In this video, you’ll learn strategies for weaning kittens off of a bottle and on to solid foods.
When can a kitten safely eat on her own? Learn why it’s important to “meat them where they are.”
Weaning is the fun, messy adventure of helping a kitten transition from nursing (or bottle feeding) to eating solid food on her own! Kittens often need extra support during this time to help ensure they’re receiving the proper nutrients in proper quantity, and to keep them on track for success and independence. Here’s what you need to know about weaning:
1. Start at the Right Age
Kittens’ bodies are very sensitive to premature weaning, so be careful about starting them too young. A kitten 0-5 weeks old should be nursing or bottle feeding. Around 5 weeks of age, the kitten’s premolars will begin to emerge, indicating that she is likely ready to start trying out some meaty foods. However, some kittens may need a bit more time on the bottle due to health issues, or differences in weight or size. Use your best judgement and follow the kitten’s lead to determine the appropriate age to wean. If you see any changes in the kitten’s health or energy during this process, immediately step back to bottle feeding.
2. Get the Right Supplies
Pick up some wet kitten food, making sure that it says “kitten.” Kitten food is higher in calories, fat and protein that the kitten needs to help grow big and strong. Wet food is the healthiest choice for kittens to start off with, as the moisture content will help them stay healthy and hydrated. However, some kittens may prefer dry food, and that’s okay as long as you choose a healthy kitten kibble. You’ll also want to pick up some shallow food dishes so the kitten can easily access the food.
3. “Meat” Them Where They Are
The most important rule of weaning is not to rush—do things on the kitten’s timeline, not yours! Try offering the kitten some small bites of wet food on a finger, a spoon, or a tongue depressor, and see if they will accept it. If they’re interested in eating, see if they are able to access the food in a dish. Remember that this is a new skill for them, so many kittens will find it difficult to eat out of a dish for the first several days. No rush!
Once the kitten has eaten some solids, it’s time to supplemental feed with a bottle (or allow them to keep nursing with mom, if mom is present!) Supplemental feeding ensures that your kitten is getting all of the calories and nutrition she needs during this slow transition. There’s no such thing as “tough love” for kittens, and if she isn’t understanding how to eat yet, you’ll still need to supplement to make sure she’s staying healthy and well fed.
You may also choose to offer the kitten a slurry—a mix of formula and wet food, which is used to help transition the kitten from one food to the other. You may begin by just introducing a small teaspoon of wet food mixed with the formula, which allows the kitten to acclimate to the new proteins and flavors. As the kitten becomes more comfortable eating meat, you’ll begin increasing the ratio so that there is more wet food present at each feeding.
Weigh the kitten throughout the weaning process. If her weight drops or steadies, you’ll need to supplement with a bottle, try a different method of eating, or scale back to kitten formula.
4. Fully Wean and Introduce Water
Once the kitten is confidently eating on her own, you can cease supplemental feeding—it’s time to switch completely to solid foods! Be sure you’re feeding a high quality food formulated for kittens, and monitor to ensure that there are no concerning changes in weight, behavior, or condition.
At this time, it’s also appropriate to introduce water in a small, shallow dish. Never provide a large dish that can cause a safety hazard to a tiny kitten; keep your water dish to about 2 inches high. It’s normal for kittens to struggle with water at first, but she should be drinking confidently within 1-3 days of introduction.
At some point, all mammals need to be weaned. Transitioning kittens from nursing to eating solid food is a messy, fun experience. To properly transition, the kittens will need the appropriate support and food. Of course, whenever you switch the kittens over to solid food, you become responsible for their nutritional needs. Therefore, it is also essential to ensure you’re feeding your kitten the right thing.
In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know to wean your kitten correctly. We will take a look at when to start weaning and how to make the food appropriate for your feline.
When to Start Weaning
It is essential to start weaning your kittens at the correct age. Otherwise, they could develop health or weight problems. Generally, around the time they turn five weeks old, the kittens’ premolars will be visible. This is a sign that the kittens are ready to begin chewing solid food. Some kittens may need to nurse for longer than this, depending on their health and size. However, you shouldn’t begin weaning your kittens before five weeks. Late is better than early in this regard.
