Transitioning from Milk to Kitten Food

Knowing when to transition your kitten from milk to kitten food is of primary importance, especially if you have an orphaned kitten. In either case, kittens generally will begin eating kitten food at around 8 weeks of age. Nutrition from the mother's milk is necessary for the health of your kitten until 8 weeks old. If mother's milk isn't available due to a medical problem or absence of the mother cat, specially formulated kitten milk is available.

Importance of Milk for Kittens

Kittens will receive all of the necessary proteins and nutrients for healthy growth from their mother's milk. The queen's milk will change composition at appropriate stages to ensure her kittens are receiving just the right balance. Kittens require only milk until about 4 to 6 weeks of age, at which time the mother cat will begin to wean. It isn't necessary to provide additional milk for kittens with a healthy mother. If mother's milk is not available, never give kittens whole cow's milk, or the type of milk that is readily available at any grocery store. Cow's milk contains too much protein, fat and lactose to be easily digestible by kittens. Feeding cow's milk to kittens may cause diarrhea or dehydration, leading to death. Specially formulated kitten's milk can be found at pet stores, and recipes for homemade kitten's milk are available online.

Importance of Proper Nutrition

Once the mother cat begins weaning her kittens, it's recommended to slowly introduce solid food by having it available every few hours. Kitten food, as opposed to food given to adult cats, is high in protein, calcium and other nutrients necessary for well-being. Begin with a mixture of kitten food and water, or specially formulated kitten milk. Dry kibble and canned food are both appropriate for kittens, as long as they are mixed with enough moisture. To ensure proper moisture, mix dry kibble with three parts water, and canned kitten food with two parts water.

Problems Weaning

At 6 weeks of age, if the mother cat hasn't begun avoiding nursing by slowly pushing her kittens away, you may need to get involved. Start out removing the kittens from their mother for 1 to 2 hours per day. Gently handle them and allow them to explore their new environment. At this time you may also begin to introduce solid food.

Balanced Diet for Kittens

Kittens will require special nutrients available in kitten food until at least one year of age. Choosing a quality food from the beginning will ensure a life of health and vitality. Supplements or additional vitamins are not necessary, and may even be harmful, unless there is a medical condition present. Kittens will need to eat several times per day. Leaving food out and available is preferable, but when serving canned food, portioning is best to avoid spoiling or possible growth of bacteria. Sticking with one type and flavor of healthy kitten food is optimal to avoid creating a finicky adult cat. If a switch in food is necessary, remember to always mix old food with new food gradually until you are serving the new food exclusively.