Weaning Kittens to Dry Food

Mother cats start weaning kittens when they are four weeks old. If you're hand raising kittens because the mother died or abandoned one or all kittens, you should start introducing the kitten to solid food at this time. Many veterinarians suggest offering canned food or moistened kibble to kittens when they reach three weeks of age or weigh a pound.

Best Age for Weaning Kittens

By the time a kitten reaches three weeks, he becomes extremely interested in his surroundings. His curious nature is strong. Naturally, the kitten spends more time away from his mother, so the urge to wean begins increasing. This makes it much easier to start weaning kittens.

Chewing food is going to be new to a kitten. Make sure any kitten food you offer has been moistened with water or even formula. Kittens are likely to fall into their food because they are not used to the process of chewing and biting. Make sure you place the food in a shallow bowl or even a small plate.

Offer the food in conjunction with the kitten's normal nursing schedule. Put the mother cat in another room or don't offer the bottle, and instead put down the bowl or plate of food near the kittens. Most kittens will start out trying to suck at the food, which is why it is important to keep it moist. Kittens are going to get messy, so you'll want to keep the food contained to an area where cleanup is easiest, such as a bathtub, sink or linoleum flooring.

Allow the kittens a full 10 minutes to explore the food and eat what they can get down. At that time, put them back with their mother. If they're bottle fed you can offer a smaller bottle to them if they didn't eat much, or wait until the next feeding if they did eat some of the kitten food.

Weaning Kittens Takes Time

If a kitten is removed from his mother too early, he's more likely to develop separation anxiety. A kitten should remain with his mother until a minimum of eight weeks of age.

Some breeds, Siamese for instance, seem to need extra time with their mothers. Most reputable breeders allow a Siamese kitten to remain with their mother until 12 weeks of age. This encourages the development of social skills.

Don't restrict kittens from the mother cat if she is around. For the mother cat, weaning kittens should be a gradual occurrence. If the mother abruptly stops nursing, non-septic mastitis infection is a possible health risk.

Switching Weaning Kittens to Dry Food

Once your kitten is readily eating the moistened food without getting it all over his face, start offering pieces of dry kibble and see how he does. Give him a few pieces at a time, but don't overwhelm him. If he chews and swallows the food without choking or gagging, switch the canned food for dry kibble.

Choose quality dry kibble for kittens. Kitten formulas you find at grocery stores are often low-quality and filled with gluten and by-products. Foods like Natural Balance provide kittens with the right amount of protein and nutrients.