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Healthy Cats

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Weaning a Kitten

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.

How Do I Introduce a Kitten to Solid Food?

Make a gruel by mixing a high-quality dry or canned kitten food with kitten milk replacer until it is the consistency of oatmeal. As the kitten gets accustomed to eating, gradually decrease the amount of milk replacer you add, while slowly increasing the amount of kitten food. By five to six weeks, he should be eating only lightly moistened food. Now you can start to leave out small amounts of dry food and fresh water at all times. By eight to 10 weeks, kittens should be accustomed to eating unmoistened kitten food.

What About Weaning an Orphaned Kitten?

Generally, orphaned or hand-fed kittens can begin weaning slightly earlier, at about three weeks of age, but otherwise the process is essentially the same. Begin by offering milk replacer in a dish, teaching the kitten how to lap from the dish. Gradually transition to a gruel created by mixing a commercial milk replacer with high-quality kitten food. As the kitten slowly grows accustomed to eating, gradually reduce the amount of milk replacer you use. By five to six weeks of age, he should be relying solely on kitten food for his nutrients.

What Are Some Steps to Help the Weaning Process?

Kittens may play with the gruel, batting it around and stepping into the bowl before they understand that it’s food. Have patience and don’t rush the process-they’ll catch on eventually. In the meantime, use a soft, moist cloth to wipe any formula off the animal's face and feet after each feeding. Gently dry him with a towel and keep him in a warm area free of drafts until he's completely dry.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA

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