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Why Won’t My Cat Wean Her Kittens? (Is This Unusual?)

If your mother cat is not weaning the kittens you may be getting concerned and wondering if it will ever get round to it…

Why won’t my cat wean her kittens?

If you have noticed that your cat isn’t weaning its kittens it could simply be because she feels that it is not the correct time for this. The mother knows what is best for them and even if it’s not within your expectation of 3-4 weeks, she may feel they need more time.

So, now you know. But, how long does this wearing usually take? Does the mom cat always d this weaning? How can you wean a stubborn kitten? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

What is weaning?

Weaning is a way of transitioning your kitten from its mother’s milk to solid cat food. It is required to turn them into mature cats and make them more independent. Cat breeders look forward to this ending so they can find new homes for kittens.

Now that you know what weening is I will go on to explain how you ween a stubborn kitten, how to wean a bottle-fed kitten (orphaned), and much more, keep reading…

Does Mom Cat wean kittens?

Mom cats will typically wean their kittens. however, this is not always possible and a human will have to step in. But, the expectation, and preferred method, is for the mom cat to do it.

If a cat is not weaned by its mother it could have separation issues in the future. This can manifest into anxiety and other behavioral issues.

Why is Weaning needed?

Why wont my cat wean her kittens?

A white mother cat feeding her kittens.

You may be wondering why this is even required. It’s a good question. However, there are scenarios where weaning is legitimately needed.

For example, the kitten may be orphaned and removed from its mother (more on this later) or the mother may have issues with her milk flow.

How long does it take for a mother cat to wean her kittens?

It can take a kitten 4-6 weeks for kittens to be weaned. This is regardless of them taking the bottle from you or being fed directly from their mother. It takes some patience and can’t be rushed.

Some kittens will wean quicker than others as you can imagine. It largely depends on their personality and how well developed they are physically and mentally.

At what age do they start weaning?

The weaning process can start as early as 4 weeks old. However, if they are orphaned from their mother, this could even be earlier.

You may notice that a kitten will try to wean itself automatically by trying to eat her mother’s food. The usual response from their mother is to push the kids out of the way until they are ready for solid food.

How can you wean a stubborn kitten yourself?

From time to time you may encounter a kitten or a selection of kittens that are being very stubborn. And, for some reason, it will not wean no matter what you try.

For that reason, you may be wondering how you keep them happy and comfortable (Click here to see my best cat beds for kittens).  In particular, you may be keen to wean them off their mother’s milk and transition them. Let me explain how this is done for a stubborn cat…

01. Showing them the food.

The first part of the process is literally just presenting your kittens with the food.

The idea is to get some kitten food, which is typically a paste-like substance, and add some warm or hot water. The objective is to get a few eager ones to react and take you up on the offer.

However, you will likely get some stubborn ones that still will not respond. But, don’t worry we have a plan for that later.

02. Guidance

You will probably find that there are still a few stubborn ones that do not want to take the bait. For that reason, you need to guide them towards the food, physically. I mean literally pick the kitten up (would it fight it? click here) and place them next to the bowl, are you with me?

In addition to this, you need to actually put a small amount of food on their paws. What!? I get it, you may be wondering why you would do such a thing. The reality is, you are hoping that when they start grooming and licking themselves,  it will get a taste and continue eating it, are you with me?

03. Get mommy involved

At this stage, if they still haven’t responded to the persuasion and they have this food on their paws. It is a good idea to get their mother involved. The reason for this is, this will help them to clean up and it will make them feel secure again.

You may think to yourself that allowing the mother to get involved is going back a step, right? Well, no, the reassurance of the mother will keep them from being traumatized and give you another chance at a later stage.

04. Repetition (& the cheeky finger method)

You have to understand that the chances are you will not get this correct the first time or even the third. Repetition is the key. In addition to this, I will also explain why using the “cheeky finger” is a top tip.

The “cheeky finger” trick…

Basically, let’s step back a second, how will your kitten act in real life? Sucking on mummies teet, right? So, you need to try your best to imitate this, are you with me?

Therefore, you need to whip out your pinky and put some tempting food on it. The idea is to get the kitten to start lapping up the food off it and gradually move one step further to weening off the mil, are you with me?

05. Focus on the Winners!

The reality is, out of a litter you will not get all of them converted right away. This is just the way it is. But, to be honest, you do not need all of them at once.


Simple, once you have a few winners that grasp it right away, they will naturally entice their siblings to try it as well, in time. So, be patient, focus on weening the winners and, in time, the others will follow suit.

Why you should ween them slowly…

You may be wondering how long this process takes, and if there are any opportunities to speed it up. The reality is, you shouldn’t focus on speed with this.


Well, if you try and speed through the process and force nature to skip steps it can cause havoc with the mother cat. Basically, nature has a way of providing enough milk for her kittens at the right time (much like our mothers did for us, assuming you were breastfed that is).

If you suddenly speed up a kitten and ween them off their mother’s milk fast, this could cause issues with her milk production. But more importantly inflammation of her mammary glands.

This can be painful and avoidable if you take your time and let the kittens ween in their own time.

Weening bottle-fed kittens

A kitten in its owners hand.

A kitten in its owner’s hand.

If you have an orphaned cat, the weening process may be slightly different. Simply because you won’t have their mother there to support the process. So, I am going to provide some steps you can take to ween her off the bottle milk.

01. Gently Offering an alternative

The first step is simply offering her an alternative food source. This is a kitten milk replacement that can ease them into the process.

The trick here is to get it to feed in a similar way it would when it was being nursed by its mother.

02. Persist & keep a bottle ready

There is a chance that she might get frustrated with the offering. So you need to be prepared with a backup bottle, just in case.

03. Mixing the Meal replacement

Once your kitten starts to take the meal replacement from the bowl, you can start gradually mixing it with everyday cat food, known as gruel (Click here to learn how to make it), such as normal cat food. However, start slowly. The idea is, in time, to gradually increase the amount of real food. If all goes well, by the end your kitten should be fully weaned off the bottled milk.

How does a mother kitten (Queen) wean her kittens?

You may be wondering how this weaning process happens in real life, without the intervention of us humans, right?

Usually, the mother kitten will start weaning them when they are about four weeks old. This typically goes on for about one month. During this time there is a gradual process of moving them from nursing her milk to actually eating solid foods.

During this time the kitten starts to have liquid food and will gradually have more liquid food than their mother’s milk. Slowly but surely they will reduce the ratio of the mother’s milk to liquid food.

Examples of this watered-down food could be moistened kibble or water down cat food.  At the end of the process, the kitchen will have successfully weaned from their mother’s milk to solid cat food. This is a critical part of their development and one step closer to being an adult.

Related Questions:

In this section I will answer some related questions to kitten weaning:

What to do when your cat keeps moving her kittens?

If your cat keeps moving its kittens and this is inconvenient for you, or dangerous in your home, you may need to keep her in one room by keeping the door closed. But, if this is the case you will need to offer some other bedding options so she has some flexibility.

This could be as simple as offering another cat bed (Click here to see why I love this one), or some other bedding.

Can I move my cat’s newborn kittens?

It is not a good idea to move the newborn kittens. However, sometimes people have no choice. But, if it can be avoided you should not move them. This is because it can antagonize the mother or make her feel unfortable.

Lindsey Browlingdon