When To Start:
What To Feed:
Use a high quality, high protein (grain-free) food. Strictly kitten or all stages food, no adult versions for they lack the calorie content. The softer pate, lightly sauced is OK but no gravy (gravy can cause diarrhea), is best.
One product highly praised for the weaning process is:
Royal Canine Mother & Babycat
Experienced Queens will naturally start to wean their kittens by 4-5 weeks. They will be trying to leave their kittens for gradually longer periods of time. If mom isn't doing this, then you should be helping by getting mom away from her kittens for gradually longer periods of time. By not having mom around as often, the kittens are not tempted to hold out for mom and more likely to try eating.
Use a shallow food bowl or flat saucer to allow kittens access to as much food as possible without having to dig for it.
There are generally 2 accepted methods to weaning kittens.
Method 1: Introduce solid food by mixing a soft pate' with milk replacer (50:50). Gradually decrease the amount of milk replacer to increase the thickness of the pate' until finally it's just pate'. The idea is that kittens will take to solid food easier if it can lap it up. This method takes longer, but is best for those that don't want to wean.
Method 2: Introduce solid food with just a super soft mouse pate', like Royal Canin Babycat. This method allows for a quicker transition, and in most cases is tolerated very well. As the mom also eats this food, the kittens will want to follow suite.
In both cases, introducing the food isn't just leaving it around for them to investigate. They should be brought over to the food and have the food placed into their mouths for a taste. You can also smear some on the whisper pads to lick off. Usually, the kitten seeks food after having a taste and it's just a matter of holding the food bowl up to its face. Slowly lower the food bowl once the kitten starts eating and the kitten's face will follow. This may need to be repeated a few times throughout the day and maybe even over the course of a few days to get the idea before seeking food out spontaneously.
It's important to also introduce water at this stage. Millenia-honed instincts dictate that in the wild, running water from a stream is healthy and carries needed minerals. Stagnant water, on the other hand, harbors disease. These instincts are still there for our feline friends. Running water, from a water fountain, has been proven in studies to increase a cat's willingness to drink more often. This is especially important for cats because they already harbor a low-thirst drive, thanks to a naturally high water content in the prey animals that are eaten.
Location, Location, Location:
While learning to eat solid food, they should also be learning to use the litter-box. For kittens, location is one important factor. It has to be close by. Keeping the kitten room area small is key. This keeps the water fountain, the food dish, and the litter-box easy to get to and in eye sight at all times to serve as a constant visual reminder.
It is almost impossible to litter-box train on carpet. For whatever reason, carpet seems to be as good as dirt to kittens. Therefor, the kitten area should be kept on a hard, easily-cleaned floor like tile, vinyl, or a rubber mat. Although tile tends to be cold so not as ideal. By cleaning up after messes quickly, you prevent future accidents because animals tend to visit the same places for elimination.
The box itself should have a low side to allow for easy access. Cats are fastidious by nature, cleaning the litter-box often helps to encourage not only continual use but also to prevent kittens from becoming contaminated with other feces. A great starter litter is Dr. Elsey's Kitten Attract! It works phenomenally well in getting kittens to consistently use the litter-box. It's not unusual for kittens to go crazy in it and even eat some as it has an irresistible odor. After consistent litter-box habits have been established, I usually transition them over to another corn-based litter, The World's Best Cat Litter. The title says it all.
Help! My kitten won't eat!