When can Kittens be separated from their mothers?
It’s a hotly debated topic, and it can be a little subjective, depending on who you talk to. Understandably, it can also be an emotional decision. It certainly is a decision none of us take lightly. From time to time, as we photograph cats around Melbourne, we often hear owners and foster-carers come up with their own theories.
Let’s start with ‘weaning’. By any definition from the Veterinary community, a kitten is fully weaned when it no longer depends on drinking its mother’s milk at all. Put another way, Kittens may not need their mother’s milk, but it does not stop them returning for a habitual ‘top-up’ from time to time.
Generally, a Kitten will drink its mother’s milk as its only source of nutrition for the first five to six weeks of life. After this, there will be a four to five week period where solid food will start to be eaten. During this time, the frequency of suckling will (very) slowly diminish. However the duration of suckling doesn’t seem to change at all during weaning. At least not until their mother is so sore or impatient with the experience. Then a suckling session is suddenly stopped at source!
The ability of a kitten to focus on objects close-up, is the most likely trigger for them to seek solid food. There is a complete myth that providing a small amount of cow’s milk will speed up the weaning process at the age of five or six weeks. This is wrong on two counts:
- there is no scientific evidence that weaning is made any shorter through plentiful supply of alternative forms of milk. This includes ‘kitten milk’ purchased from the supermarket shelves
- Even no-fat cows’ milk contains lactose. All cats of all breeds have a degree of lactose intolerance. In kittens, this intolerance can lead to serious digestive problems or severe infections
There really is no alternative to letting nature take its course!
And now for the subjective part of this article. If you ask any Vet, owner or carer – they will have slightly different views on when a kitten can be safely separated from their mother. Some say this is possible when solid food is the main form of nutrition after six weeks. Others prefer to wait until solid food is the only form of nutrition. This point is generally reached after nine to ten weeks of age.
Whatever point of view you believe in, there comes a time when it just feels ‘right’ to separate them. This will probably be for the purposes of adoption into a new household. It is not unusual for a mother cat to start treating her offspring as any other adult sibling or stranger in the home. Again, this is a clear signal for separation, but may be just a temporary ‘blip’ in domestic feline relations :o)
Have a look below at some of our more recent examples of ‘not-yet independent’ Kitten Photography here in Melbourne …
For more information on Kittens gaining their independence – and in particular on weaning kittens, we suggest you have a look here.
Separation – Cat Photography Melbourne