How to Ease the Process of Weaning Kittens
Weaning is a big step in a kitten’s life, it occurs when they move from their mother’s milk to eating solid food. This step is important because kittens become more socially independent and rely less on their mother. Read on to learn more about weaning kittens and the steps you can take to wean kittens properly.
The weaning process: mother knows best
Weaning typically begins when a kitten is three to four weeks old and takes two to three weeks to complete. However, if you are bottle-feeding an orphaned kitten, or one whose mother isn’t able to feed her, the process can begin as early as three weeks.
This is a natural process that is handled by the mother cat, who instinctively knows how to proceed. One of her best indicators that it’s time to wean come from the kittens themselves. At just a few weeks of age, the kittens start 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. Taking a kitten away from her mother too suddenly can negatively affect her health and socialization skills. After all, a mother is not only just a food source for her kittens, but she is also their first teacher. She guides them on everything from playing to mastering the litter box.
How to wean kittens
While the mother cat instinctively knows how to wean her kittens, there are steps you can take to make the process easier on her and on the kittens.
Separate kittens for short periods of time
To help weaning kittens be a little less dependent on their mom, place them in an area separate from their mother for a few hours at a time. Prepare the area with a litter box and some water bowls. By separating the kittens for a few hours, you can get them used to spending time without their mother close by. This can also work to give the mom some much-needed rest.
Slowly introduce solid food
Kittens typically start to nibble on solid food at around three to four weeks of age. This is a great time to start setting out some moistened kitten food. Mix one part warm, not hot, water to three parts dry or canned kitten food. The consistency of the food should look like oatmeal. Make sure to switch out the food throughout the day to ensure freshness.
Remember to be patient when first introducing solid food to your kitten. Have a moist cloth ready to clean up. Like babies, kittens get messy when they eat. They’ll need to wiped off occasionally, so make sure you keep them warm while they dry off.
Feeding solid food exclusively
As your kitten gets used to eating solid food, gradually decrease the amount of water and increase the amount of food each day. After a week or two of softened food with an oatmeal-like consistency, she should be happily munching on lightly moistened food. As this point, you can begin leaving out a small amount of dry kitten food and fresh water.
At five to seven weeks old, your kitten should be getting all of her nutrition from solid food. The weaning process is over, congratulations! Your kitten is now ready to move on to other adventures in development, with her nutritional foundation firmly set.
Make sure to keep feeding kitten food during the first 12 months of life, since kittens continue to grow throughout their first year. Once they reach 12 months, it’s time to transition to adult food. If you have any questions about your kitten’s transition to solid food or questions about her progress, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian.