Kitten care can be complex for all brand-new cat parents, especially if you don’t know the basics, like when kittens stop drinking milk and move on to meatier alternatives.
If you only have a kitten and are not managing a cat with kittens, it’s easier to deduce when exactly a kitten stops taking milk. It’s typically around four weeks when you should start moving them to other food options.
However, this job becomes easier if you have a mother cat with kittens. As the four-week mark passes, mother cats stop offering milk whenever the kittens need it.
That’s when kittens start looking for food elsewhere. However, the kittens become overly aggressive in many cases and start to nurse too much. That’s where human intervention comes in.
Otherwise, if you have a kitten, it all depends on what tactics you employ to wean the kitten off milk.
How Do You Wean a Kitten Off Milk?
Typically, moving a cat off milk and onto solids takes about a month. The kitten will start drinking its mother’s milk or kitten milk less and less during this time.
However, this can only occur successfully if you use the right food to switch the kitten over.
Keep in mind this needs to happen harmoniously while the mother’s milk is drying up. During the weaning process, the mother cat will begin producing less milk.
You’ll want to make up for that loss of milk for the kitten by providing more and more nutrition with the kittens weaning off entirely as the month ends.
The Weaning Process
Once the kitten becomes one month old, introduce them to different flavors in wet food. While the kittens won’t eat much initially, trying the food at least gives them the chance to try new things.
Every time you see the kitten getting hungry, provide them with the flavor of wet food they prefer, and keep it readily available so that the kitten doesn’t go to their mother or the kitten milk for nourishment.
Do so regularly and be creative when providing different food types. But do so patiently. Do not deprive the kitten of having its milk.
The key to successful weaning is giving your kitten the freedom to make its own choices. As long as there’s food available, you can leave the meal plan to the kitten. At some point, you’ll notice the kitten leaning more toward solid food than kitten milk.
Kittens transition from kitten milk to solid food entirely around the 8 – 10 week mark. If your kitten still prefers its milk, it might just be that it doesn’t like your solid food choice.
This is where you may want to try different foods to catch your kitten’s interest.
Can I Feed My Kitten Solid Food at Four Weeks?
Swapping your kitten’s milk for solid food at four weeks is a very risky move, one that we do not recommend.
Keep in mind kittens are like children. They are small, their taste buds haven’t developed yet, and they will not take kindly to having their diet changed without their knowledge. The kitten will likely starve before it tries solid food, so removing milk from your kitten’s diet plan ultimately will be nothing short of disastrous.
Kittens require patience and understanding. Otherwise, they do not transition into adulthood successfully. Often, kittens weaned too early retain their need to nurse well into adulthood. They end up sucking on teddy bears, blankets, and other objects. But in some cases, they also suck on cat litter, which can be dangerous if made with toxic materials.
Kittens that are weaned too early also lack crucial socializing skills. A study found that kittens weaned well before eight weeks show increased stereotypically aggressive behavior. These kittens also exhibit signs commonly associated with early-weaning behavior, like nursing on objects and excessive grooming.
Considering the effect early weaning has on kittens, it’s safe to say that waiting to wean cats is a far safer option than weaning them too early.
Best Way to Wean Kittens Off Milk
When weaning, giving a kitten solid wet food is your best choice.
If you have a cat already, the chances are that your kitten may have already tasted some solid food without prompting. However, if your kitten is about to taste something new, use moist and wet kitten food mixed with kitten milk replacement and introduce the mixture with the milk.
Do this once or twice a day, and follow the same method. Gradually, decrease the amount of kitten milk your cat has and transition the kitten slowly toward solid food. Once the kitten starts eating solid food, decrease the amount of kitten milk replacement in that mixture, so the kitten gets the full flavor.
During this time, introduce them to moistened dry food, so your kitten has a wide array of food.
Be warned that your kitten will experience mild diarrhea during this weaning process. However, get them to the veterinarian right away if your kitten starts experiencing intense stomach issues, vomiting, and listlessness.
While introducing new foods, keep your kitten away from raw ingredients such as raw meat, fish, eggs, or cow or goat’s milk. These ingredients are hazardous and can lead to seizures, infections, and parasites. Kittens must only have food that is specially made for smaller animals.
If you have a mama cat, you’ll get some help from her while weaning since she’s the one who encourages her kittens to get started on other foods. Follow her lead. Keep all cats well-fed and nourished.
And if you’re ever in doubt, speak to your veterinarian about your next steps. With the right food and advice, your kitten will be well on its way to an incredible culinary journey.