When to Wean Kittens

When one is going to wean kittens this means the young felines will begin to ingest nutrients from food sources other than the mother’s milk or kitten formula fed from a bottle. Weaning is an important step in a kitten’s social and emotional development.

Week 4 of a Kitten’s Life

When kittens are about 4 weeks old they are already able to walk around and play. They are practicing independence, but will not usually wander too far away from his mother or siblings. This is a good time to begin weaning a kitten and introduce him to canned cat food. A mother cat will naturally begin to wean her kittens by this time as well, and this process should be complete by the time the kittens are about 8 to 10 weeks old. A kitten that was adopted and does not have a mother cat raising him should begin eating canned cat food after he weighs over 500 grams.

New Food, New Experiences

The canned food fed to a kitten being weaned should be of high quality and list a meat source, like chicken, as the first ingredient. Kittens should be fed the same food their mother is eating as young cats will often imitate her. If the mother cat eats dry cat food, this can be mixed with water or replacement kitten formula to make it softer. The solid food should be placed on a plate that is shallow in small amounts. Since the kittens will not have experience eating this type of food, their first times eating solid food will be messy as they will typically walk in and fall into the food, or try to nurse on the food. Some cat owners have found it best to place the new food’s plate on a large cookie sheet or in a bathtub to make clean-up easier until the kittens have learned to eat it properly. Cat owners also need to remember to provide the mother cat and her kittens a shallow bowl of clean water at all times.

Give It Time

It is advised that one offer the kittens the new food many times a day for about half an hour. When the kittens are done with the food they should be cleaned and returned to their mother. When one is doing this, incrementally remove the mother cat from the kittens for longer periods of time. It may be harder for the mother cat to be away from her kittens than it is for the young cats, which are enjoying the new experiences. For this reason, it is suggested that the kittens be removed from their mother for a period of time throughout the day, even when they are not being fed, until the kittens learn how to be independent and no longer are nursing from their mother. A pet owner must remember the weaning process will and should take a long time (up to 10 weeks) because of a mother cat’s anxiety and mammary gland inflammation.

By the time kittens are about 12-weeks-old, they should be eating solid cat food and should no longer be nursing. If a kitten is having difficulty being weaned from his mother or socializing, a veterinarian should be consulted.