11 Best Kitten Foods in 2023 – Reviews & Top Picks
By Dean Eby
All it takes is one trip to the pet aisle in your local supermarket and you’ll realize that there are an overwhelming number of options when it comes to kitten food. Of course, fancy labels and buzzwords are designed to attract you, but it’s the ingredients inside that really matter. Sure, you could feed your kitten any food that says “kitten” on the label, but if you want to offer your kitten premium nutrition to keep it in peak health, then you’re not looking for an average kitten food.
The 11 kitten food reviews on this list will compare the best options on the market at present, allowing you to make an informed decision about which is the best cat food for kittens, without having to spend hours researching each individual food.
A Quick Glance at the Winners of 2023
|Best Overall||Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Ground Bird Cat Food||
||Click To Save 33% Use code: Hepper 2022|
|Best Value||Purina ONE Dry Kitten Food||
|Instinct Original Dry Kitten Food||
|Hill’s Science Diet Canned Kitten Food||
|Blue Buffalo Dry Kitten Food||
The 11 Best Kitten Foods
1. Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Ground Bird Cat Food – Best Overall
Figuring out what food to start your kitten on can be tricky; there are just so many options out there. Smalls offers human-grade fresh food recipes that are good enough for you to eat.
They’re made with all-natural ingredients and no preservatives, fillers, by-products, or artificial additives. The best overall is the Human-Grade Fresh Ground Bird Recipe which has a high water content and offers thigh, breast, heart, and liver chicken parts.
Other important ingredients to note are kale, green beans, and peas, which offer fiber, vitamins, and minerals which serve as an energy source and keep your kitten’s skin and coat healthy. Despite its use of vegetables, the carbohydrate content is also low, which is perfect for your kitten, who benefits greatly from a low-carb, high-protein mix.
As it is a subscription-based service, it will cost you more than bulk buying at the pet store However, it’s arguably worth it. Smalls offers clean, flavorsome food your kitten won’t be able to say no to.
The Human-Grade Fresh Ground Bird Recipe is ideal for a maintenance diet but would not be suitable for all specialized diets. So, if this is something your kitten needs, speak to your vet for some advice.
All in all, we think this is the best kitten food on the market.
- Contains no preservatives or fillers
- High moisture content
- Improves skin and coat
- Rich in animal protein
- Yummy flavors
- Pricey compared to store-bought cat food
2. Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food – Best Value
Purina is one of the biggest names in pet foods. Often, the big commercial names cut corners and sacrifice quality for profit, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food. This formula is a dry kibble, and compared to other foods for kittens, it’s priced very affordably. Don’t let that deter you though. Contained in this blend are tons of nutrients aimed at improving your growing kitten’s health.
For instance, you’ll find a minimum of 40% crude protein from sources such as chicken and chicken meal. Taurine, DHA, and vitamin E, all essential nutrients for a feline, are also present in sufficient amounts. Unfortunately, you’ll also find soy and corn ingredients in this formula, which help keep this food affordable while providing ample nutrition. Considering the quality you’re getting for what you pay, we think it’s one of the best kitten foods for the money.
- Priced affordably compared to other kitten foods
- 40% minimum protein to aid in kitten growth
- Contains taurine, DHA, and vitamin E
- Chicken is listed as the first ingredient
- Contains soy and corn
3. Instinct Original Grain-Free Dry Kitten Food
We were impressed as soon as we started reading the nutrition label on the Instinct Original Grain-Free Dry Kitten Food. Of the five main ingredients used to make this recipe, four are animal-based protein sources. Chicken is listed as the primary ingredient, followed by turkey meal, then menhaden fish meal. As you can see, Instinct certainly didn’t cut any corners in regards to protein content, offering a diverse array of quality meat-based proteins that add up to a minimum of 42.5%.
Of course, protein isn’t all you’ll find in this food. It’s also loaded with ample quantities of DHA, taurine, and essential fatty acids that are necessary to keep your growing kitten in good health. The vitamins and minerals in this blend come primarily from whole-food sources instead of supplements, which makes them more easily digestible and usable by the body.
Since this is such high-quality cat food loaded with nutrients that will keep any kitten healthy, it’s no surprise that it’s also rather pricey. We think it’s worth the higher price, given the incredible nutrition this blend offers your kitten, so our only complaint is about the kibble bits, which are too large for some small kittens to eat.
