Weaning a kitten or puppy is the process of transitioning the baby from the mother’s milk to solid food. It is an important part of the baby’s development, and needs to be done at the right time and in the right way. Weaning can be a stressful thing if not managed as a smooth transition to solid food.
What age should I start weaning?
Most puppies and kittens begin to need more nutrients than mom can provide at three to four weeks of age. (There are some exceptions to this, including smaller breeds, when a litter is orphaned, or mom quits producing milk.) 4 weeks of age is the appropriate time you should start weaning.
What should I be feeding?
The most important thing to remember is to feed kibble that is specifically designed for kittens and puppies. You will mix this with formula. (There are quite a few formulas on the market, so be sure to ask your veterinarian which one is recommended.) You will mix the formula and the food together to form a “gruel” that the puppies and kittens can eat.
Remember, they don’t have all their teeth yet, so they need softened food, like mush, to be able to eat properly. It is always a good idea to moisten any dry food you use and let it soak for 15-20 minutes, then mix it with the formula before feeding. This allows the food to soften enough for the babies to eat it. Some people choose to use dry kibble along with canned dog food, and that is okay. Just remember the goal is to have the puppy or kitten eating dry food at the end of the weaning process.
What is the schedule until they can eat straight dry kibble?
Weeks 4-5: Give wet or moistened dry food, mixed with formula. You can also supplement with strait formula if you think the puppy or kitten is not eating enough of the gruel. The most important thing is to make sure they are eating enough to get the proper nutrition. (The ideal ratio during this time is 75% formula with 25% kibble.)
Weeks 5-6: You can use less formula and water, leaving more of the gruel as dry feed. (The ideal ratio during this time is 50% formula and 50% kibble.)
Weeks 6-7: This is the time when the puppies and kittens should be eating straight solid food. (The ideal ratio during this time is 75% kibble and 25% formula.)
Week 8: They should be completely weaned at this age.
Any other suggestions?
You will slowly begin using less formula and more dry food. One thing you will want to do is start leaving a bowl of just dry food out as well. This happens around 2 weeks after the weaning process begins.
You will want to use a flat “pan” that is easy for the kittens and puppies to eat out of. The more shallow the better.
It is a good idea to take the mom away during feeding times. This allows the babies to eat on their own without mothers’ interference. You can also start locking mom away from the puppies or kittens during the day, and then putting her back with them at night. This is only after they are eating the gruel well and on their own.
Remember, this can be a messy thing! Putting butcher paper or newspaper down under the pans can help make clean up easier. Be patient, and remember, soon enough your babies will be all grown up!