Whether your kitten has its mother or not, it will be necessary to wean it so that it becomes autonomous and grows harmoniously. If nature usually does things well, the apartment cat will need a human helping hand for a smooth weaning.
What is the weaning process for kittens? How can the owner help at this crucial stage of development? What precautions should be taken to avoid making mistakes and to enjoy a healthy kitten?
What is kitten weaning?
Weaning means, in all mammals, of which our friends the cats are part, the moment during which the mother stops breastfeeding her little one so that it feeds itself. By extension, the word weaning is used in humans as well as in kittens, as soon as one passes from a milky food (natural/maternal or industrial/artificial) to a diversified food.
Weaning thus marks the first separation of the baby cat from its mother, but also the transition from liquid to solid food. It is important to respect the different phases of weaning for the balance of the cat, both in terms of its health and its psychological development.
Thus, there are three essential phases for kitten weaning:
From 3 or 4 weeks: weaning begins with a transition phase, when the cat’s first milk teeth appear
From 7 or 8 weeks of age: weaning is complete and the kitten no longer needs the cat or the human who raised her to be independent
At 12 weeks of age: the kitten is weaned, but continues to live with its mother and siblings in order to assimilate all feline social codes
This is why, even if a kitten is adoptable at 2 months of age after weaning, it is recommended to wait until 3 months of age before changing owners.
How to wean your kitten at home ?
If the kitten is breastfed by his mother
If your kitten is lucky enough to have a mother, she will naturally take care of pushing him away gently or firmly depending on his character, but she will do her job by following her maternal instinct.
On your side, you will be there to give him a helping hand in three phases:
From 3 or 4 weeks of age, as soon as the mother shows her annoyance while nursing, you will provide your kitten with a water bowl and a bowl of solid food in the form of pâtée so that it is easy to eat with the first teeth
From 5 or 6 weeks of age, start introducing its future food, it can of course be wet food, but also kibbles that you will moisten in a little water the first times
After 7 or 8 weeks, your kitten is totally weaned and your cat will refuse to give him the feed, he will then pass without difficulty thanks to the previous transitions phases to an entirely solid food
In any case, make sure that your cat has fresh water available, even if kittens are not big drinkers. A water fountain may be especially appealing to kittens, and may be very entertaining.
If the kitten is bottle-fed by a human
If your kitten is not lucky enough to have its mother, either because you found it alone in the wild, or because the mother is convalescing or deceased, weaning will be done a little differently, following three phases:
From the birth of the kitten to its 3 or 4 weeks, you will have to give the bottle to your kitten with the exclusive help of a special kitten milk bought in pharmacy or from your veterinarian, during the first 10 days, think of stimulating well the anogenital zone of your kitten after each feeding
From 3 or 4 weeks of age: start spacing out the bottles and introduce solid food, either in the form of wet food (pâtée, jelly) or with kibbles mixed with formula
From 4 or 5 weeks of age: your kitten should be able to feed herself without a bottle, you will continue the previous mixture for 1 week, removing the bottles, then you can switch to her definitive solid food
Don’t worry, the instructions for the formula will give you all the information you need to follow to wean your kitten gently and ensure that she doesn’t miss anything.
Mistakes not to make when weaning a cat
By following all the advice listed in this article, your kitten’s weaning will go well. However, it’s possible that your kitten may have some digestive problems, especially if she’s being bottle-fed. There’s no need to panic though, but you should keep an eye on him. We advise you to weigh your cat regularly and to note its weight in a book to make sure it grows without endangering its health.
Even if your cat will be fully weaned between 5 and 8 weeks of age, depending on his character, his mother’s behavior or the feeding of artificial milk, it is imperative not to give him up for adoption before 8 weeks of age.
Finally, we can never say it enough, cow’s milk is toxic for the cat. Whether it is to replace the mother’s food or to please her, ban the milk drunk by humans and also forget the kitten milk sold in supermarkets, too sweet for her stomach and useless for her growth.