Knowing how to wean a stubborn kitten is a chore. While most mother cats will wean their litter naturally, some kittens may defy it and keep nursing.
This stubborn behavior shouldn’t be tolerated as the kitten needs to transition to a kitten formula to supports its growing body.
Also, your kitten should learn how to eat on its own without the mother cat. This is a survival instinct that every kitten needs to learn during the weaning stage.
When to wean a kitten?
A kitten must be weaned from its mother once it reaches four weeks. The process will be slow but must be completed by the time the kitten reaches 8 to 10 weeks.
However, stubborn kittens will keep latching on its mother’s nipple even after the weaning phase.
Remember that the weaning process must be slow and gentle to help the kitten acclimatize to its new diet.
If the mother cat is no longer around, you need to bottle feed the kitten then slowly transition it to a kitten formula. Please read here why does mother cat move only one kitten
Take note that weaning the kitten too early isn’t advisable. It will display inappropriate suckling behavior as it grows older. Your kitty might suckle on pillows, blankets, and even your skin.
As much as possible, let the kitten nurse on its mother for four weeks before introducing wet food. Also, avoid removing the kitten from its litter for at least 12 weeks if possible.
Why do you need to wean a kitten?
Weaning a kitten is necessary so it will survive on its own. It can’t rely on its mother’s milk for life because it will soon dry up. Also, a kitten will need better nutrition as its body grows.
The weaning process must be done properly and at the right time. Too early and it will be unhealthy for the kitten, too late and it will be hard for you.
By the time your cat reaches three months old, it should be feeding on the bowl. This will save you from the hassle of bottle feeding and assisting the kitten. By this time, the kitten should be independent of its mother.
However, if a 4 to 5-week old kitten doesn’t want to eat but its mother’s milk, you may need some extra steps to coax it to wet food.
How to wean kittens from their mother
Weaning a stubborn kitten will need more effort. Still, you should stay patient and never use violence because it will not yield any positive results. Instead, you should do the following:
Isolate the kitten repeatedly
The first thing you can do is to isolate the stubborn kitten away from its litter and mother. Keep the kitty away for 2 to 3 hours before putting it back to the litter. This will get the kitten used to be independent while pushing it to seek food.
Make sure that there are food and water in the room where you will place the kitten. I recommend supervising the kitty to ensure that nothing terrible will happen.
Expect that the stubborn kitten will step on its food and make a mess. Have some paper towels handy to clean after the little feline.
You also have to keep your kitten warm during this point, so always wipe any food or moisture that gets into its fur.
Do this repeatedly until the kitten seeks food on its own. You may also notice that the kitten will stop suckling from its mother after a week or two. Please read here how to stop a cat from moving kitten
Offer soupy food
When weaning a stubborn kitten, you need to give it warm and soupy food. Their teeth are still small, and they may still seek the warmth of their mother’s milk.
Show the kitten the food you prepared and let it approach the bowl on its own. However, the kitten will likely refuse to eat. This is entirely normal, but you should keep offering the food daily. If this didn’t work, you still have one foolproof method to use, which I discussed below.
Guide the kitten toward the food
Sometimes, stubborn kittens just need a little push to eat the food you’re offering. You need to guide the kitten physically into the food bowl by removing it from its mother’s breast. Please read here: How Long Should Kittens Eat Kitten Food
After that, put a small amount of wet food on the kitten’s paws. We do this with the hope that the kitty will groom itself and eat the food in the process. After that, it will get a taste and smell of the food so it will be attracted to eat more.
Once the kitty groomed itself, place more food on its paws until it finishes off an entire meal.
But what if the paw method didn’t work? If you have a very stubborn kitten, the next step is the best option.
Use your finger
Also called as the ‘cheeky finger’ method, this involves dipping your pinky finger into the food then offering it for the kitty to suckle.
This mimics the feeling of the mother cat’s nipples. However, remember that a kitten that’s four weeks old already has small teeth.
If you’re afraid of being bitten, you can use an old pacifier. You can also use the nipple of a kitten feeding bottle to feed the feline.
In between offering your food-laden finger, try putting the bowl near your kitten’s face. This will trick the kitten into eating on its own. However, never push the kitten’s face to the food bowl. Let it lap on it on its own volition.
Keep the mama cat involved
After feeding, let the mama cat be with the kitten. The mother cat will groom the kitten and remove any food bits that may attract ants and pests. It’s essential, especially if you’re using the paw method.
This will also prevent the stubborn kitten from being stressed while being weaned. It will also prevent the mother cat from looking after its kitten. Also, some kittens may not have the ability to eliminate on their own without being stimulated by their mother cat.
How the wean the kitten off the bottle
If you’re weaning a stubborn kitten off the bottle, most steps I discussed apply.
Since the kitten is bottle feeding, it means that the mother cat isn’t around or has rejected its litter. Still, you can leverage the bottle as a way to introduce kitten food to your little feline.
Once the kitten is four weeks old or when it starts chewing on the bottle, it’s time for weaning. Learn more here how much should a 10 week old kitten eat.
To start weaning the stubborn kitten off the bottle, mix the milk formula with kitten food. This will introduce the kitten to the taste.
You can also dip the nipple of the bottle to the kitten food. After that, place a small bowl of kitten food near your pet. This will allow your kitten to seek the smell of the new meal once it identifies it from the bottle.
However, never push your kitten’s face into the food bowl. Although it can be frustrating, doing this will cause the kitten to inhale the mixture, which can cause pneumonia.
Should I force-feed my kitten?
Fading kittens may refuse to eat or even suckle from their mother. In this case, you need to force-feed the kitten by squirting small amounts of liquid food on its mouth. Always be gentle and never hold the kitten with its tummy up. This position will cause the formula to backflow and get into the kitten’s lungs.
If your stubborn kitten spits out the formula, I suggest bringing the kitty to the vet for medical attention. A kitten can easily starve to death if it doesn’t get to eat properly.
Knowing how to wean a stubborn kitten is a trial and error phase. The steps I discussed above will help a lot as long as you practice patience. Always be gentle and give the kitten some time to adjust. If all else fails, you should consult the vet for the best method.
Marco Vasquez is a passionate animal lover and writer with extensive experience in the pet care industry. He has worked with various pets, including dogs, cats, birds, and fish, and deeply understand their unique needs and behaviors. Marco’s love for animals has driven him to become an expert in pet health, nutrition, and behavior, and he is always eager to share his knowledge and insights with others. As a member of the Petcosset team, Marco brings his expertise to help pet owners make informed decisions about the well-being of their little friends. He enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors with his pets in his free time.