Once your hand-raised kittens reach around 4 weeks old, it's time to wean them onto solid foods. This process can last up to six weeks while the little ones adjust to their new diet. With a slow, steady transition, your furbabies should be eating on their own with no complications.
Place a shallow dish filled with kitten milk replacement formula in an enclosed, easy-to-clean space such as a bathtub, since weaning can be a bit messy. Put the kittens near the dish and allow them to explore it on their own -- hand-raised kittens should recognize the smell of formula. If none of the kittens start to lap the formula, rub it on their tongues with your finger to show them it's edible. Once the little guys start drinking from the dish, replace a few of their bottle-feedings during the day with food from the dish instead. Continue feeding formula from the dish for a week, keeping feeding sessions to around 30 minutes.
Clean everyone up with gentle wipes with damp paper towels or washcloths. You'll likely see that kittens like to walk through their food while they eat, becoming covered in formula.
Add a bit of canned kitten food to the formula in the shallow dish after a week of feeding just formula to your little ones. You want just enough to form an oatmeal-like texture. Offer it to the kittens, allowing them to taste it at their own pace. If nobody is eating, try rubbing a bit on their tongues. It may take a few tries, but everyone should get the hang of it after a while.
Wipe everyone down with a damp washcloth after feeding, especially when transitioning to solid food, which gets caked on the little ones.
Increase the amount of solid food at a rate of 25 percent weekly, decreasing the amount of formula at the same rate, over the span of four weeks. For example, the first week, you'd feed a mixture of 25 percent canned food to 75 percent formula. The second week you'd feed 50 percent solid food mixed with 50 percent formula. By week four, you'll be feeding solid food only.
Continue to bottle-feed your kittens during the weaning process, slowly replacing their bottle feedings with feedings from the dish. Do this as slowly as you need to, depending on how readily your kittens take to eating on their own. By the end of week four or five of the weaning process, you shouldn't be giving any more bottle feedings to the little ones.
- Feeding your kittens in a bathtub makes cleanup as easy as just rinsing out the tub after a messy food session with the little ones. Plus it blocks your food-caked furballs from wandering onto your clean carpet and floors before you have a chance to wipe them down.
- Once you're feeding strictly solid foods, spoon out portions for each kitten around the edge of the dish.
- To feed your kittens dry food, mix it into their canned food after weaning for a few weeks.
- Never force any of your kitty's faces into a bowl of food -- they could inhale it and develop a serious health problem like pneumonia.
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.