Weaning is a big step in a kitten’s young life. It happens when kittens move from mother’s milk to solid food. Just as important, it’s a time when a kitten moves from depending on her mother’s care to becoming a more socially independent cat. And if you live with a cat, you know just how seriously they take that independence!
The process of weaning usually starts when kittens are about three to four weeks old, and takes two to three weeks to complete. If you are bottle-feeding an orphaned kitten, or one whose mother isn’t able to feed her, weaning can begin as early as three weeks.
MOTHER KNOWS BEST…
The weaning process is actually very ordinary and natural, especially when handled by the mother cat. Like any good mother, she instinctually knows what to do and when, without ever consulting a single kitten development book. One of her best indicators that it’s time to wean comes from her kittens themselves. At just a few weeks of age, they begin trying to eat her food, and she has to push them away. That’s when the transition to independence known as weaning begins.
During weaning, kittens should remain with their mothers as much as possible. In fact, taking a kitten away from her mother too suddenly can negatively affect her health and socialization skills. After all, a mother cat is not only her kittens’ first source of food; she is also their first teacher, guiding them on everything from playing to mastering the use of the litter box – arguably a most important thing to master.
…BUT MOTHER NEEDS HER REST
To help weaning kittens become less dependent on mom (and her milk), place them in an area separate from mom for a few hours at a time. Make sure this area has a litter box and water bowls. This will allow the kittens to get used to spending time without their mother close by… and hopefully give mom time to catch up on some sleep.
Kittens generally nibble solid foods at three to four weeks of age, which is a great time to start setting out moistened kitten food for them. Just add one part warm – not hot – water to three parts dry or canned kitten food, changing frequently to ensure freshness. It should look like oatmeal and will likely never be featured on the cover of a cooking magazine. But once your kitten develops a taste for it, you’ll become her favorite chef.
If your kitten plays with her food at first, batting it with her paws and even stepping in the bowl, remember that she has to get used to the idea that this really is food… and not just a fabulously messy toy. So be patient. And have a moist cloth ready to clean up. Like human babies, weaning kittens need to be wiped off occasionally, so be sure to keep them warm while they dry off.
Also, at some point, you might be tempted to reach for the milk jug in your fridge. The problem is, your kitten’s digestive system might not be able to handle cow’s milk… and neither of you will be happy with the results.
THE SWITCH TO SOLID
As your kitten gets used to eating more solid food, gradually decrease the amount of water and increase the amount of food each day. After a week or two of softened food, she should be past the oatmeal-like food stage, and happily munching on only lightly moistened food. At this point, you can leave out small amounts of dry kitten food and fresh water – a sort of all-day snack buffet.
By the time your kitten is five to seven weeks old, she should be getting all of her nutrition from solid food. The weaning process is over – congratulations! – and your kitten is ready to move on to other adventures in development, with her nutritional foundation firmly in place.
Just be sure to keep feeding her kitten food during those first 12 months, since kittens continue to develop throughout their first year. And if you have questions about your kitten’s transition to solid food or concerns about her progress, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian.
- Kaye T. petMD. “Weaning Kittens: How and When.”
- ASPCA. “Weaning.”
- Vigil L. Nestlé Purina PetCare Senior Nutritionist (Cat Portfolio). Interviewed Dec 2014.
What to Feed a Kitten
Weaning a kitten is the process of transitioning the kitten from mother’s milk to solid food. It’s an important part of the kitten’s development, and needs to be done at the right time and in the right way. Normally the queen, or mother cat, will handle kitten weaning on her own. But when the queen has trouble producing milk, or when a litter of kittens is orphaned, we need to intervene. Here are some tips for smooth and successful kitten weaning.
Before Beginning the Weaning Process
When it’s at all possible, kittens should be exposed to some mother’s milk, especially within the first 12 to 24 hours of life. The first milk, or colostrum, contains antibodies that the kitten can only absorb during this time.
If a queen has an extremely large litter of kittens and cannot produce enough milk, each kitten should still get some of her milk. “Some milk is better than no milk,” says Dr. Jules Benson, vice president of veterinary services at Petplan. If she cannot produce any milk due to mastitis or other issues, another nursing mother may accept the kittens if they are close to the size of her own.
If no nursing cat is available, you can feed a kitten milk replacement formula with a nursing bottle or syringe. In an emergency, Benson recommends mixing a cup of whole milk, an egg yolk, a drop of liquid multivitamin, and three Tums in a blender; but this is strictly for temporary use, to get some nutrition into the kittens, and you should switch to formula as soon as possible.
You’ll be bottle feeding for three to four weeks. Always warm the bottle in a cup of hot water and taste test it yourself to check the temperature and that it hasn’t soured. If you’re using a powder formula, store unmixed powder in the freezer.
Feed slowly but frequently: every two to three hours during the day. At night, don’t worry about it; they’ll wake you when they’re hungry. If they’re sleeping, let them sleep, and get some sleep yourself.
When to Wean Kittens
Normally, the kitten weaning process begins at about four weeks of age. “With mom, they’ll start to try to eat her food, and she’ll push them away from her,” says Benson. But if you’re weaning a kitten that has been orphaned, you can start a little earlier, between three and four weeks.
“When they start biting and chewing on the bottle, they’re ready,” says Benson. At this point, you can start to introduce kitten food.
How to Wean Kittens
To begin weaning a kitten, mix the kitten food with formula so they recognize the taste. Smear the mixture around their mouth with your finger and let them lick it off. Once they get used to the taste, they’ll seek it out elsewhere. Then you can introduce them to lapping from a bowl. Monitor them so they don’t lap too fast, and never push their face into the bowl, which could cause them to inhale the mixture and develop pneumonia.
Between the fourth and sixth week, gradually transition the weaning kittens to dry food, supplementing with formula if needed. Use canned food or dry kitten food mixed with water; at first, add a lot of water, and then reduce the amount of water as the kitten matures.
A general schedule for kitten weaning might be:
- Weeks 4-5: Give wet or moistened dry food, mixed with formula to form a slush. Supplement with formula if the kitten is not taking to the new food, to make sure it gets enough calories.
- Weeks 5-6: The weaning kittens should start to nibble on the kibble, slightly moistened with water.
- Weeks 6-7: By now, the kitten weaning process is complete, and they should be eating all solid food by week seven.
Other Kitten Weaning Tips
When you are weaning a kitten onto solid food, it’s important to use a food formulated specifically for kittens. These formulas have the higher levels of calories, protein and calcium that growing kittens need. If you are caring for a mother cat and her litter, it’s okay for the mom cat to eat the same kitten food while she’s nursing.
Weaning kittens must be kept warm. Build a nest by lining a high sided box or pet carrier with towels. Benson also recommends adding a layer of diapers above the towels, cutting the leg holes to make them lie flat. “They’re going to get messy,” he says, and this makes clean-up much easier. Place a heating pad or hot water bottle under the towels on one half of the box. This gives the kittens plenty of heat, but also a place to cool off if they are too hot.
Kitten weaning is a natural process; they may just need a little help from you. The key: a little patience and a lot of love.
“,”raw”:false>,”hSize”:null,”floatDir”:null,”html”:” \n “,”url”:”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTEJ4U4x8eQ&t=82s”,”thumbnailUrl”:”/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/weaning-kitten-lady-7F523.jpg”,”resolvedBy”:”youtube”>” data-block-type=”32″ >
In this video, you’ll learn strategies for weaning kittens off of a bottle and on to solid foods.
“,”raw”:false>,”hSize”:null,”floatDir”:null,”html”:” \n “,”url”:”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kAsTM7Kd-k&”,”thumbnailUrl”:”/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/weaning-kitten-lady-B90A2.jpg”,”resolvedBy”:”youtube”>” data-block-type=”32″ >
When can a kitten safely eat on her own? Learn why it’s important to “meat them where they are.”
Weaning is the fun, messy adventure of helping a kitten transition from nursing (or bottle feeding) to eating solid food on her own! Kittens often need extra support during this time to help ensure they’re receiving the proper nutrients in proper quantity, and to keep them on track for success and independence. Here’s what you need to know about weaning:
1. Start at the Right Age
Kittens’ bodies are very sensitive to premature weaning, so be careful about starting them too young. A kitten 0-5 weeks old should be nursing or bottle feeding. Around 5 weeks of age, the kitten’s premolars will begin to emerge, indicating that she is likely ready to start trying out some meaty foods. However, some kittens may need a bit more time on the bottle due to health issues, or differences in weight or size. Use your best judgement and follow the kitten’s lead to determine the appropriate age to wean. If you see any changes in the kitten’s health or energy during this process, immediately step back to bottle feeding.
2. Get the Right Supplies
Pick up some wet kitten food, making sure that it says “kitten.” Kitten food is higher in calories, fat and protein that the kitten needs to help grow big and strong. Wet food is the healthiest choice for kittens to start off with, as the moisture content will help them stay healthy and hydrated. However, some kittens may prefer dry food, and that’s okay as long as you choose a healthy kitten kibble. You’ll also want to pick up some shallow food dishes so the kitten can easily access the food.
3. “Meat” Them Where They Are
The most important rule of weaning is not to rush—do things on the kitten’s timeline, not yours! Try offering the kitten some small bites of wet food on a finger, a spoon, or a tongue depressor, and see if they will accept it. If they’re interested in eating, see if they are able to access the food in a dish. Remember that this is a new skill for them, so many kittens will find it difficult to eat out of a dish for the first several days. No rush!
Once the kitten has eaten some solids, it’s time to supplemental feed with a bottle (or allow them to keep nursing with mom, if mom is present!) Supplemental feeding ensures that your kitten is getting all of the calories and nutrition she needs during this slow transition. There’s no such thing as “tough love” for kittens, and if she isn’t understanding how to eat yet, you’ll still need to supplement to make sure she’s staying healthy and well fed.
You may also choose to offer the kitten a slurry—a mix of formula and wet food, which is used to help transition the kitten from one food to the other. You may begin by just introducing a small teaspoon of wet food mixed with the formula, which allows the kitten to acclimate to the new proteins and flavors. As the kitten becomes more comfortable eating meat, you’ll begin increasing the ratio so that there is more wet food present at each feeding.
Weigh the kitten throughout the weaning process. If her weight drops or steadies, you’ll need to supplement with a bottle, try a different method of eating, or scale back to kitten formula.
4. Fully Wean and Introduce Water
Once the kitten is confidently eating on her own, you can cease supplemental feeding—it’s time to switch completely to solid foods! Be sure you’re feeding a high quality food formulated for kittens, and monitor to ensure that there are no concerning changes in weight, behavior, or condition.
At this time, it’s also appropriate to introduce water in a small, shallow dish. Never provide a large dish that can cause a safety hazard to a tiny kitten; keep your water dish to about 2 inches high. It’s normal for kittens to struggle with water at first, but she should be drinking confidently within 1-3 days of introduction.
Knowing how to wean a stubborn kitten is a chore. While most mother cats will wean their litter naturally, some kittens may defy it and keep nursing. This stubborn behavior shouldn’t be tolerated as the kitten needs to transition to a kitten formula to supports its growing body. Also, your kitten should learn how to eat on its own without the mother cat. This is a survival instinct that every kitten needs to learn during the weaning stage.
When to wean a kitten
A kitten must be weaned from its mother once it reaches four weeks. The process will be slow but must be completed by the time the kitten reaches 8 to 10 weeks. However, stubborn kittens will keep latching on its mother’s nipple even after the weaning phase.
Remember that the weaning process must be slow and gentle to help the kitten acclimatize to its new diet. If the mother cat is no longer around, you need to bottle feed the kitten then slowly transition it to a kitten formula. Please read here why does mother cat move only one kitten
Take note that weaning the kitten too early isn’t advisable. It will display inappropriate suckling behavior as it grows older. Your kitty might suckle on pillows, blankets, and even your skin.
As much as possible, let the kitten nurse on its mother for four weeks before introducing wet food. Also, avoid removing the kitten from its litter for at least 12 weeks if possible.
Why do you need to wean a kitten?
Weaning a kitten is necessary so it will survive on its own. It can’t rely on its mother’s milk for life because it will soon dry up. Also, a kitten will need better nutrition as its body grows.
The weaning process must be done properly and at the right time. Too early and it will be unhealthy for the kitten, too late and it will be hard for you.
