Small Kittens - Newborns to Weaning
Ideally, kittens shouldn't be separated from their mother before around 8 weeks of age, when they are weaned and ready to face the world. However, there times when newborn kittens don't have their mother around to look after them. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in this position, it is a lot of work, however it is very rewarding to see the kitten grow in size and strength as a result of your love and attention.
If you have a very small kitten who has been separated from his mother prior to weaning, you will need to feed it a special kitten milk - cows' milk isn't appropriate and won't provide all the nutrients the kitten needs. Kittens this young require constant care, and need to be fed every few hours. It is advisable to have someone with the kitten 24 hours a day. At this young age, prior to weaning, kittens are very sensitive and become ill easily. If you notice the kitten has eye discharge, a runny nose, losing appetite or has a fever, please take it to see a vet as soon as you can.
Young kittens also need to be stimulated to go to the toilet, as this is something their mother would usually do until they around 4 weeks old. Using a cotton bud or ball that has been softened in warm water, gently massage the kitten's nether regions for about a minute. You should do this before feeding and about 10 minutes after feeding.
When the kitten starts to bite or chew at the milk bottle it is time to start the weaning process. This is usually around 3-4 weeks of age. To begin, buy a good quality kitten weaning food and mix it with some of their kitten milk to make a mushy soft paste. Put some of this on the kitten's mouth so that it gets used to the taste. The kitten should now be ready to try feeding from a bowl. You should gradually increase the amount of dry food the kitten is eating and reduce the milk. Here is a suggested time line:
- Weeks 4-5: Moisten kitten dry food with kitten milk formula to form a slushy mixture. Continue to feed some kitten milk if the kitten isn't eating much of the new food.
- Weeks 5-6: The weaning kitten will now be interested in eating dry kibble, slightly moistened with water.
- Weeks 6-7: By now, the kitten weaning process is complete, and they should be eating all solid food by week seven.