Weaning is the process that a kitten goes through to switch from mother’s milk to solid food. This process usually begins when a kitten is around 4 weeks of age and it ends when he or she reaches the age of 8 to 10 weeks. If the kitten is orphaned, weaning can be done before the cat gets to 1 month of age.
The transition has to be as smooth as possible and should be done when the kitten is ready. If you aren’t aware of a kitten’s age, a good indicator would be to see if the kitten’s eyes are open and able to focus. The kitten should also be capable of standing on his/her feet.
In this post, we will look at how you can make the process easier, some of the do’s and don’ts of weaning kittens, and several other facts that you should be aware of.
Feeding unweaned kittens
Kittens that aren’t 4 weeks of age yet still have to be bottle-fed. A kitten that weighs less than 4 ounces should be fed every 2 to 3 hours.
One that weighs under 6 ounces should be fed at identical time intervals, whereas one that weighs less than 8 ounces should be fed every 3 hours. When the kitten weighs between 8 and 12 ounces and is 14 to 21 days old, the kitten has to be fed a milk replacer every 4 hours.
When should kittens be weaned?
The weaning process has to start when kittens are approximately four weeks of age, but sometimes it depends on the animal. Some kittens can be weaned when they’re 1-month-old, but others have to be weaned at six weeks of age. This is because, as you might have noticed before if you are a cat parent and your cat has given birth in the past, not all kittens are equal.
Some can be thinner and less developed compared to others, and weaning them before it would be right to do so can result in a variety of issues later on. If the kittens have a mom, they can become interested in her food and begin to eat it naturally. If this happens, you can let the little ones nibble on the queen’s food.
However, try to avoid allowing kittens to eat dry food. It can even pose a choking hazard to them, and it doesn’t do them any good since they should avoid becoming dehydrated.
The weaning process can also happen naturally when the mother begins to push her kittens away from her as they try to nurse. This will obviously make the kittens search for food somewhere else, so it’s the perfect opportunity for you to step in with some high-quality wet kitten food.
How can you wean kittens?
If the kittens are orphaned, you will have to gradually transition them to wet food. Mix the milk formula with the wet food until they learn to recognize the taste. The amount of the canned food has to be very small in the beginning to the point that you might simply have to smear some on the food bowl and then add the milk replacer.
Some kittens might take longer than others to get used to the taste, but almost all of them are going to succumb to hunger. Avoid pushing a kitten’s head into the food bowl — you do not want to create a choking hazard.
As a kitten becomes used to lapping the mix of wet food and milk, you can begin to remove part of the formula and add more wet food. Just make sure that you don’t do all of this at once.
If you have been bottle-feeding the kittens for all this time, you have to first teach them to use a saucer or a bowl for the milk replacer and only then start adding the wet food to the mixture. You also have the option of offering the wet food to kittens when they are hungry and see whether they aren’t interested in it — but we’d recommend doing this toward the end of the weaning process when they already know the taste.
Not a clean process
If you have noticed how kittens tend to suckle the formula from the bottle, you might already know that they aren’t particularly careful about not making a mess. As they learn how to eat solid food, they might even play with the mixture or step right in it. Weaning kittens isn’t the cleanest and tidiest process in the world, but it’s only natural for mishaps to occur.
Clean your kittens using a soft microfiber cloth and some tepid water and then keep them in a warm and cozy area. Try to avoid giving kittens baths unless they are filthy. It is important for their skin pH to be as well-balanced as possible, and giving them baths too often can cause imbalances.
How long should you keep it up?
Kittens should be fed canned food until they reach 2 months of age. Once they have fully transitioned to solid food, you can continue feeding them very good-quality wet food and only then begin to add dry food into their diet. Needless to say, the best kitten food has no meat by-products, no artificial preservatives, colors, or additives, and it contains fiber from healthy sources such as pumpkin or sweet potato – no rice or grains.
Commercial dry kitten food, especially the cheaper varieties, are rich in carbs and don’t provide the right type of nutrition for an obligate carnivore. You can even make your own raw or cooked food for your feline friend, and there are countless tutorials on that online. Try to use dry kitten food only for when you are not at home for several hours.
Create a feeding schedule that involves feeding wet food to your cat in the morning and in the evening so that the dry food is only a last resort for momentary hunger episodes throughout the day.
If possible, avoid free-feeding your cat because this can lead to him or her having unhealthy habits such as grazing all throughout the day. A kitten that becomes used to the idea of having food readily available all day long is more likely to have weight problems later on in life.