Adoption: What Should We Feed Our New Kitten?

Adoption: What Should We Feed Our New Kitten?

What should we feed our new kitten? I hear this question many times during the course of a year. I am a volunteer foster mom for The Animal Center, a non-profit animal rescue group in Newtown, CT. One of my passions is finding great homes for socialized feral kittens and friendly strays. Each time a new family comes to meet my fosters, sooner or later they ask me what to feed them.
I try to keep my answer short. They don't want a long lecture on nutrition while an eight-week old kitten is purring on their lap and their kids are fighting over which kitten they should adopt. I've learned that it's better to guide rather than strong-arm my adopters into doing the right thing for their cats.
First, I tell them that whatever they do, never feed their kitten dry food. They can see the shiny coats of my foster kittens and their robust body condition. They want the best for their new kittens, but they're all victims of pet food marketing and never question those terrible prescription diets. I fell for it too, years ago, until I started to see my cats chronically ill, struggling with diabetes and obesity. Just like my adopters, I needed guidance. Once I saw the results of a diet change, I was determined to be the harbinger of good feeding habits to everyone I know.
With adopters, I also have to consider budget and the time involved in preparing a raw diet. Many of my adopters are families with young children. To ask them to spend more on food than the slickly advertised discount brands, and to take more time to do it just isn't going to work. I can see the adopter's posture stiffen when I discuss the merits of feeding raw. They're adopting a new kitten and now I'm telling them they're going to have to spend time and effort to feed it properly. If I ask for too much, it won't happen at all; they just stop listening.
What should we feed our new kitten? What should we feed our new kitten? I'd like to be writing an article about all of my successes with getting adopters to feed raw. The truth is, it's still too much to ask of many people. So, I tell them about feeding raw. But I also point out that they can get there in baby steps. If they cut out the grain from their cat's diet, it's a big step forward. With no grain and no dry, they'll keep their pet far healthier. I provide links to web sites with information about proper nutrition and biologically appropriate diets for cats. I find that most are willing, at least to my face, to say they will not feed grains to their new kitten. Do they just run home and buy a big bag of dry grain-filled kibble?
I'll never really know for sure. But, two weeks ago, I was holding an adoption event at our local pet food store. In walked a man named Nick, one of my adopters! He'd adopted a kitten about a month before and was there to buy his kitty some food. I saw him walk over to the shelves full of grain-free food. I watched as he chose one of the brands I told him to buy. With pure glee in my heart, I saw that the battle to do right for our cats is being won, one adopter at a time.
Robin A.F. Olson is the author of the cat-centric blog, Covered in Cat Hair: Mostly True Stories of a Life Spent with Cats. Robin is also the founder of Kitten Associates, listed in the Raw Savvy Rescue section of the Feline Nutrition Resource Center. She admits to having too many cats and rescued fosters to be able to provide an accurate head count, but suggests you visit her website if you'd like to see photos of them or read stories about the little twerps…um, darlings.
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