When to Separate a Kitten from Its Mother

The mother's relationship with her kittens is fundamental, otherwise the kittens' lives could be at risk.
When to Separate a Kitten from Its Mother

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 25 February, 2023

Do you have kittens at home? Are they ready to find a home? Separating a mother from her kitten can be a bit heartbreaking, perhaps more so for you than for her. However, it’s always good to know when is the best time to do it and how to proceed. In this article, we’ll bring you some tips to separate a kitten from its mother causing as little trauma as possible.

Kitten development

Separate a kitten.

From birth to two weeks of age, kittens can be mistaken for little furry balls. They can’t do much more than roll around their mother, as they depend on her for everything. Feeding, bathing… everything depends on the mother cat.

When kittens reach their third week of age you’ll notice that they can open their eyes and they gradually begin to explore their environment. At this age, they begin to smell, touch and taste everything in sight, including their siblings and some solid foods.

The size of the bed the kittens and their mother sleep in is very important. Generally, first-time mothers have a maximum of three or four kittens, although some experienced cats can have as many as 10 or 12 kittens in a litter.

As a general rule, the number of kittens in a litter is what determines how quickly the kittens can leave the mother. The larger the family, the sooner they’ll learn to be independent and no longer depend on their mother.

Kittens learn to play and fight faster if they’re surrounded by brothers and sisters; they also learn to hunt, eat and play better when they come from large litters.

The importance of mother’s milk

The mother of the kittens produces milk that contains everything they need for their first days of life. Within the lactation, the most important part is the colostrum, because this liquid provides the necessary defenses for the little cats. The only problem it’s only produced during the first few days that the cat feeds her children.

Over time, the cat’s milk loses some of its qualities, but maintains its nutritional quality. For this reason, no kitten should be separated from its mother prematurely, otherwise it will become weak and could have developmental problems.

When can kittens be given solid food?

The cat’s milk is essential for the kittens’ development. However, solid food provides them with protein, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are necessary for kittens to grow into healthy adults. Therefore, it is advisable to introduce solid food as soon as you notice kittens stealing food from their mum.

If you have already noticed this behavior, fill a small bowl with a little food and water and let the kittens eat until they’re satisfied.

By the time kittens are two months old they will have developed teeth. At this time, add a handful of dry food to their dish so they can get used to different tastes and textures.

When to separate a kitten from its mother

How to separate a kitten.

The transition from milk to solid food is the most important step in the weaning process. Therefore, little by little, introduce other types of food into your kitten’s diet. The weaning process should be slow, so, from the first month of life, you can offer the kittens a little food so that they aren’t completely dependent on their mother’s milk. Don’t give the kittens cow’s milk because it can cause diarrhea.

In order to separate a kitten from its mother, every day for a few minutes, pick up each kitten and take it to a quiet room away from its siblings and mother. To remove the kittens, wait for the cat to move away from her kittens. If she doesn’t leave, offer her a bowl of food. And once she has distanced herself, try to pick up the kittens when she is distracted.

Give the kitten some toys to play with and encourage her to walk and explore on her own. Make sure she’s out of sight and earshot of the litter. And reward the situation with a tasty treat!

Separation can be started when the kitten is three months old. At that age, it’s strong enough to move away from its mother.

It’s important to socialize kittens as young as possible. This means touching them, and petting them frequently. This is especially crucial for them, so they can get used to people. In that way, when they have to leave home, they won’t hide and you can give them to their new family without much trouble.

Finally, place kittens in pet-loving, responsible homes. And, as for the mother, it’s best to go to your veterinarian and have her neutered to avoid unwanted litters.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.