This is a hard thing for a kitten who has become accustomed to bottle feeding, and he may be reluctant to give it up at first. Start with putting a little formula mixed with canned kitten food (so it’s a milkshake-type consistency) in a shallow saucer. Don’t forget to warm it up a little. Try to get the kitten to lick it off your finger (to teach him to lick it out of the saucer). Once he’s eating out of the saucer, decrease the amount of formula until he’s just eating the canned kitten food. Some kittens go right from the bottle to eating dry kitten food, so make sure and offer that as well. During the weaning process, the kitten may walk through his food and make an almighty mess with it – this is a natural act of kitten curiosity with his new food. Put newspaper or pads under the plates to keep the mess to a minimum. Don’t forget to offer a small bowl of fresh water everyday. If you think he’s eating but not drinking, you may syringe water into his mouth a few times a day until he starts drinking on his own.
6 to 7 weeks
At 6 weeks old, he should make his first visit to the veterinarian. If he had any colostrum from his mother after birth, his passive immunity will start to wear off now. He may receive his first feline
distemper vaccine at this age, depending on your hospital’s vaccination protocol. The kitten should be completely weaning and eating from a bowl by 7 weeks old. He will be running and playing well now. He will also start to learn basic hunting and stalking moves, especially if he has another cat to play with. Toys start to become very fun – but avoid any string, yarn, or small pieces that the kitten may swallow. Remember, kittens are very curious and will use their mouths to explore new objects, just like human babies. Continue socializing the kitten by carrying him around, turning him over on his back, grooming him, talking to him or petting him while he’s eating, and examining his ears, mouth, and under his tail. The more different situations he is exposed to now will increase his ability to cope with new things later on.
If you aren’t planning on keeping the kitten, he can be placed in a new home now. Kittens reared by their mothers should stay with her until 10-12 weeks of age, but hand-raised kittens can go between 8-9 weeks. He will receive another distemper vaccine (or his first now, depending on the protocol), and should also be tested for feline leukemia and FIV.
There are few things more rewarding than hand-raising a newborn kitten. The information in this guide should not replace or override your veterinarian’s recommendations – it is meant as a general guideline for hand-raising kittens. If, at any point, your kitten doesn’t seem “right”, consult your veterinarian.