- Grain-free for easy digestion
- 4/5 main ingredients are animal-based
- Contains an impressive 42.5% minimum protein
- High in DHA, taurine, and essential fatty acids
- Vitamins and minerals come primarily from whole-food sources
- The kibble pieces are too large for some little kittens
- You’re paying a premium for the quality
4. Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Cuisine Canned Kitten Food
Hill’s Science Diet is a brand that’s focused primarily on promoting feline health through quality nutrition. As such, their products are generally pricier than competitors, but you can usually count on them to provide ample nutrition. To that end, the Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Cuisine Canned Kitten Food is made primarily with animal-based ingredients, including chicken, pork liver, and chicken fat. However, this recipe is noticeably lower in protein than most similar offerings from other manufacturers at just 6.5% minimum crude protein.
What you won’t find in this canned cat food are artificial flavors or preservatives. Everything here is natural, formulated with kitten health in mind. Vital nutrients are also included in high concentrations, including 0.34% taurine, which is considerably higher than most competing kitten foods. Importantly, kittens seem to love this food. Even picky eaters like the flavor of Hill’s Science Diet, so long as you’re willing to shell out the extra cost this is one of the best cat food for kittens out there.
- Made primarily with animal-based ingredients
- No artificial flavors or preservatives
- Delicious flavor that even picky kitties love
- Contains more taurine than many alternatives
- Quite pricey for the amount of food you get
- Lower in protein than other blends
5. Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Dry Kitten Food
Blue Buffalo is known for making a healthier alternative to overly processed commercial cat foods, and the Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Dry Kitten Food is one of our favorites. Checking out the ingredients list, you’ll notice that three out of the five main ingredients are animal-based protein sources, with high-quality deboned chicken listed as the primary ingredient and protein source.
Thanks to the inclusion of so many quality animal-based proteins, this food contains a minimum of 36% crude protein, which is essential for a growing kitten. Also essential are nutrients such as essential omega fatty acids and taurine, and this food contains ample amounts of both. Granted, the ingredients list is much longer than we’d like, though it’s filled up with a variety of whole foods and supplements that are geared toward keeping your kitten in peak health.
- 3/5 main ingredients are animal-based
- Lists deboned chicken as the primary ingredient
- 36% minimum crude protein
- Contains taurine and essential fatty acids
- The ingredients list is far too long
6. Wellness Complete Health Kitten Wet Canned Food
Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula Wet Canned Food is a canned kitten food available in three-ounce cans at a more affordable price than many health-oriented canned kitten foods. It’s loaded with fatty acids derived primarily from fish oil and flaxseed to help keep your cat’s coat luscious. Plus, there’s plenty of protein for a growing kitten with an 11% minimum. That said, there’s not a lot of DHA or taurine compared to other similar products, so additional supplementation might be desirable.
Since this is a grain-free recipe, it’s easy for kittens to digest. Though it’s devoid of grains, it’s packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to ensure that your cat’s health is never neglected. While it’s not our first choice, we’d certainly rely on this as a backup food in case our favorites were unavailable.
- Loaded with fatty acids from fish oil and flaxseed
- High protein content for growing kittens
- Grain-free recipe is easy for kittens to digest
- Packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
- Doesn’t contain much DHA or taurine
You might also like: 10 Best Dry Kitten Foods – Reviews & Top Picks
7. Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Wet Kitten Food
Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Wet Kitten Food sits towards the very top of the kitten food price hierarchy. With just 78 calories in a three-ounce can, it’s not the most calorically dense kitten food, despite costing more than most competitors. It does have 11% minimum crude protein at least, which comes from diverse animal-based sources including chicken, chicken liver, pork liver, and even chicken by-products, which is listed as the primary ingredient. We prefer to see higher-quality protein sources as the main ingredient, such as chicken or deboned turkey, which is a point against Royal Canin.
One thing we can’t complain about is the flavor. Not that we’ve tried it, but we haven’t found a kitty yet who didn’t like Royal Canin wet kitten food. If you’ve got a picky eater, it might be worth giving this food a shot. But if your cat will eat other foods, we suggest finding a more reasonably-priced alternative with superior-quality ingredients.
