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.
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.
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.
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.
Featured Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock