Dear Doctor: Timing the weaning


Q. We have taken in a cat off the street who turned out to be pregnant. That’s okay with us. She just gave birth to four beautiful kittens, and we know we will be able to adopt them out and can hold onto them until loving homes have been secured. But at what age should kittens be weaned? We don’t want to transition them to solid food too early.

Adele Robbins
Maspeth, New York

Dear Ms. Robbins,

A. Weaning should begin at 3 to 4 weeks of age. The kittens can be offered cat food that has been moistened with water or kitten milk replacer.

The weaning process will be gradual. At first, 95 percent of the kittens’ calories will be provided via nursing. The balance will then keep shifting. Completion of weaning is different for different kittens, but most will be completely off mother’s milk somewhere between six and nine weeks.

You definitely don’t want to wean too soon. Mother’s milk allows for proper growth and development of the immune system. Weaning too soon combined with removal from the mother for early adoption can also have negative social impacts. Kittens learn to play, use a litter box, and adjust to other aspects of daily living by remaining with their mother for the first couple of months or so.



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