Special formula cat foods
Look in any large pet store and you will see all kinds of specialised foods for different cat types. Some of these are worth investing in, others are virtually the same as normal food
A fully developed adult cat has a large body able to distribute the nutritional gain from a big morning meal throughout the day but a kitten can only eat smaller amounts in one go, and as a rapidly growing, and high-energy expending organism, a young kitten will need more frequent feeding than an adult cat. Once kittens are weaned onto solid foods, they should be given up to four or five small meals a day which can steadily be decreased to two or three meals at six months. Kittens need plenty of nutrients to maintain good health and growth, but they only have very small digestive systems. Commercial kitten foods are designed to be nutrient dense so that they can be fed in smaller quantities, but still provide everything a growing kitten needs.
Changing a kittens diet
Until your kittens have grown into adult cats at around a year old, they are still developing, and this includes the bacteria which aid digestion in the gut. Any sudden change of food type is likely to cause stomach upsets or discomfort. Try new foods out in small doses, or just for one meal, and carry out any changes gradually to allow your kittens digestive systems to adapt.
The main difference with older cats is that they are less active, so require less food. Senior is generally applied to cats over eight years old, even though cats can live into their twenties. Many of the 'senior' commercial formulas are marketed with extra vitamins for better coat condition, joints or easy digestion, but how much difference this makes is debatable. Some senior foods have extra flavour or aroma enhancers which can help, as an older cat loses its sense of smell it often becomes a more fussy eater as a result. Sometimes older cats will still eat the same quantities they always have, but being less active they may not use up enough energy and start becoming overweight, in which case some owner-intervention management may need to take place.
Older cats may prefer easily digestible, more aromatic foods
Special breed foods
Some food manufacturers have noticed the fact that many cat owners will buy the best they possibly can for their prized pedigree cat, and have started producing specialist foods for certain breeds. Whilst there may be some benefits, most of these foods are not sufficiently different from standard foods to have a noticeable effect. They are often marketed as having additional nutrients for better coats, or even moisture for hairless breeds prone to skin drying, but in reality a complete balanced cat food will have enough of each nutrient for any breed of domestic cat.
Unlike special breed foods, some health foods can be useful and these include 'rougher' dry foods (larger kibble) which can help to clean the teeth and remove plaque. Other 'health and wellbeing' foods can offer to improve breath, help with hairball production, aid digestion for sensitive cats, reduce calories for overweight cats (you could just feed them less), and help many other problems. If your cat is experiencing health issues, never rely solely on the claims made on a packet, but ask your vet instead.