If you are taking care of an orphaned or abandoned newborn feline, you may be wondering how to wean a bottle-fed kitten. Feeding the right formula and appropriate number of times a day is vital for newborn kittens, but there comes a time when the kitten needs to eat independently.
Weaning: From Bottle to Bowl
A tiny kitten that finds itself without its mother to take care of it must be fed with a bottle for the first four to five weeks of life. Often, the kitten's caretaker is not quite sure when to stop bottle feeding or how to get the kitten to drink and eat from a bowl instead of a bottle. Questions or concerns about the weaning process are actually quite common.
Weaning a young kitten from the bottle requires patience and persistence. Always remember that each kitten is different and there is not an exact timetable for weaning. Some kittens may grasp the process quickly. Others may take longer without their mother to show them how to drink and eat from a bowl. The weaning process should be done gradually, at a pace that is comfortable for the kitten. The entire process could take as little as a week or may even take a few weeks. Eventually, almost every kitten is successful in this step to becoming an independent kitten.
The Weaning Process
Bottle feeding is necessary until the kitten is four to five weeks old. Once that age is reached, there are several signs to watch for that signal the kitten is ready to begin the weaning process. When you are feeding the kitten its bottle, watch to see if it starts to bite and chew on the feeding nipple as it is nursing. Once the kitten is biting on the nipple, place a small amount of formula onto your finger and see if the kitten licks it off. If it does, it is time to begin the weaning process.
Put a small amount of formula into a spoon and encourage the kitten to lick it. Once the kitten is successful at drinking the formula from the spoon, put some into a saucer or a low flat bowl. The following are several tips to encourage the kitten to drink from the saucer or bowl:
- Dip your finger into the formula and bring it up to the kitten's mouth. Let the kitten lick your finger, and then dip you finger and offer it to the kitten again. By doing this, you are helping the kitten make a connection between the formula and the bowl.
- To make the formula more enticing to the kitten, warm it slightly.
- Many bottle-fed kittens love to be held. Try holding the kitten while you are introducing it to the saucer full of formula.
- Begin the feeding session with the bottle, and then move the bottle away and offer the kitten the formula in the saucer right away.
Mastering the Saucer
Once the kitten is lapping formula from the saucer, begin mixing baby cereal or weaning formula into the kitten's formula. During this time it is important to continue bottle feeding the kitten while monitoring its intake of food and formula. While the kitten is learning to eat from the saucer, always offer the bowl of food first and supplement the amount eaten with the bottle.When the kitten has mastered eating from the saucer, slowly decrease the amount of formula it is getting in the bottle. Keep decreasing the amount in the bottle until it is eliminated completely.
On To Kitten Food
Once the kitten is able to eat from a dish, mix chicken baby food into the formula. It should be the consistency of thin oatmeal. If you prefer to use a different meat baby food, make sure there are not any onions in the ingredients because they can be very harmful and even fatal to kittens and cats. If the kitten is hesitant to eat it from the saucer, offer the mixture from a spoon.
Slowly replace the baby food with canned kitten food. Once that transition has been completed, begin to reduce the amount of formula at each meal while increasing the amount of food. Make sure to use a high quality food to ensure your kitten gets all the nutrients it needs.
Tips on How to Wean a Bottle-Fed Kitten
Here are some insider tips to help when weaning:
- Never rush the process of weaning your kitten.
- Never push the kitten's nose into the food dish. This could cause the kitten to develop pneumonia if it aspirates the fluid and food.
- Although most kittens are weaned by the time they are six to seven weeks old, it is not unusual for some kittens to take several weeks longer. This does not mean there is anything wrong with the kitten.
- If you feed dry kitten food, be sure to moisten it. Kittens are unable to chew dry food until they are about eight weeks old.
- Changes in food can cause the kitten to get diarrhea, and this can be life threatening to a young kitten. Minor diarrhea can be normal with the food changes. Watch the stools to make sure they go back to normal quickly; if not, call the vet.
- Regardless of how messy or slow the weaning process is, remember it is difficult for many kittens to learn how to eat without their mother's guidance.
- Never get upset with the kitten; it is trying to learn.
- Never give up; almost every kitten eventually is successfully weaned from the bottle.
Knowing how to wean a bottle-fed kitten is the first step in preparing your kitten for life as an independent cat. Taking the proper steps ensures your kitten will be a well-adjusted adult cat.