When Do Kittens Stop Nursing? Know the Best Time to Introduce Solid Food
When it is your first time to take care of newborn kittens, you may possibly be worrying about a lot of things, particularly when it comes to feeding or nutrition. Questions such as what do kittens need, when do kittens stop nursing, or how to wean them off milk are among the first information you need to learn.
For sure, milk remains to be the best option and is considered as the foundation to raising utterly healthy kittens. As soon as they are born, they should start nursing if the mother cat is in good condition. Let me walk you through the important stages of nursing – when to start it, when it normally stops, and how weaning should be carried out.
The Beginning of Nursing
Kittens begin nursing within the first 12 to 24 hours of birth. Typically, the mother cat begins nursing their kittens around 40 minutes after giving birth. As with humans, the kitten’s first milk is called the colostrum. It is essential for kittens to consume colostrum as it is rich in antibodies that are essential in developing an early stage defense against ailments.
In cases when the mother kitten has a large litter of kittens, you should ensure that each kitten should have some of the milk. According to Dr. Jules Benson of Petplan, a veterinary service provider, having some of the mother cat’s milk is better than not having any at all.
Another option is by giving the kittens formula. When mother cats are sick or in a condition where she could not supply the nutritional needs of the cats, formula milk (either commercially available or created from scratch) can be provided.
The End of Nursing
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a mother cat typically stops nursing their kittens when they are around 4 weeks old. This is now the cue for the weaning process to begin. The entire process generally lasts for about a month. In short, kittens are completely weaned when they are about 2-2.5 months old (8-10 weeks).
Weaning does not typically begin at an extremely young age. The introduction of food is given at a stage when the kittens are able to completely open their eyes and have better focus. Another indication that your kittens are ready for solid food is when they can stand steady on their feet.
The Weaning Process
To begin the weaning process, it is recommended that you mix a bit of milk or formula to the food. This would allow the kittens to recognize the taste. A good trick is to smear the food and milk mixture around the mouth and let the kitten get used to the taste as shown in this video.
From 4th to 5th week, moistened dry food should be given. To ensure that the kitten gets sufficient calories, you may still supplement the meal with more milk. On the next two weeks, the kittens should begin to nibble. The entire weaning process should be completed by the 8th week.
Other Reasons Cats Stop Nursing Kittens
You may be wondering – is the age the only factor that prompts mother kittens to stop nursing their babies? The answer is NO. The question “when do kittens stop nursing?” can be answered by the conditions indicated below. Mother cats typically stop feeding their kittens naturally when they have the following conditions:
Reason #01: Mastitis
Nursing mother cats may develop a mammary gland infection called mastitis. The nipple becomes swollen and extremely sensitive to touch prompting them to reject the kittens. One reason is that tissues of the mammary glands can scratch by kittens.
Reason #02: Large Litter Size
A large litter size may likewise be a reason for rejection putting an abrupt end to nursing. When there are too many kittens, the mother can reject other kittens to save some for the babies that need feeding as well. This behavior can be demonstrated by the mother cat even within just 24 hours after giving birth.
Reason #03: Premature Mother Kitten
As with humans, when the cat is too young to become a mother, she is yet to develop her own maternal skills. This could generally get disinterested with her own kitten and unable to nurse them well. Another reason is that she may be physically traumatized during birth which may prompt her to ignore her own kittens.
The question - “when do kittens stop nursing” can be directly answered with ‘on the 4th week’.However, it is also important to know that there are conditions which could lead to the abrupt end of nursing. This means that mother cats may stop nursing their kittens earlier than expected. In this case, it is imperative to know how to slowly introduce the right kitten food when nursing ends.