When to Wean KittensNormally, the kitten weaning process begins at about four weeks of age. “With mom, they’ll start to try to eat her food, and she’ll push them away from her,” says Benson. But if you’re weaning a kitten that has been orphaned, you can start a little earlier, between three and four weeks.
From the earliest stages of life, feeding a kitten should be balanced so that deficits do not generate problems in the future. A good diet will lead to great health and well-being for our cat.
Whether you’ve been bottle-feeding a kitten or your cat has been breastfeeding her own kittens, you’ll be interested to know when they are old enough to eat on their own. Therefore, in this AnimalWised article we are going to reveal this age and discuss the type of food they should eat. So, read on as we answer the commonly asked question: when do kittens start eating food and drinking water on their own?
What to feed newborn kittens?
The first food that a kitten takes as soon as they are born is their mother’s milk. This food is fundamental for them, since it will transmit maternal immunity against the main infectious pathogens.
If we have adopted a kitten of lactation age or their mother rejects them, we must bottle-feed them every two hours with special cat milk. It must be catered to them to aid digestion, so avoid cow’s milk!
The milk that the kittens take, both by natural breastfeeding and artificial feeding, is rich in fatty acids, colostrum (antibodies) and vitamins.
When do kittens start eating solid food?
Breastfeeding a kitten lasts about 9 weeks, and when their teeth begin to come in, after about four weeks, they can begin to eat food. We must feed them with food appropriate for their age. It is advisable to moisten it a little with water to make it easier to adapt to the process of chewing, or add a bit of wet food (pâté or pieces in sauce).
The food that cats must take from the end of lactation to one year of life must be composed of highly digestible proteins, antioxidants and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. This feed must be of high quality and the amount to be given is estimated according to the weight and the guidance tables that come on the containers. However, depending on the characteristics of our kitten, the veterinarian can tell us if they should eat more or less.
The commercial names of food for growing kittens have names such as “kitten”, “growth”, etc. So look at this detail to select the best food for your little one.
If you prefer, you can make homemade food for this stage of life but, our vets recommend a complete feed, since it is very difficult to maintain a perfect balance between all the nutrients.
Now that you know from what age kittens can eat on their own, if you try different foods to see which is the most appropriate, you should know that the change in food has to be made progressively. Gradually introduce the new food, since abrupt changes cause intestinal dysbiosis that results in diarrhea or vomiting.
If they continue to live with their mother, they will gradually stop breastfeeding, so it is not necessary to separate them. Also, it is not advisable to remove kittens before a certain age, since it is with their mother and siblings that the kitten begins to learn the typical behavior of the species. For more information, see our article on when you can separate kittens from their mother.
Once the weaning process begins, the kitten will instinctively go to the bowl of food, otherwise we can teach them by giving them some food with our hand so they can get into the routine. If they live with the mother, it is advisable to let the kitten eat on the same plate to watch and imitate.
Other precautions to take into account
By starting to eat more solids, the kitten may become constipated, and one way to help is to gently stimulate their gut, by giving gentle massages. We will leave a small litter tray so they can begin to do their needs there.
Coinciding with the beginning of the ingestion of solid foods and on their own, the first internal parasite will be given, very important to maintain the health of our kitten. On the other hand, we must offer access to fresh and clean water. The bowl of water should not be too close to the food and, of course, away from the litter box, if possible in another room.