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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

All About Weaning kittens

The best time to separate a kitten from its mother is between
seven and eight weeks of age. It is at this point that weaning
has been completed (the switch from nursing mother's milk to
eating solid food) and a kitten can best adjust to living in a
strange home with a new family. If taken away too early, kittens
may have to be bottle-fed by their new families and frequently
behave badly due to premature departure from the nest.

Kittens need milk feeding for the first four to five weeks of
life, so formula needs to be provided for a newborn kitten in
cases where the mother cat is unable to nurse it. If a kitten is
orphaned when it's two weeks old, for example, it needs to be
bottle-fed for at least another two weeks until it can be
introduced to solid food at four weeks.

The milk produced by the queen in the first hours following delivery
contains colostrum, which is rich in protective antibodies that can
defend a kitten against illness during the first three months of life.

Here are some things to look out for with kittens who are
orphaned too early: First, they tend to have oral fixations
throughout their lives--they either suckle objects, such as
blankets or their new parent (you, the pet owner) or themselves.

Many cats will suck on their owner's fingers, hair or skin
whenever given the chance. This may go on for their whole lives!
Most owners seem not to mind, however. Cats who lick themselves
can do so to the point of baldness, usually on their bellies or
sides. Another possible result of early adoption is a kitten who
is slow to learn or one who displays aggressive behavior.

Kittens who are separated from their mother when older than seven
or eight weeks will have a harder time accepting the new family,
as they have become accustomed to their mother and siblings.

In order to make this transition easy for the kittens, you should
start introducing kitten food early on. At about four weeks of
age start mixing a good quality kitten food with milk or water,
and soak it until it resembles oatmeal. Place the food in a
shallow bowl and stimulate the kittens to eat it by placing a bit
of the food in their mouths. Once the kittens are eating well out
of the bowl it is safe to stop the nursing with the queen.

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