- Packed with plenty of protein
- 4/5 primary ingredients are animal-based
- Contains a diverse array of protein sources
- Cats seem to love the flavor
- More expensive than alternatives
- Chicken by-products are listed as the main ingredient
- Not very calorically dense
8. Diamond Naturals Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food
The Diamond Naturals Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food is affordably priced and of adequate quality. It contains no corn, wheat, soy, or peas, which are all poor ingredients for cat food. What it does contain is chicken, chicken meal, and chicken fat, which are three of the five primary ingredients. You’ll also find a few other animal-based proteins further down the list, including fish meal and salmon meal. Additionally, many whole-food ingredients were used to provide nutrients, including pumpkin, blueberries, oranges, carrots, spinach, and many more.
On the downside, this formula contains just 0.05% DHA, which is far less than our favorite blends, though you’ll find plenty of taurine and essential fatty acids here. At 34% crude protein, it’s much lower than some of our favorite kitten foods, which is going to cost it since growing kittens need lots of protein.
- Affordably priced
- 3/5 top ingredients are animal-based
- Contains no corn, wheat, soy, or peas
- Contains less DHA than other blends
- Not as much protein as some kitten foods
9. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Canned Kitten Food
Considering that the Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Canned Kitten Food is available in five-ounce cans, it’s actually priced very affordably. It’s a grain-free recipe, making it easy on the sensitive digestive systems of little kittens. A look at the ingredients list reveals several animal-based protein sources, such as chicken and chicken liver. With 9% total protein, it’s not as high as we’d like, but it’s not as low as other blends we’ve seen.
What’s missing here is DHA as this blend contains none. It does have 0.1% taurine, which isn’t particularly high but is sufficient. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have the best flavor as many cats seemed turned off by it and weren’t interested in eating it. Picky eaters will probably turn their noses up at this food, but it could just be due to how dry this food seems to be, despite the 78% moisture rating.
- Reasonably priced for the amount you get
- Grain-free recipe is easy on digestive systems
- Includes diverse animal-based protein sources
- Doesn’t contain DHA
- Picky eaters are averse to this food
- It’s surprisingly dry for canned food
- Read more: Whole Earth Farms Cat Food Reviews
10. Now Fresh Grain-Free Kitten Dry Cat Food
The Now Fresh Grain-Free Kitten Dry Cat Food recipe is easier for kittens to digest. It’s packed with plenty of taurine and essential fatty acids for a growing kitten, though it’s quite low in DHA with a combined EPA and DHA level of just 0.05%. Looking at the first five ingredients, we were surprised to see peas, potatoes, and potato flour, which are still poor choices for any cat food. While there are several animal-based ingredients, only one of them is listed in the top five. Deboned turkey is the first ingredient, but you won’t find another meat-based protein until the 11th ingredient, after you see both canola oil and coconut oil.
This is a very expensive dry kitten food. A three-pound bag costs more than a six-pound bag of some recipes from other companies. In its defense, there are a lot of whole-food ingredients here to supply vitamins and minerals, like pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, bananas, blueberries, pomegranate, and more. But there are few animal-based proteins here, which might be why picky eaters don’t seem to like this food. For the price, Now Fresh Grain-Free just doesn’t seem to offer as much as we’d like.
- Contains ample taurine and essential fatty acids
- Vitamins and minerals primarily from whole foods
- De-boned turkey is the first ingredient
- Very pricey for a small amount
- Only one meat-based protein in the main ingredients
- Low in DHA
- Picky eaters don’t seem to like this food
Related Read: 10 Best Grain-Free Kitten Foods – Reviews & Top Picks
11. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Canned Kitten Food
The Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Canned Kitten Food comes in either three-ounce or 5.5-ounce cans. Since it’s grain-free, it should be easier for kittens to digest than recipes that use grains. But it’s not just grains missing from this blend. You’ll also notice that there are no wheat, soy, corn, or peas in here either.
Instead, you’ll see lots of meat-based ingredients. Four out of the five main ingredients are animal-based, including deboned chicken and deboned salmon. But you’re going to be paying a serious premium for these ingredients as this food is far pricier than alternatives. Despite the high cost, it smells foul and unappetizing. Clearly, cats seem to share the same opinion, because many cats refuse this food. The cats that do eat it often experience watery and strong-smelling waste afterward. We don’t mind a premium price tag on quality kitten food, but with the Purrfect Bistro blend, Merrick didn’t deliver the way we’d hoped.
- Read more: Merrick Cat Food Review
- 4/5 primary ingredients are meat-based proteins
- Grain-free for easy digestion
- Contains no wheat, soy, corn, or peas
- It’s more expensive than alternatives
- The food has a foul smell
- Many cats are uninterested in this food
- Makes your cat’s waste watery and strong-smelling
Buyer’s Guide: How to Select the Best Kitten Food
Purchasing food for your kitten seems like such a simple task on the surface. Once you start looking at all the options, however, you quickly realize that it’s a bit more involved than you previously believed. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this short buyer’s guide, we’re going to cover the information you need to help you make a more informed decision regarding the best cat food for kittens, so you can be confident that you’ve made the right choice for you and your kitten.
Comparing Kitten Foods
It’s pretty easy to get lost looking at the labels on kitten food packages. There are so many things listed, and a lot of them seem to make little sense. Ingredients often have long names and it’s hard to tell which nutrients your kittens need anyway. So, how exactly are you supposed to compare two kitten foods?
We’ve found that you don’t need to consider every little element listed on the package. Instead, if you focus on just a few important facets of each kitten food, you’ll be able to narrow down the choices much easier. Let’s take a look at each factor you should be comparing when trying to pick the perfect food for your pet kitty.
Wet vs Dry Food
The first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want to use primarily wet or dry food. Wet cat food is far pricier, but it contains far fewer carbohydrates and offers extra moisture to keep your cat hydrated. Dry kibble is a much more economical choice, and it can still offer excellent nutrition for your cat, though it will always contain more carbohydrates than wet food. You’re not limited to just one though. You can always feed your cat a mix of both dry kibble and wet cat food, provided your cat will continue to eat both!
Regardless of whether you feed your cat dry or wet food, you need a bowl that is sure to keep the mess contained—you can do just that with the Hepper Nom Nom Bowl.
Our product is designed with your cat’s comfort in mind. The whisker-friendly bowls are low and wide to prevent whisker fatigue, and the wide catch tray ensures that all food stays exactly where it should—inside the bowl.
Looking at the ingredients list for any kitten food can provide a lot of insight into the quality of the food and the type of nutrition it can offer your kitten. Ingredients are listed in order of prevalence, so the first ingredient is the main ingredient, and it’s found in higher concentration than any other ingredient, while the final ingredient on the list contributes the least amount to the overall recipe.
Cats are obligate carnivores, so they get the nutrition they need from eating animals. For this reason, you should prioritize animal-based ingredients, including chicken, pork, duck, chicken liver, salmon, fish meal, chicken by-products, and any similar-sounding ingredients to these. Granted, ingredients such as deboned chicken or deboned salmon are generally considered to be higher-quality options than fish meals or chicken by-products.
What you don’t want to see are lots of carbohydrates listed towards the top of the ingredients list. You will see them listed further down though, as fruits and vegetables often contribute the vitamins and minerals to the best recipes, while cheaper blends tend to use supplemental vitamins instead.
Nutritional Content and Essential Nutrients
After checking out the ingredients list, you should look at the nutrition label where it lists how much protein, fat, carbohydrates, and other nutrients are present in the blend. For growing kittens, protein is of primary importance, so higher protein content foods are usually considered to be better. You’ll also want to check for the prevalence of essential nutrients like taurine, DHA, and omega fatty acids.
The final factor to consider is price. Whenever you’re comparing the cost of two kitten foods, make sure you’re taking the volume of each food into account. For instance, if two foods are priced the same but one is a five-pound bag and the other is a seven-pound bag, then the seven-pound bag actually offers a superior price-per-pound ratio, making it a better value if the ingredients and quality are equal.
You’re probably tired of reading and ready to start feeding, so we’re just going to summarize the top choices that you read about in our reviews. Smalls Fresh Ground Bird recipe is our favorite kitten food overall, thanks to a diverse selection of quality animal-based proteins and essential nutrients like taurine and fatty acids. Purina One offers a more affordable solution in the Healthy Kitten Formula dry kibble with 40% minimum protein and quality meat-based ingredients. Our premium recommendation, Instinct Original, is a bit pricier, but contains an impressive 42.5% protein from diverse animal sources and features a grain-free recipe for easy digestion.
Featured Image Credit: fantom_rd, Shutterstock