Weaning kittens and leaving the mother
Between four and twelve weeks kittens learn to become independent and can be weaned away from dependency on the mother
When can kittens be separated?
Although some breeders let their kittens go at around 8 weeks, 12 weeks is generally a good point to separate kittens from their mother and litter. The period of time between complete dependence on the mother (the first four weeks) and independence at 12 weeks is the 'weaning' stage.
During the first few weeks, the mothers milk provides all the nutrition the kittens need, including vital compounds to help prevent illness and promote growth. At around four weeks the kittens will become interested in solid foods, and should be encouraged as the mother cannot continue to expend energy feeding her litter. Encouragement can be done by soaking dry kitten food in a kitten-milk formula, this will help the kittens make the transition from milk to dry foods. After the transition feed your kittens on proper kitten food appropriate for their age. Kittens will need feeding more often than adults since they have greater nutrient requirements and smaller digestive systems, so provide food several times a day.
Vets and vaccinations
It is worth getting your vet to visit and see the kittens straight after birth, and they can also advise about timings of vaccination and worming (normally around 6-8 weeks) and neutering as well as microchipping.
Being alone without mum is difficult, but part of growing up
During the first few weeks a mother will rarely leave her litter, between two and four weeks she will stay with them for most of the time and after four weeks she will gradually spend more time away. At some point the mother may even distance herself from the kittens and even shun them when they get too close. This should not be viewed as hostility, but rather the mother encouraging independence in her offspring.
The amount of interaction kittens get with humans during the four to twelve week stage has a direct effect on their attitude towards humans as they mature. If a kitten has had lots of play time and affection from several different humans during this stage, it will grow up being confident around humans. When the time comes to separate a kitten from its litter and mother, it will depend on humans for reassurance so a kitten which is used to humans will find the transition a lot smoother.
Kitten to Cat
Once a kitten reaches 12 weeks and is separated from its litter, it has got through the most difficult part and can spend the next 8 months playing, sleeping, eating and growing into an adult cat. Kittens grow most rapidly during the first 20-28 weeks, then growth steadily slows until they reach full size at about a year old. During this year they should be fed specialist kitten foods before progressing onto standard adult foods.