Introducing Solid Food

Kittens even from the same litter can differ widely as to when they start accepting solid foods (the weaning process). At about four weeks old, most kittens express some interest in solid foods. Be sure to treat this weaning time as a positive experience, so the kitten will not be frightened. Start by offering some formula on your finger. If the kitten does not lick it off, then you should gently smear the formula on his/her mouth, being careful not to get the formula on his/her nose or restrict its breathing. The kitten will definitely clean himself, and get the formula that way.

It is important to remember how delicate the kitten’s digestive system is and how easily it can get upset. Taking it very slowly, continue to work on the kitten’s lapping skills, by using your finger, and encouraging the kitten to lap up formula from your finger. The next step is to gradually add some slightly warmed baby food to the formula, making a “gruel” out of it. Some of you may have heard that baby food is dangerous to kittens due to the dehydrated onion that is used; the major baby food brands such as Gerbers and Beechnut have eliminated those ingredients from their recipes, and you can use the baby food with confidence. One of the reasons baby food (we recommend the lamb, chicken or turkey flavors...start with lamb and stay with it if possible) works so well with kittens is that it is easy for them to lap up, but more importantly, it has a high degree of odor to it, which stimulates the kitten’s appetite and encourages her to eat, when she is young or sick, and not able to smell properly or understand that she is hungry.

Be patient. Some kittens do not even express interest in solid foods until they are seven weeks old...that is extreme, but it can happen. Continue working with the kitten a minimum of four times a day, and supplement with a bottle or syringe to be sure the kitten is getting adequate nutrition per day.

As the kitten learns to eat solids, you want to gradually introduce the wet food that you want to have your kitten eat, such as Iams Lamb and Rice canned food. Lamb and rice is popular as it is the easiest mixture for kittens to digest. Keep the “gruel” very moist with bottled water or Pedialyte, and gradually decrease the amount of baby food and increase the amount of canned cat food. Also, be sure you are offering a high quality, scientifically formulated dry food for your kittens available at ALL TIMES (e.g. Purina Kitten Chow). Some kittens will actually prefer the dry food to the wet food, and will enjoy teething and crunching on the small kibble pieces.