Generally, people can separate kittens from their mothers, a process called weaning, when the kittens are 4 weeks old. Sometimes kittens are not ready to leave their mothers at the 4-week mark, which extends the separation process. Cat owners can look for several signs indicating kittens are ready to leave their mothers and begin eating solid foods.
Kittens, like many mammals, begin life with a liquid diet, as they consume only their mother's milk. However, kittens grow quickly and display physical signs that they are ready to eat solid foods. Kittens can safely eat more diverse foods when they can stand on their own, open their eyes and focus their gaze.
When separating young cats from their mothers, progress slowly. Cat owners may begin weaning by removing kittens from their mother's side for brief periods of time, starting with just a few hours each day. Although kittens do need to gain independence, they learn important life skills from their mother, such as using a litter box and socializing, which makes premature or prolonged removal from their mothers potentially harmful.
When first weaning, kittens drink from a bottle. A bowl with replacement milk, which excludes cow's milk, comes next. Owners may feed kittens gruel using watered down cat food and replacement milk and then gradually move to drier, harder food over the following weeks. By the 10-week mark, kittens should be eating dry kitten food.