How to Wean a Kitten

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Kittens will usually start showing an interest in solid food around 3-5 weeks of age, depending upon their individual development.

For orphan kittens in a foster home drinking formula from a bottle, biting or chewing on the nipple is an indication that they may be ready to start weaning kittens onto solids. Readiness for weaning can also correlate with the emergence of the kitten’s premolars. Premolars are the teeth just behind the pointy canines.

A young orange and white cat gives a large yawn, displaying its upper teeth the the camera. It's whiskers are beautifully splayed. The kitten's premolar teeth are circled and labelled.
When a kitten’s premolars start to emerge, the kitten may be ready to wean onto solid food.

How to wean nursing kittens

For nursing kittens, leaving wet kitten food available to them is often all that’s needed. They will observe as their mom eats the wet food, and generally dive right in – literally. Learning how to eat is messy business! It can be so fun to watch tiny kitties dive their paws and faces enthusiastically into their food. working hard to learn how to get some or any of it into their mouths.

Weaning bottle baby kittens

Bottle babies can learn to eat the same way as nursing kittens. However, a big difference is that they don’t have a mama cat to teach them how to eat the wet kitten food. It may sound silly, but for a kitten who’s never eaten food before, it takes some learning before they get the hang of it.

A very young brown tabby kitten is fed kitten formula by bottle.
Bottle baby kittens can be transitioned slowly using a “gruel” or slurry of wet kitten food mixed with kitten formula. This can be fed via syringe, eyedropper, or fingertip, depending on how thick it is.

As a step in between bottles of formula and wet food, you can mash a little bit of formula with wet food to make “gruel”. This can be fed to the kittens by syringe or via them licking it off your finger. That way, the runny texture is still familiar to the kittens, but they get a taste of the wet food.

Weaning kittens onto solid food by syringe feeding them gruel.

Weaning kittens by hand-feeding

Another way to help bottle babies learn to eat wet food is by hand-feeding them wet food. The kitten may be more interested in something that you hand to them rather than unfamiliar mush on a plate. Every kitten is different, so some may pick up eating food more quickly this way.

A black and white kitten who is ready for some food!
When kittens are ready to wean, they will typically be very enthusiastic about consuming wet food, but sometimes need some assistance.

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