Weaning a Kitten
is the process of transitioning kittens from mother’s milk to solid food.
During weaning, kittens gradually progress from dependence on a mother’s care
to social independence. Ideally, weaning is handled entirely by the mother cat.
However, if the kitten in your care has been separated from his mother or if
you are fostering a litter or a pregnant cat about to give birth, seeing the
young ones through a successful weaning process may be up to you.
At What Age Should Kittens Be Weaned?
The weaning process normally begins when kittens are around four weeks old,
and is usually completed when they reach eight to ten weeks. If you are in
charge of weaning an orphaned kitten, please remember that weaning should not
be attempted at too early of an age. Generally, when a kitten’s eyes are open
and able to focus, and he is steady on his feet, the introduction of solid food
can safely begin.
How Long Does it Take to Wean a Kitten?
The process typically takes between four and six weeks, with most kittens
completely weaned by the time they’re eight to ten weeks old.
How Do I Start the Weaning Process?
It’s important to remember that abrupt removal from the mother
cat can have a negative effect on the kittens’ health and socialization
skills-they learn to eat, use a litter box and play, among other things, by
observing their mother. Whenever possible, kittens should remain with their
mother during the weaning process, as she will inherently know what to do.
When the kittens reach four weeks old, you can place them in a separate area
for a few hours at a time to reduce their dependency on mother’s milk and her
overall presence. Put them in their own special area with a litter box and food
and water bowls. As the kittens become more independent, they can spend more
time away from their mother until they are completely weaned.
How Do I Wean a Kitten Off of Mother's Milk or Bottle-Feeding?
Serve kitten milk replacer in a shallow bowl. Do not use cow’s
milk, as this will cause stomach upset and diarrhea in some kittens. Dip your
fingertip (or the syringe or bottle the kitten is used to nursing from) into
the liquid, let the kitten lick it, then guide him by moving your finger down
into the bowl. Please do not push his nose into the bowl. He may inhale the
liquid and develop pneumonia or other lung problems. Once he becomes accustomed
to lapping liquids, create a gruel as described below.
Though you should continue to bottle-feed while the kitten is learning to
eat from the bowl, you can help with the gradual transition by always offering
the bowl first, and then the bottle.