By the time your cat reaches three months old, it should be feeding on the bowl. This will save you from the hassle of bottle feeding and assisting the kitten. By this time, the kitten should be independent of its mother.
However, if a 4 to 5-week old kitten doesn’t want to eat but its mother’s milk, you may need some extra steps to coax it to wet food.
How to wean kittens from their mother
Weaning a stubborn kitten will need more effort. Still, you should stay patient and never use violence because it will not yield any positive results. Instead, you should do the following:
- Isolate the kitten repeatedly
The first thing you can do is to isolate the stubborn kitten away from its litter and mother. Keep the kitty away for 2 to 3 hours before putting it back to the litter. This will get the kitten used to be independent while pushing it to seek food.
Make sure that there are food and water in the room where you will place the kitten. I recommend supervising the kitty to ensure that nothing terrible will happen.
Expect that the stubborn kitten will step on its food and make a mess. Have some paper towels handy to clean after the little feline.
You also have to keep your kitten warm during this point, so always wipe any food or moisture that gets into its fur.
Do this repeatedly until the kitten seeks food on its own. You may also notice that the kitten will stop suckling from its mother after a week or two. Please read here how to stop a cat from moving kitten
- Offer soupy food
When weaning a stubborn kitten, you need to give it warm and soupy food. Their teeth are still small, and they may still seek the warmth of their mother’s milk.
Show the kitten the food you prepared and let it approach the bowl on its own. However, the kitten will likely refuse to eat. This is entirely normal, but you should keep offering the food daily. If this didn’t work, you still have one foolproof method to use, which I discussed below.
- Guide the kitten toward the food
Sometimes, stubborn kittens just need a little push to eat the food you’re offering. You need to guide the kitten physically into the food bowl by removing it from its mother’s breast.
After that, put a small amount of wet food on the kitten’s paws. We do this with the hope that the kitty will groom itself and eat the food in the process. After that, it will get a taste and smell of the food so it will be attracted to eat more.
Once the kitty groomed itself, place more food on its paws until it finishes off an entire meal.
But what if the paw method didn’t work? If you have a very stubborn kitten, the next step is the best option.
- Use your finger
Also called as the ‘cheeky finger’ method, this involves dipping your pinky finger into the food then offering it for the kitty to suckle. This mimics the feeling of the mother cat’s nipples. However, remember that a kitten that’s four weeks old already has small teeth.
If you’re afraid of being bitten, you can use an old pacifier. You can also use the nipple of a kitten feeding bottle to feed the feline.
In between offering your food-laden finger, try putting the bowl near your kitten’s face. This will trick the kitten into eating on its own. However, never push the kitten’s face to the food bowl. Let it lap on it on its own volition.
- Keep the mama cat involved
After feeding, let the mama cat be with the kitten. The mother cat will groom the kitten and remove any food bits that may attract ants and pests. It’s essential, especially if you’re using the paw method.
This will also prevent the stubborn kitten from being stressed while being weaned. It will also prevent the mother cat from looking after its kitten. Also, some kittens may not have the ability to eliminate on their own without being stimulated by their mother cat.
How the wean the kitten off the bottle
If you’re weaning a stubborn kitten off the bottle, most steps I discussed apply. Since the kitten is bottle feeding , it means that the mother cat isn’t around or has rejected its litter. Still, you can leverage the bottle as a way to introduce kitten food to your little feline. Once the kitten is four weeks old or when it starts chewing on the bottle, it’s time for weaning. Learn more here how much should a 10 week old kitten eat
To start weaning the stubborn kitten off the bottle, mix the milk formula with kitten food. This will introduce the kitten to the taste. You can also dip the nipple of the bottle to the kitten food. After that, place a small bowl of kitten food near your pet. This will allow your kitten to seek the smell of the new meal once it identifies it from the bottle.
However, never push your kitten’s face into the food bowl. Although it can be frustrating, doing this will cause the kitten to inhale the mixture, which can cause pneumonia.
Should I force-feed my kitten?
Fading kittens may refuse to eat or even suckle from their mother. In this case, you need to force-feed the kitten by squirting small amounts of liquid food on its mouth. Always be gentle and never hold the kitten with its tummy up. This position will cause the formula to backflow and get into the kitten’s lungs.
