Newborn kittens solely rely on their mother for their nourishment and sustenance. These kittens are totally helpless, so it is up to their mother to provide not only food but also protection, safety, and warmth. It is also the mother cat that keeps her kittens clean by licking them.
As kittens grow older, their mother will start to introduce the basics, including eating from a bowl and encouraging her kittens to investigate their surroundings. It is also during this time that they learn natural feline behaviors and undergo socialization.
Socialization involves opportunities where kittens interact with their littermates and humans. This is also a good time to expose them to different sights, sounds, scents, etc. so they will be able to adjust to various situations they will encounter later in life.
The queen (mother cat) will start weaning her kittens by the time they are 4-6 weeks old. Her milk supply will start to dwindle until the kittens stop relying on their mother’s milk for nutrition. By this time, they are eating only solid food. However, the kittens are not yet ready to be weaned because they should have their first vaccinations before going to their forever homes, something that cannot be accomplished at 8 weeks old.
It is for this reason that many experts recommend that weaning should take place by the time kittens are 12-13 weeks of age. You can also ask your vet or consult your pets’ health care regarding his opinion about the best time to wean kittens.