positive places, giving constructive advice from experienced pet owners ----- certainly it is the case with this forum! :D :)
     
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  16. Summercat

    Summercat PetForums VIP

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    @Penelope Jones

    Hi,
    What does your vet think?

    She does not look very small in the photos to me, I would guess somewhere between two & three months. Pretty kitten :)

    We took in a kitten two years ago (cat in my avatar) very young. He was found outdoors. His belly was also distended and it caused him pain if picked up or other pressure. In his case it was, that he was away from his mother too young and had gas and other digestive issues from eating solid food too soon.

    Maybe your kitten is not as keen on the Royal Canin. You could try to slowly introduce another food. But as was said, mashing may help.

    My other cat is an adult and he licks/laps up his food more often than bites. He was adopted at over a year old and had always done since we have had him. My vet pronounced his teeth in very good shape. I have seen a few other cats do that as well, so maybe in some a preference. He prefers to eat Almo Nature pates mashed up with a fork. I noticed he ate them more and more often once I began to mash them.
     
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  17. Penelope Jones

    Penelope Jones PetForums Newbie

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    The vet agreed that she looks a bit younger than 12 weeks - maybe more like 10 weeks - and wasn't too worried because she has put on 250g in the last two weeks which is a decent rate of growth, so she can't be massively malnourished.

    However also noticed that her belly is quite distended (although she's in no pain like yours was Summercat), so she's on another few days of Panacur, and that her food intake is a bit low even for a 10 week old.

    The vet had a few suggestions like trying different foods, mashing food etc (all of which I had already done) but also suggested warming the food up and it turns out that works! I just warm the dish and food in some boiling water and Paks will eat a decent portion properly and with enthusiasm. Even the Royal Canin, which is great because I have quite a lot of it left. I wish I had tried that sooner! Sorry if anyone had suggested it above and I missed it.

    So nothing to be massively worried about, I just need to worm her again and warm up her food. Thanks everyone for making me feel not crazy :)
     
  18. Hammystar

    Hammystar PetForums Member

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    I got my boy Ziggy at 9 weeks. When I took him for his first vet visit a couple of days later he was 0.6kg. My vet also thought maybe I'd been lied to about his age but having observed him developmentally, I think he's the age they say he is, just a bit small. He was a farm kitten and I suspect got pushed out of the way when it came to food. He ate like crazy the first two or three weeks and I had to only put small amounts down as he would make himself sick. Now he's fussy and is usually only interested in whatever my adult cat is eating which I don't want him to have!

    I would definitely keep trying with different foods to try and tempt her but bear in mind cats can be fussy with wet food and just when you find something they love, the next day they will probably turn their noses up at it, especially if you have just bought it in bulk!
     
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