If your stubborn kitten spits out the formula, I suggest bringing the kitty to the vet for medical attention. A kitten can easily starve to death if it doesn’t get to eat properly.
Knowing how to wean a stubborn kitten is a trial and error phase. The steps I discussed above will help a lot as long as you practice patience. Always be gentle and give the kitten some time to adjust. If all else fails, you should consult the vet for the best method.
Last updated: May 20, 2021
At some point, all mammals need to be weaned. Transitioning kittens from nursing to eating solid food is a messy, fun experience. To properly transition, the kittens will need the appropriate support and food. Of course, whenever you switch the kittens over to solid food, you become responsible for their nutritional needs. Therefore, it is also essential to ensure you’re feeding your kitten the right thing.
In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know to wean your kitten correctly. We will take a look at when to start weaning and how to make the food appropriate for your feline.
When to Start Weaning
It is essential to start weaning your kittens at the correct age. Otherwise, they could develop health or weight problems. Generally, around the time they turn five weeks old, the kittens’ premolars will be visible. This is a sign that the kittens are ready to begin chewing solid food. Some kittens may need to nurse for longer than this, depending on their health and size. However, you shouldn’t begin weaning your kittens before five weeks. Late is better than early in this regard.
You should follow your kitten’s lead when weaning. If your kitten begins to experience health changes when you start weaning, it is likely a sign that they aren’t ready. You should not push your feline to wean if they’re showing signs of unreadiness.
Image Credit: Marian Weyo, Shutterstock
What to Feed Weaning Kittens
Your kittens won’t switch over the solid food right away. It’s a process. It is essential to select the right food for this transitional period. You should select high-quality kitten wet food. Kittens and adults have different nutritional needs. It is essential to feed your kitten a diet specifically designed for their needs, or they may develop health and weight problems.
Wet food is the easiest option to start with. It is soft enough for kittens to eat without massive amounts of prep and has a high moisture content to ensure that your kittens stay hydrated. You can switch your cats to dry food later if your wish. Some kittens also seem to like dry food better, though they are in the minority.
No matter what type of food you choose, ensure it is high in protein and includes plenty of meat.
Image Credit: Elizabett, Shutterstock
How to Start
Begin by offering the kittens a small amount of food on your finger or a spoon. If the kitten seems interested and eats it, try introducing a flat dish for them to eat food out of. You should not force your kitten to eat the food if they don’t accept it. This will only backfire by making your kitten scared and nervous about the process. Your job is to make the food available in a form the kittens can access – not make the kittens eat it.
Eating out of a dish can be challenging for many kittens, so it will take them a few days to figure it out. This is why we also recommend using a spoon until they’re a bit more competent with the dish. You’ll likely find that they get more on themselves than in their mouth in the beginning.
While the kittens have eaten solids, you’ll still need to allow them to nurse. At some point, they’ll phase out the nursing until they’re eventually just eating solids. If the mother cat is around, there isn’t much you’ll need to do in this process. Many mother cats will reduce the amount of nursing time her kittens nurse.
You can also make a slurry, which is a mixture of formula and wet food. This may help your feline switch to a solid diet. However, this is an optional step that may only be particularly easy for kittens with a hard time transitioning. Some cats find it hard to warm up to the flavor of the food at first. A slurry helps them ease into it.
You should weigh the kittens throughout the weaning process to ensure they’re maintaining a healthy weight.
Image Credit: Maria Moroz, Shutterstock
The Process Continues
Eventually, your kitten will be eating confidently on their own. At this point, supplemental feeding with formula or nursing is unnecessary. Your feline will get everything they need from solid food. You should continue to feed kitten food, as they will be unable to switch to adult food until they are fully grown.
When they stop nursing, it is time to introduce small amounts of water. The dish should be small and shallow. Furthermore, you don’t want to add so much water that there is a potential drowning risk for your kitten.
Kittens usually struggle with water at first, but it should only take them a few days to get the hang of it.
Featured Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock
Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!
Weaning is the process that a kitten goes through to switch from mother’s milk to solid food. This process usually begins when a kitten is around 4 weeks of age and it ends when he or she reaches the age of 8 to 10 weeks. If the kitten is orphaned, weaning can be done before the cat gets to 1 month of age.
