Did You Know?
Many experts believe that during the weaning process, it is best to keep kittens away from dry food -- rather feed wet foodstuff -- as they could contain many fillers that are unhealthy. Also, cats crave for meat, which is considered very nutritive for them.
Cats are wonderful creatures with distinctive personalities. Those who are cat owners will agree -- their feline pets are masters of their own self. A female cat can give birth to about 1 to 8 kittens at a time. If you have not spayed your cat, you can expect about 25 kittens to be born in a year. When kittens are born, they are deaf, blind and weak. All they can do is crawl a few inches. They recognize their mother by her smell and are in constant need of her body's warmth. Mother cats, or 'queens' as they are called, produce milk for about 12 weeks. Cats may continue to nurse their kittens after 12 weeks. As a cat owner, you should begin weaning kittens at the right time. This will help you in putting up the kittens for adoption.
The Correct Age
Weaning is a process that helps kittens wean away from their mother's milk and get ready to eat more of solid food. When you begin to wean a kitten, it will become more and more independent of its mother. Therefore, it is important that you handle the process well. The right age is around 4 to 5 weeks. Starting too early should be avoided as it may harm the sensitive and underdeveloped digestive system of the kitten. You should wait till the kitten has opened its eyes and is able to focus. The little one should be able to stand on this feet (be steady), before you introduce any kind of solid food.
How to Begin the Process
Milk production is seen in mother cats for up to twelve weeks. During the first three weeks, for most of the time, kittens are nursed and spend their time sleeping. By the fourth or fifth week they start developing teeth, during which it is time to begin the weaning process. The kittens can be helped in the initial days by feeding them milk in a bowl. Make sure it isn't cow's milk as it could result in an upset stomach/diarrhea. Dip your finger in the bowl, and slowly and steadily lead the kitten to the bowl. Don't ever push its nose in the bowl. Once they discover and get accustomed to this feeding method, you can slowly think of introducing solid food.
The Process of Weaning
Once your kitten gets comfortable with a new method(s) of feeding, you can mix a bowl of milk with solid foodstuff (preferably canned food). Alternately, you need to begin holding a piece of kitten food near their lips. Allow the kitten to smell the food. Then very slowly, push the kitten food into their mouth. Allow the kitten to take its own time to chew and swallow the food. Then repeat the process, till it begins to learn to accept solid food. Do not keep the kitten totally away from milk. Begin by feeding it just half a teaspoon of kitten food. Then, allow it to continue feeding milk from its mother or a bottle. Feed them half a teaspoon of food for up to one week. Then serve food in a plate, and not a bowl. The kitten will begin to eat from the plate and then leave some food in the plate. This will help the kitten to eat it up, whenever it feels hungry. Gradually, it will begin to avoid nursing from the mother or drinking milk from a bottle, and will eat only solid food.
Help for the Stubborn Ones
A few kittens are very stubborn and will not eat anything, except demanding for mother's milk. The best way to make them eat is place food on your finger and bring it over to their lips to eat. This 'finger feeding' method will work as they will think they are sucking on their mother's nipple. So do not mind if your fingers get a nip or two. If you have an exceptionally stubborn kitten, then you need to begin feeding them semisolid food. You need to mix some soft meaty foods with water. This will make the consistency of the food similar to mother's milk. Once it tastes meat, it will gradually forget milk.
A growing kitten needs specially formulated foods that are rich in proteins, vitamins and calories. Make sure you bring home cat food that is specially made for kittens and not for senior cats. Taking good care of kittens helps them to grow into healthy, happy cats. It will take about 4 to 6 weeks, and most of the kittens will be weaned by the time they are 8 to 10 weeks old. As long as you know when to wean your kittens and how to handle the process, your kitten should be in good hands.