Once kittens grow past four weeks, they’re no longer considered neonatal. (If you’ve been raising the kittens for a few weeks already, congratulations—the hardest part is over!) Kittens at this age will start weaning (meaning they’ll slowly start to eat solid food), and you can start litter box training.
|Weight:||440-470 grams/15.5-16.6 ounces|
|Teeth:||Canines and incisors in|
Kittens are steady on their feet and hold their tails up. They will start to explore their surroundings, and play frequently with each other, toys, and people.
Weaning starts at about four weeks old. Mix kitten formula with wet food, and either let the kittens eat it themselves from a dish or feed them the mixture with the bottle. Eventually, they’ll start eating more food and less formula. Once they can eat wet food, start mixing the formula with dry food, too. Once they start eating solid food, make sure you always provide them with water.
For bottle feeding, continue to use specific kitten bottles. Feed kittens on their stomachs—not their backs—and tilt the bottle. After they’re done eating, you need to burp them. Put them on your shoulder or on their stomachs and pat them gently until they burp. Clean kittens using a warm, damp washcloth after you feed them.
Two or three times a day
Kittens can regulate their own temperature at four to five weeks old, but you should still provide a source of heat that they can go to as needed. They will most likely be roaming from the nest at this point because they want to explore.
Start litter box training, if you haven’t already. Provide them with a small, shallow litter pan with non-clumping litter. Show kittens the litter box, and they should quickly start using it out of instinct. To help them out, put in one of the cotton balls that you used to help them urinate.
For more on caring for kittens younger than four weeks old, including health concerns, go to Caring for Neonatal Kittens.
Once kittens show interest in their surroundings and interact with their littermates, people, and toys, you can start socializing them.
Food is a great tool to socialize kittens. When you feed the kittens wet food, stay in the room so they associate you with food and start to trust you. Over time, move the food plate closer to your body while you sit in the room, until the plate is in your lap and the kittens are comfortable crawling on you to get to it.
Pet the kittens for the first time while they’re eating so they stay put, and build up to holding the kittens, rewarding them with some canned cat food. Don’t allow the kittens to play with your hand, or bite or scratch you—it will teach kittens that biting is OK.
Playing is an important part of kitten socialization because it helps them bond with each other and build confidence around people. Play with kittens for at least two hours a day (all together or broken up). Take time to socialize each of the kittens in a litter individually. At this age, kittens will love to play with toys, and you should encourage that!
For more about socializing kittens, visit alleycat.org/Socialization.