Like humans, mothers are key to the development and well-being of newborn-kittens. But how do you know if a new kitten might have left their mama cat too early?
Other than receiving crucial nutrients from their mother's milk, newborn-kittens also need their mothers to develop properly and learn during these very early weeks of life, i.e. learning invaluable social skills from playing with their littermates.
According to The Spruce Pets, a mother cat will usually start weaning off their litter of kittens from their milk naturally at four weeks of age. However, this doesn't mean that the new kitten is ready to go to a new home -- they still need to go through the rest of the weaning process: which usually continues for another month or so -- until the young kittens are fully weaned at between eight and 10 weeks of age.
At eight weeks, the young kittens can be introduced to solid foods.
How to Tell When Kittens Leave Their Mom Too Early
If you are new owners and bringing a kitten home, it's important to be vigilant and look out for any "bad" cat behaviors and check if there's a possibility that your new feline friend might have left their mama cat too early, other than taking your new kitten to the vet for their vaccinations of course -- after all, this might hinder your kitty growing into a healthy adult cat! (But don't worry, there are still things you can do to help your kitten grow, like early socialization!)
One of the ways you can tell that your kitten was taken from the mother cat too early is that they will be prone to developing health issues. As newborn-kittens get all their nutrients from their mother's milk, kittens weaned too soon may not get all the necessary antibodies from their mama's milk -- making them likely to have stunted growth and various illnesses. Try bottle-feeding a mom's milk replacement to your "orphaned kittens."
Another sign might be if your new little feline friend exemplifies unwanted cat behaviors like aggression and fear. Kittens learn the right behaviors from both their mothers and littermates, so those who are taken away too early wouldn't have learned how to play well with others and will display aggressive and fearful behaviors, such as when their space is invaded.
They might also have a little difficulty adjusting to being an actual cat. As kittens learn how to be a well-adjusted older cat primarily from their mothers, kittens that have been taken away from their mamas too early might have difficulty doing cat things: like grooming themselves properly or not knowing how to use a litter box.
Do you suspect your kitten might have left their mother too early? Let us know on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!