Weaning is an essential step in a kitten’s young life. This process kicks off when kittens move from depending on their mother’s milk to nibbling on solid food.
More so, this process coincides with a crucial period when kittens move from depending on their mom’s care to becoming socially independent. And if you’ve raised cats before, you’ll know just how’s serious our four-legged friends take their independence.
So, when should you wean a kitten? Read on to find all the details on weaning a kitten and how to go about it.
What should you feed a kitten?
Like we stated earlier, weaning a kitten involves transitioning from mother’s milk to solid food. And just so you know, this process is super important to the kitten’s development; as such, it should be done at the right time and in the right way.
Normally, the mother cat handles weaning, but when she has trouble producing milk or when you’re caring for an orphaned kitten, you need to intervene. Here, check out some amazing tips that will help you successfully wean your kitten.
Before starting the weaning process
Milk is vital to a kitten’s development. As such, it should be exposed to some mother’s milk, especially during the first 12-24 hours of life. Thanks to the first milk, kittens can get some valuable antibodies into their system.
If you have a queen with a large litter of kittens that is finding it hard to produce enough milk, try to ensure each kitten gets some of her milk. According to Dr. Jules Benson, a vet at Petplan, “some milk is a lot better than no milk.”
Suppose the mother is unable to produce milk due to underlying conditions like mastitis. In that case, you can introduce the kittens to another nursing mother, especially if the kittens are almost the same size as her own.
In a situation where there isn’t any available nursing mother, you can feed your kittens milk replacement formula using a feeding bottle or syringe. In emergency cases, experts recommend mixing a cup of whole milk, a drop of liquid multivitamins, egg yolk, and three Tums in a blender. But Keep in mind that this is only during emergencies.
While bottle-feeding your kitten, make sure you feed it for three to four weeks. Before feeding, make sure you warm the bottle in hot water and test it to make sure it isn’t too hot or soured. If you’re feeding your kitten a powdered formula, make sure you store the unmixed powder in the freezer.
Also, when bottle feeding your kitten, make sure you take things slow. Every two to three hours is perfect.
When should you wean kittens?
The normal kitten weaning process kicks off when a kitten is about four weeks of age. During this time, their mother is quite likely to push them away when they try to suckle.
However, if you’re caring for an orphaned kitten, you can start the process a little earlier, say, between three and four weeks.
According to experts, when kittens start biting or chewing, it is a tell-tale sign that they are ready. At this point, you can start introducing them to kitten food.
How to start the weaning process
Weaning a kitten can be quite tricky, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. But not to worry, we are here to make the process easy and hassle-free.
To start with, ensure you mix your kitten food with formula. This way, your kitten can easily recognize the taste. Also, you can try smearing the mixture around your kitten’s mouth using your finger and allow it to lick it off.
Once it recognizes and gets used to the taste, it will always want more. And if things go well, as they should, try introducing your kitten to lapping from a bowl. But make sure you watch out, so your kitten doesn’t lap too much. If it laps too much, it could end up inhaling the mixture and come down with pneumonia.
Between the 4th and 6th week of commencing the weaning process, gradually transition your kitten to nibbling dry food while supplementing with the recommended formula.
You can kick off the process with canned or dry kitten food. Feel free to mix the food with a lot of water and reduce the water as your kitten matures.
Other weaning tips
When weaning your kitten and introducing it to solid food, you must stick to a specially formulated food for kittens. And that’s because these formulas are loaded with high levels of proteins, calories, and calcium needed by growing kittens.
If you’re caring for a mother, alongside her litter, it’s okay if you let the mom feed on the same food offered to her kittens.
Also, remember that weaning kittens must be kept warm. To this end, you can build a little nest by lining a pet carrier or a high sided box with towels. This way, you can be sure that your kitten will stay warm.
Frequently asked questions
Is it okay to give kittens away at six weeks?
Normally, kittens are expected to stay with their mom and other littermates for at least 12 weeks. That said, they can leave for adoption after eight weeks. The only caveat is that they may develop behavioural patterns as a result of been separated too early.
What happens if a kitten is weaned too early?
Kittens who are weaned too soon are more likely to exhibit unusual suckling behaviors like suckling on pillows, blankets, and your arm. For proper development, kittens should stay with their littermates for 12 weeks.
When should you give kittens water?
Ideally, kittens should be introduced to water when they are 4 to 6 weeks of age. But try not to give them too much water. Also, at this time, they are almost ready to be weaned.
While the kitten weaning process is designed to happen almost naturally, sometimes they need a little help from you, especially if you’re dealing with an orphaned kitten. More so, when weaning, it’s important to show a bit of patience and love so the process doesn’t overwhelm your kitten.