Weaning Kittens is a fairly easy process, but must be done correctly for the health of the kittens AND their Mom. Follow these simple steps and your care of kittens will aid in good health for them.
When the kittens are between 3 and 4 weeks of age, it is time to begin the process of weaning them. It is time to teach the kittens to eat from a dish. I often begin by offering milk replacer (do NOT give cow's milk to kittens) in a VERY shallow dish. As they learn to drink the liquid, I then start to add a bit of canned kitten food and mix it to make a gruel. The gruel should be served at room temperature or slighter warmer, not cold and certainly not too hot.
When you are weaning kittens, you can add into the kitten formula a bit of canned or dry kitten food. However, you must be very careful about crushing the dry food really well. Certainly this can be done with a fork or spoon, but I love to use my blender. Place a high quality dry kitten food in the blender with kitten milk replacer and hot water. Blend these ingredients together until the consistency is like that of a jar of human baby food or infant cereal. The food you mix with the milk replacer when you are weaning kittens must be KITTEN food. It contains the high amount of protein needed to meet the kittens' large energy requirements. Sometimes the kittens will begin eating and drinking water by imitating their mom. More likely, you'll need to put a dab of the gruel on the end of your finger and offer it to the kitten or even rub it on her mouth or the tip of her tongue. Weaning kittns is easy, but they must be directed a bit by you or they will go on nursing from Mom quite happily for some time.
Don't be alarmed if the kittens walk in the mixture. This is actually an excellent way for them to learn to eat. If they walk in it, they will then lick it off their paws and learn that it tastes good and they want more. When weaning kittens, the kittens should receive 3-4 meals a day of this to start. By five weeks old, they should be getting used to their new diet. As the kitten gets comfortable eating the gruel, you will want to slowly decrease the amount of formula in the mix. A secure shallow water dish should also be available at least part of the day even though the "gruel" is largely water.
By the time the kittens are 6-8 weeks of age, they should be very able to eat straight canned kitten food. When that time comes, I strongly recommend that you purchase a good brand of kitten food and I recommend you feed only canned.
Anytime you feed canned food, be sure and cover any in the can that you don't use and refrigerate it immediately. When you want to serve the remainder of the can, be sure and let it warm to room temperature or warm it in a microwave but just for a few seconds until it is warm to the touch, not too cold and not too hot.
Do not leave uneaten canned food out on the plate too long. It can go bad very quickly. Also, cats are reluctant to eat canned food when it is not really fresh. To avoid having food left on the plate, give smaller meals more often, as many as 4 to 5 feedings a day.
As the kittens eat more solid food, they may be separated from their mom for longer periods of time. This is not only good for the kittens, but also for Mom, who needs to have the weaning process decreased slowly so that she doesn't develop mastitis.
If a kitten has an upper respiratory infection (a "cold"), they may lose their sense of smell. Cats need to be able to smell their food to eat well. If your kitten gets a cold (sneezing, runny nose,) see the vet right away. Kittens can die of simple colds that would barely affect an older cat. Also, keep the nose area clean and provide fresh food several times a day.
It is very important to know that the kittens are thriving and gaining weight. The best way to do that is to purchase a pediatric scale. It costs a bit of extra money, but it is so worth it.
So you see, weaning kittens isn't difficult. It just requires a little effort on your part and if you follow the above process, you will be quite successful.