How To Wean Kittens Off of a Bottle
If you have been to my blog, then you have seen my latest topic about newborn kittens. I have written post about caring for two through eight-week-old kittens and how to bottle feed kittens. Therefore, the logical next step in kitten care in how to wean kittens off of the bottle and onto kitten food.
Kittens should been bottle fed if a mother cat is not around to provide mother’s milk for the kittens health and nutrition. And orphaned kitten needs to be bottle fed if they are less than five weeks old and you want them to survive. If you find a litter of kittens that are considered neonatal kittens, they will all need to be bottle feed, and eventually weaned off the bottle.
Weaning a kitten off of the bottle can be a scary, and possible dangerous process. This is one of the times where people lose kittens because they become malnourished without their owners knowing it. It is important to read this post very careful and take every step seriously to ensure your kitten transitions smoothly and easily.
When to Wean a Kitten
Kitten weaning is something that does not have a set time frame. You should wean a kitten off of the bottle only when they are ready or show interest to be weaned off the bottle.
This should be done no earlier than four weeks old and no later than 12 weeks and needs to be done slowly. They should be at least at the ideal weight of a kitten about four weeks of age, which can be found in my four week old kitten guide post. And the kitten should be starting to show signs of weaning desire.
What is ‘weaning desire’? Well, it is my high quality way of saying that they are ready to wean. They will be getting frustrated with the kitten milk replacement in the bottle and or trying to bite your hand as a way to “get food”. It can happen quite quickly and suddenly.
With our foster kitten Binx, it was kind of an interesting story when we knew to wean her. At about four weeks, she had been diagnosed with an uncommon type of worms that caused excessive amounts of diarrhea. She was rushed to the ER, given medicine and sent home. Only to be rushed back because of a prolapsed rectum. She was given emergency surgery to push it back in and stitch it up and was sent home.
Weaning Binx Off the Bottle
This surgery caused her to become sluggish and really only waking up the first few days to eat from the bottle. As the days passed and she started feeling better she began running around more, eating more of her bottle and even climbing.
Once the stitches were removed and she was almost back to normal, we noticed her becoming agitated with the bottle. At first, we found it humorous because it was obvious she was feeling better. She was feeling so strong that she was “attacking” the bottle. We continued to feed her from the bottle for a few more days.
However, once we saw that she was continuously frustrated and “aggressive” with the bottle we knew she was ready to wean. She was showing up that she was healthy enough to try. The bottle wasn’t giving her everything that her now-healthy growing body needed.
I tested my theory by putting some formula on my finger. If she age from my finger, then I knew she was ready to start the weaning process onto eating solid food.
Now, Binx was unique in that hers was so sudden after she got better. But other kittens will probably start to show this once they reach their ideal age and weight. At a certain weight (that is different for each kitten) the bottle no longer fills them up anymore. They need more.
It would be the equivalent to babies ready to start eating real food. A bottle no longer does it for them anymore.
So how do you start the weaning process? Do you just lay out wet food and hope they start eating it? Well, maybe. If you have a really really healthy kitten, that may work.
A slurry is a combination of formula and wet cat food. You start mixing just a little bit of wet cat food in with the formula mixture and add it to the bottle. The wet food mixed with the formula helps add more substance and helps nourish the kittens body. When we are talking about kitten health, you can’t be too careful.
From there, you continue adding a little kitten food until the bottle becomes too thick for them to eat it.
After which they are ready to switch from a bottle to a bowl.
Switching to a Bowl
Once they have become successful in slurry combination, you can start moving it into a small shallow dish, much like this one that I used for Binx.
You mix the slurry in the same way as before. But instead of switching it into a bottle, you pour it into the shallow bowl.
From there you grab the kitten as you normally would for a feeding. Some kittens show immediate interest in the bowl and start eating it immediately. Others, require a little more patience.
If you kitten is not immediately drawn to the slurry, it may be helpful to put a little onto your finger. Let the kitten eat from your finger as you keep putting more and more onto your finger and drawing the kitten closer and closer to the bowl.
Eventually they will start to realize they can get the slurry much faster straight from the bowl than from your finger.
You may need to do this finger trick a couple of times before you kitten starts to really get the hang of eating on their own. Very rarely is this a once and done sort of thing.
Switching from a bottle to a bowl is the part of this process that you need to be the most careful during. This is because that is the stage of a kittens life where you don’t really know how much they are eating. Especially if they don’t completely finish the slurry.
It is always smart to supplement any uneaten slurry with a bottle and to continue weighing them DAILY! You want to weight them daily to ensure they are still gaining weight daily and are not losing weight. Losing weight could mean that they are not getting enough food from either the slurry or the bottle, or both.
When it comes to the slurry, there are a number of ways in which you can make it. However, I am going to talk about the ways that I felt like were the most helpful .
First, I would heat the water in a mug. This allowed me to get the water hot enough to dissolve the formula and melt the kitten food a little bit.
The next biggest trick that helped me more than anything was the shaker bottle. We got a small little shaker bottle with the metal shaker ball inside. We would add the measured out hot water first, then the formula and a tablespoon of wet kitten food at a time.
Put the lid on the shaker bottle and just shake it all up. It’s going to be loud, but this really helps break up the wet kitten food and get it into a nice consistency for the bottle.
Finally, the next thing that really helped me when it came to bottle feeding the slurry was actually making the hole of the bottle slightly bigger. The slurry is going to be a thicker consistency than normal formula, so make the hole slightly bigger allowed our kitten to use the bottle as needed without an excessive amount of clumps.
Take it from someone who was rinsing out so many clumps the first few days, this is so extremely helpful. You do want to do this process slowly though. If you cut the hole too large from the beginning, it will rush into the kittens mouth without them doing anything and cause it to basically go all over your floor. I would equate opening the bottle hole large to transitioning to a sippy cup. The sippy cup is perfect because it gives the child more options on what to drink, but if you take away the lid completely, you are just asking for trouble.
Weaning kittens from the bottle onto wet food can be a stressful and nerve-racking period of time. But it doesn’t have to be. Educate yourself. Make sure you are being attentive of your kittens eating habits and their weight and this process will go smoothly. The process of going for milk to solid food could take days, it could take a few weeks. But be patience.
Just like the first time bottle feeding, weaning can be clunky at first. What is important to remember, is that the initial frustration won’t last forever. Eventually they will get the hang of it. And the best part about the weaning process is that this is one of the last clunky processes that occur for kittens! Because after this, they will be on wet food. They will be eating on their own, and getting started on being their own independent self!
The weaning process is the last step to a full grown, easy kitten. So you can do it! You are on the last leg of this race. Keep persisting. I promise it gets easier.