The transition has to be as smooth as possible and should be done when the kitten is ready. If you aren’t aware of a kitten’s age, a good indicator would be to see if the kitten’s eyes are open and able to focus. The kitten should also be capable of standing on his/her feet.
In this post, we will look at how you can make the process easier, some of the do’s and don’ts of weaning kittens, and several other facts that you should be aware of.
Feeding unweaned kittens
Kittens that aren’t 4 weeks of age yet still have to be bottle-fed. A kitten that weighs less than 4 ounces should be fed every 2 to 3 hours.
One that weighs under 6 ounces should be fed at identical time intervals, whereas one that weighs less than 8 ounces should be fed every 3 hours. When the kitten weighs between 8 and 12 ounces and is 14 to 21 days old, the kitten has to be fed a milk replacer every 4 hours.
When should kittens be weaned?
The weaning process has to start when kittens are approximately four weeks of age, but sometimes it depends on the animal. Some kittens can be weaned when they’re 1-month-old, but others have to be weaned at six weeks of age. This is because, as you might have noticed before if you are a cat parent and your cat has given birth in the past, not all kittens are equal.
Some can be thinner and less developed compared to others, and weaning them before it would be right to do so can result in a variety of issues later on. If the kittens have a mom, they can become interested in her food and begin to eat it naturally. If this happens, you can let the little ones nibble on the queen’s food.
However, try to avoid allowing kittens to eat dry food. It can even pose a choking hazard to them, and it doesn’t do them any good since they should avoid becoming dehydrated.
The weaning process can also happen naturally when the mother begins to push her kittens away from her as they try to nurse. This will obviously make the kittens search for food somewhere else, so it’s the perfect opportunity for you to step in with some high-quality wet kitten food.
How can you wean kittens?
If the kittens are orphaned, you will have to gradually transition them to wet food. Mix the milk formula with the wet food until they learn to recognize the taste. The amount of the canned food has to be very small in the beginning to the point that you might simply have to smear some on the food bowl and then add the milk replacer.
Some kittens might take longer than others to get used to the taste, but almost all of them are going to succumb to hunger. Avoid pushing a kitten’s head into the food bowl — you do not want to create a choking hazard.
As a kitten becomes used to lapping the mix of wet food and milk, you can begin to remove part of the formula and add more wet food. Just make sure that you don’t do all of this at once.
If you have been bottle-feeding the kittens for all this time, you have to first teach them to use a saucer or a bowl for the milk replacer and only then start adding the wet food to the mixture. You also have the option of offering the wet food to kittens when they are hungry and see whether they aren’t interested in it — but we’d recommend doing this toward the end of the weaning process when they already know the taste.
Not a clean process
If you have noticed how kittens tend to suckle the formula from the bottle, you might already know that they aren’t particularly careful about not making a mess. As they learn how to eat solid food, they might even play with the mixture or step right in it. Weaning kittens isn’t the cleanest and tidiest process in the world, but it’s only natural for mishaps to occur.
Clean your kittens using a soft microfiber cloth and some tepid water and then keep them in a warm and cozy area. Try to avoid giving kittens baths unless they are filthy. It is important for their skin pH to be as well-balanced as possible, and giving them baths too often can cause imbalances.
How long should you keep it up?
Kittens should be fed canned food until they reach 2 months of age. Once they have fully transitioned to solid food, you can continue feeding them very good-quality wet food and only then begin to add dry food into their diet. Needless to say, the best kitten food has no meat by-products, no artificial preservatives, colors, or additives, and it contains fiber from healthy sources such as pumpkin or sweet potato – no rice or grains.
Commercial dry kitten food, especially the cheaper varieties, are rich in carbs and don’t provide the right type of nutrition for an obligate carnivore. You can even make your own raw or cooked food for your feline friend, and there are countless tutorials on that online. Try to use dry kitten food only for when you are not at home for several hours.
Create a feeding schedule that involves feeding wet food to your cat in the morning and in the evening so that the dry food is only a last resort for momentary hunger episodes throughout the day.
