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Pet parents raising kittens often have a lot of questions and concerns. One of the most common is how and when to wean kittens from formula or their mother’s milk. Helping kittens make the transition to solid food can be confusing and messy. Fortunately, a bit of preparation can make the process go more smoothly.
In the first couple weeks of life, kittens have no sight and no hearing. Their eyes generally start opening around the second or third week. They’ll need their mother’s milk or a specialized formula for adequate nutrition. Pet parents should weigh kittens daily. Ideally, they should gain around half an ounce per day or approximately four ounces a week.
Kittens won’t be able to urinate or defecate on their own for the first few weeks. Typically, a mother cat stimulates their digestion and keeps them clean by licking their bellies and genitals. With orphan kittens, a pet parent will need to gently rub the anal area with a warm wet washcloth after each meal to stimulate urination and defecation. They’ll be able to start going on their own at about three to four weeks old.
Kittens will begin to show interest in solid food at around four weeks. They may start checking out their mother’s food bowl, or the mother cat may begin pushing her kittens away from her belly.
In the case of formula-fed kittens, a pet parent should begin the process of weaning at around three weeks old. High quality kitten formula is nutritionally complete however, the change in diet can risk stressing the gut out and causing digestive problems.
Weaning kittens is a messy process that takes some time and patience. Pet parents can prepare by gathering essential supplies such as:
A confined space
Old sheets or feeding tarps
A few different types of high-quality wet food
To begin the transition to kitten food, start by slowly offering wet kitten food with formula or water in a shallow dish. The food should be the consistency of soup. Pet parents can help acclimate kittens to their new food by placing some on their fingertips and letting kittens lick it off.
Between four to five weeks, pet parents can begin introducing dry kibble. They should add some water to soften it so that it’s easier for kittens to eat. By seven to eight weeks, kittens should be fully weaned.
In the early weeks of life, the best food for kittens is mother’s milk. If the mother can’t produce enough milk or the kittens are orphaned, a pet parent will need to provide a high quality formula.
As kittens wean, they’ll need high-quality wet food that’s high in protein and other essential nutrients. It can help provide sufficient nutrition and plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Royal Canin has both wet and dry feline health nutrition food that is specially formulated for mother and kittens that is soft and easy palatable.
Weaning kittens takes time and patience, but it’s well worth the effort to see them grow into healthy, happy adult cats. While it may be a messy process, it can be rewarding, too. If pet parents ever have any questions or concerns, they can always reach out to their primary vet or the Fuzzy Veterinarian Team for professional cat advice and tips for success.