Between the ages of three and four weeks you can start to wean most kittens. Solid foods containing meat should be a part of kittens’ diets as soon as possible to prevent iron deficiency. Place a shallow pan of formula on the floor of their box. Change it as needed to keep the food fresh, but leave it out most of the time so the kittens have plenty of opportunity to eat.
At first the kittens will step and fall into it and make a general mess, but soon they will be lapping at it. When this stage is reached meat or egg yolk baby food, or commercial cat food can be added to make a gruel. After they are eating the gruel, the amount of formula can be decreased until they are eating solid food and drinking water. Eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, and meat may be added to their diet as they become adjusted to eating solid food. However, it is best to encourage the consumption of complete, balanced commercial growth foods to avoid developing preferences for nutritionally incomplete food and to avoid causing nutritional deficiencies.
Kittens with a natural mother should be allowed to continue nursing during the weaning process until they are eating well- balanced meals of solid food on their own. Although disease-preventing antibodies found in mother’s milk cannot be absorbed into the kitten’s system, they provide local protection (passive local immunity) in the gastrointestinal tract. Gradual weaning, then, is very desirable to allow time for the kitten’s immune system to mature. All changes in feeding should be made gradually to avoid causing digestive upsets.
By five weeks of age the kittens have most of their baby teeth, so that a mother will usually become more and more reluctant to nurse. As the kittens increase their intake of solid food, the mother will gradually restrict nursing time so that weaning can be completed between six and eight weeks of age. Weaning may be achieved this normal, gradual way. But if there is an actual weaning day, offer the queen water but no food, or feed only a small portion of the maintenance diet on that day. Over the following five days gradually increase food back to the normal maintenance level.
This procedure helps decrease her milk production.
If milk production does not seem to decrease rapidly enough and the female seems uncomfortable, do not remove milk from the glands. This will only prolong the problem. Cold packs applied to the mammary glands may help. If the problem is severe, consult a veterinarian for help as lactation- inhibiting drugs can be administered in cases of extreme discomfort.