You should follow your kitten’s lead when weaning. If your kitten begins to experience health changes when you start weaning, it is likely a sign that they aren’t ready. You should not push your feline to wean if they’re showing signs of unreadiness.
Image Credit: Marian Weyo, Shutterstock
What to Feed Weaning Kittens
Your kittens won’t switch over the solid food right away. It’s a process. It is essential to select the right food for this transitional period. You should select high-quality kitten wet food. Kittens and adults have different nutritional needs. It is essential to feed your kitten a diet specifically designed for their needs, or they may develop health and weight problems.
Wet food is the easiest option to start with. It is soft enough for kittens to eat without massive amounts of prep and has a high moisture content to ensure that your kittens stay hydrated. You can switch your cats to dry food later if your wish. Some kittens also seem to like dry food better, though they are in the minority.
No matter what type of food you choose, ensure it is high in protein and includes plenty of meat.
Image Credit: Elizabett, Shutterstock
How to Start
Begin by offering the kittens a small amount of food on your finger or a spoon. If the kitten seems interested and eats it, try introducing a flat dish for them to eat food out of. You should not force your kitten to eat the food if they don’t accept it. This will only backfire by making your kitten scared and nervous about the process. Your job is to make the food available in a form the kittens can access – not make the kittens eat it.
Eating out of a dish can be challenging for many kittens, so it will take them a few days to figure it out. This is why we also recommend using a spoon until they’re a bit more competent with the dish. You’ll likely find that they get more on themselves than in their mouth in the beginning.
While the kittens have eaten solids, you’ll still need to allow them to nurse. At some point, they’ll phase out the nursing until they’re eventually just eating solids. If the mother cat is around, there isn’t much you’ll need to do in this process. Many mother cats will reduce the amount of nursing time her kittens nurse.
You can also make a slurry, which is a mixture of formula and wet food. This may help your feline switch to a solid diet. However, this is an optional step that may only be particularly easy for kittens with a hard time transitioning. Some cats find it hard to warm up to the flavor of the food at first. A slurry helps them ease into it.
You should weigh the kittens throughout the weaning process to ensure they’re maintaining a healthy weight.
Image Credit: Maria Moroz, Shutterstock
The Process Continues
Eventually, your kitten will be eating confidently on their own. At this point, supplemental feeding with formula or nursing is unnecessary. Your feline will get everything they need from solid food. You should continue to feed kitten food, as they will be unable to switch to adult food until they are fully grown.
When they stop nursing, it is time to introduce small amounts of water. The dish should be small and shallow. Furthermore, you don’t want to add so much water that there is a potential drowning risk for your kitten.
Kittens usually struggle with water at first, but it should only take them a few days to get the hang of it.
By the kittens‘ fourth or fifth week, mother cats encourage weaning by gradually cutting down nursing time for kittens with their sharp, growing teeth. You can assist by offering a shallow dish of kitten milk replacement, available at pet supply stores.
One may also ask, how long does it take to wean a kitten? The process of weaning usually starts when kittens are about three to four weeks old, and takes two to three weeks to complete. If you are bottle-feeding an orphaned kitten, or one whose mother isn’t able to feed her, weaning can begin as early as three weeks.
Consequently, what do you feed a 4 week old kitten?
The kittens will need to be bottle fed with milk replacer every 2-3 hours (including overnight) and kept warm and dry. 1 – 4 weeks old: will need to be bottle-fed kitten formula. 5 weeks and older: can be offered canned food for KITTENS ONLY but they may still need to be bottle-fed.
How do I get my kitten to eat solid food?
To introduce solid food to your kitten, start by putting a tablespoon of soft, wet, room-temperature food into a small, low dish. Alternatively, put some food on the tip of your finger, which your kitten may be more likely to approach. Then, let the kitten eat as much as it wants.