If possible, avoid free-feeding your cat because this can lead to him or her having unhealthy habits such as grazing all throughout the day. A kitten that becomes used to the idea of having food readily available all day long is more likely to have weight problems later on in life.
How to Wean Kittens
Weaning Kittens From Mum’s Milk to Kitten Food
How to wean kittens is something many people need help with who have a litter of kittens.
It is something many people struggle with.
Worrying about kittens not gaining enough weight or literally mum giving absolutely everything to her kittens and then drastically losing weight is something many people worry about when they have a litter of kittens.
But actually it is not that difficult to wean your kittens on to kitten food once you know the basics.
Let me show you how I have succesfully weaned dozens of litters over the years.
How to Wean Kittens – Top Tips
I find that weaning kittens can be easy with some litters and much harder with others. I usually start weaning kittens by introducing my kittens to ‘solids’ at about three to four weeks though I do not worry if they are not eating until about five or six weeks old.
Some litters literally dive in the food bowl as soon as I offer them their first meal where as some litters decide that the food I am offering them is in fact poison and should not be consumed under any circumstances.
Tip #1 – Tempt, Encourage & Trick
When I begin weaning kittens I usually start off with some kitten food that is of a paste like substance and add some hot water to increase the smell of the food. Often this is enough to encourage some of the more greedy kittens to venture over to the bowl and give it a try. If the kittens are not happy to explore this delicacy on their own I am happy to pick them up and place them next to the food bowl.
If they still do not show much interest I will then smear a little on their mouth and feet. Often a kitten will then clean themselves and discover that they do in fact quite like the taste and then proceed to demolish the lot!
Trick Your Kittens Into Eating Solid Food
Remember a kitten will lick their paws to clean them and also to use their paws to clean their faces where their tongue cannot reach. All the time they are cleaning they are also actually eating as well and getting used to the taste of food.
Tip #2 – Mum Cat Knows Best
If I am not making much progress I will then allow my queen to clear the plate and clean her kittens. The benefits of allowing the queen to remove all the food are…
- Waste not, want not! I am always happy to see my nursing queens eat as much as possible.
- Less cleaning for me.
- Most important is that I do not want the experience of weaning to be too distressful to the kittens and for them to then associate food with a traumatic experience. Nothing is more reassuring than their mother giving them a good bath and a love.
Tip #3 – Never Give Up
Never one to give up I will retry the above the same day and possibly then bring my finger in to the equation. Have you ever considered how it must be for a kitten that is used to sucking away at their mums ‘milk bar’ to then having food shoved down their mouth. Not very nice at all! So I will try to imitate with my food smeared finger the girls teat in as much as by lightly bouncing my finger around the kittens mouth.
Using Your Finger
Theory being that when a very tiny kitten is looking for a nipple they use two senses….touch and smell and my food smeared finger lightly bouncing around their mouths will imitate their mums milk smelling nipple.
Another useful trick that I like to remember when weaning kittens is that a kitten is used to suckling for their food they are used to having their heads tilted upwards or level and not facing downwards to a food bowl.
I find that if I can get a kitten to lick some food from my finger (keeping my finger at head height) and then very slowly move my finger lower and lower until it is level with a flat feeding bowl (I usually start off with a saucer) I can then try and encourage them to eat directly from the edge of the bowl.
I often find that the kittens will try and suck the food from the edge of the plate (as if the edge of the plate is a nipple) and so I put the food around the lip of the saucer to allow them to suckle their first meals.
Tip #3 – Follow The Leader
Persevere with the most promising prospective eaters in the litter as very often if you get one or two kittens eating then the others start to worry about what they are missing out on. Kittens also hear much better than we do and when they hear their litter mates eating they are more likely to give it a go. Have you ever noticed one kitten start to suckle and then they all wake up and have a quick go at the milk bar?
Keep repeating these little tricks 3-4 times every day and 99% of the time I find by the third day they are on the way to being weaned.
Sometimes you will have four out of your five kittens eating and one that just plain refuses to eat ‘solids’ no matter what you try.
If I have the majority of the litter weaned I will then let the kitten that is not eating go at their own pace and not try and force the issue.
I have never yet had a kitten that has starved to death…sooner or later they join in with their litter mates.
