We all know cats can’t eat dog food (it’s nutritionally deficient for them), but how about adult cats eating kitten food? That was a reader’s question. Here’s my response.
Q: I accidentally bought a bag of kitten food for my adult cat and didn’t notice it until I had already fed her a couple of times. Is it all right for her to finish the bag? I hate to throw it out.
A: That’s a great question! Cats have very specific dietary needs, so it’s smart of you to check. For instance, cats shouldn’t eat the same food as dogs because it doesn’t provide the level of protein, fat and other nutrients cats need for good health. I asked my colleague Dr. Tony Buffington to weigh in on this topic.
“On a short-term basis, it should certainly be OK for a healthy adult cat to eat food formulated for kittens,” he says. “Kitten foods are generally somewhat higher in protein, fat (making them higher in calories per gram of food) and some minerals and probably vitamins, and they likely contain less acid. But as long as the cat is fed to a healthy body condition and is eating approximately 40 kcal/kg lean body weight or more, she should be OK.”
The main reason not to feed kitten food to adult cats is that they’ll have a higher risk of becoming obese, since that food has higher levels of protein and fat. Carrying too many pounds is linked to a number of feline health problems. Obese cats are more likely to suffer a liver disease called hepatic lipidosis; feline urinary tract disease; diabetes; lameness from arthritis; complications from anesthesia; and nonallergenic skin conditions.
Remember that weight gain is more likely after cats turn 2 years old, so don’t let them become sedentary as they mature. That’s a heck of a lot easier than trying to change their eating habits or food after they have put on too many pounds.
There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.