Kittens, when around 4 weeks of age, start to be introduced to many, many new things – from new food to new things in their surroundings. This is a very fun, crucial and potentially dangerous time for them.
When your kitten is around 4 weeks old, you can start offering him something other than the bottle to prepare to wean him to kitten food. Be prepared though – he will get VERY messy for the first little while until he figures out how to drink/eat properly.
Most foster parents will offer the kitten a saucer with the milk as well as a flat plate with some “kitten gruel” (as I call it) – basically it’s milk with kitten canned food mixed together to make a soup of sorts. Others just go straight to the kitten canned with some warm water mixed in. There is no right or wrong formula to offer, just be sure you are using kitten milk and/or kitten food. Cow’s milk may give the kittens diarrhea and cause dehydration while an adult food is not sufficient in vital nutrients the kitten will need for growth and development.
If you have multiple kittens in the litter, be sure to monitor each kitten at feeding time to be sure everyone is getting their fair share. There’s always at least one “food bully” in the mix that will try to prevent the others from eating. You should pay extra attention to your smallest (or “runt”) to be sure he is eating enough food.
With my most recent litter, I would feed the “big kittens” and take the smallest out of the crate and feed her separately as the others always pushed her away from the bowls. Once I was sure she had enough, I put her & any of her remaining food in with the rest of the litter. After the first day of doing this, she stopped trying to squeeze in to get to the other bowls and just waited for me to take her out for her own bowl.
Some kittens take right to eating on their own with little to no need for a bottle. Others will need supplemental bottle feedings to be sure they are getting enough to eat.
Hopefully all of the kittens will wean within about 1 week although some take longer, but they should all be eating well on their own by the time they are 6 weeks old.
Litter Box Training
You will want to use a very shallow box (like those cases the kitten food comes in) for their litter as their tiny, unsteady legs don’t let them climb very high. Also, you want to make sure to use a NON-CLUMPING LITTER as kittens tend to eat litter when they first explore the box. Clumping litter, when ingested, can become a serious medical issue for the kittens.
You may need to show the kittens how to route around & dig in the box the first couple times – place them in the litter box and gently move their front foot in a digging motion. Also, for the first little bit, when they miss the box with a bowel movement, place the offending mess into the litter box – this helps them to learn where it should go and should hope to decrease or eliminate the amount of misses they have.
Kittens are pretty amazing little things, as they seem to train themselves to a litterbox fairly easily. There will still be some “misses,” but the majority should be in the box within the first couple days of being introduced to it.