If your mother cat is not weaning the kittens you may be getting concerned and wondering if it will ever get round to it…
Why won’t my cat wean her kittens?
If you have noticed that your cat isn’t weaning its kittens it could simply be because she feels that it is not the correct time for this. The mother knows what is best for them and even if it’s not within your expectation of 3-4 weeks, she may feel they need more time.
So, now you know. But, how long does this wearing usually take? Does the mom cat always d this weaning? How can you wean a stubborn kitten? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…
What is weaning?
Weaning is a way of transitioning your kitten from its mother’s milk to solid cat food. It is required to turn them into mature cats and make them more independent. Cat breeders look forward to this ending so they can find new homes for kittens.
Now that you know what weening is I will go on to explain how you ween a stubborn kitten, how to wean a bottle-fed kitten (orphaned), and much more, keep reading…
Does Mom Cat wean kittens?
Mom cats will typically wean their kittens. however, this is not always possible and a human will have to step in. But, the expectation, and preferred method, is for the mom cat to do it.
If a cat is not weaned by its mother it could have separation issues in the future. This can manifest into anxiety and other behavioral issues.
Why is Weaning needed?
A white mother cat feeding her kittens.
You may be wondering why this is even required. It’s a good question. However, there are scenarios where weaning is legitimately needed.
For example, the kitten may be orphaned and removed from its mother (more on this later) or the mother may have issues with her milk flow.
How long does it take for a mother cat to wean her kittens?
It can take a kitten 4-6 weeks for kittens to be weaned. This is regardless of them taking the bottle from you or being fed directly from their mother. It takes some patience and can’t be rushed.
Some kittens will wean quicker than others as you can imagine. It largely depends on their personality and how well developed they are physically and mentally.
At what age do they start weaning?
The weaning process can start as early as 4 weeks old. However, if they are orphaned from their mother, this could even be earlier.
You may notice that a kitten will try to wean itself automatically by trying to eat her mother’s food. The usual response from their mother is to push the kids out of the way until they are ready for solid food.
How can you wean a stubborn kitten yourself?
From time to time you may encounter a kitten or a selection of kittens that are being very stubborn. And, for some reason, it will not wean no matter what you try.
For that reason, you may be wondering how you keep them happy and comfortable (Click here to see my best cat beds for kittens). In particular, you may be keen to wean them off their mother’s milk and transition them. Let me explain how this is done for a stubborn cat…
01. Showing them the food.
The first part of the process is literally just presenting your kittens with the food.
The idea is to get some kitten food, which is typically a paste-like substance, and add some warm or hot water. The objective is to get a few eager ones to react and take you up on the offer.
However, you will likely get some stubborn ones that still will not respond. But, don’t worry we have a plan for that later.
You will probably find that there are still a few stubborn ones that do not want to take the bait. For that reason, you need to guide them towards the food, physically. I mean literally pick the kitten up (would it fight it? click here) and place them next to the bowl, are you with me?
In addition to this, you need to actually put a small amount of food on their paws. What!? I get it, you may be wondering why you would do such a thing. The reality is, you are hoping that when they start grooming and licking themselves, it will get a taste and continue eating it, are you with me?
03. Get mommy involved
At this stage, if they still haven’t responded to the persuasion and they have this food on their paws. It is a good idea to get their mother involved. The reason for this is, this will help them to clean up and it will make them feel secure again.
You may think to yourself that allowing the mother to get involved is going back a step, right? Well, no, the reassurance of the mother will keep them from being traumatized and give you another chance at a later stage.
04. Repetition (& the cheeky finger method)
You have to understand that the chances are you will not get this correct the first time or even the third. Repetition is the key. In addition to this, I will also explain why using the “cheeky finger” is a top tip.
The “cheeky finger” trick…
Basically, let’s step back a second, how will your kitten act in real life? Sucking on mummies teet, right? So, you need to try your best to imitate this, are you with me?
Therefore, you need to whip out your pinky and put some tempting food on it. The idea is to get the kitten to start lapping up the food off it and gradually move one step further to weening off the mil, are you with me?
05. Focus on the Winners!
The reality is, out of a litter you will not get all of them converted right away. This is just the way it is. But, to be honest, you do not need all of them at once.