Just like humans, though on a smaller and shorter scale, cats go through a series of developments and changes from birth to adulthood. Whether you are having a kitten from its birth due to your cat being pregnant or bringing one home from a young age, the more you understand about kitten development, the easier it is to understand your pet.
Birth to six weeks
The first six weeks of life for a kitten are the busiest times. They are born weight usually around a few ounces with eyes and ear canals closed and the umbilical cord still present on the stomach. They can’t move much and the sounds they make consist of weak mews hunting for their mothers. At this stage, they don’t have teeth either.
Mother’s milk will give them immunity to a lot of diseases through the colostrum that is produces for the 24-48 hours before producing milk. This immunity will sustain them until they are ready for their first vaccinations.
The mother cat stays near the kittens at this early stage and uses her body heat to keep them warm as well as encouraging them to process their waste. By the end of the first week, they will have doubled their weight.
During the second week, eyes open and will be blue, though this can change several weeks later to their adult colour. Their vision is poor and bright lights should be kept away. By the third week, the mother will spend more time away from the kittens but will still groom them. At this time, they will begin to purr and their ear canals will be open with ears being upright.
By the fourth week, they will begin to walk, interact with others in the litter and explore their environment. Just a week later, an energetic ball of fur that never stops will have replaced the tiny, helpless little kitten of weeks before. This is a good time to start your kitten on canned food, especially designed for kittens, to start and get them used to their future diet.
It is around this time that the cat litter box should be introduced though a natural litter is advisable rather than clumping clay types at this age. Use a shallow box so they can get in and aren’t intimidated. At six week, the first set of vaccinations are given, along with worming and an interest in toys and their world is developing.
Weeks seven to twelve
Development begins to slow at this time with week seven seeing the weaning process continuing and the use of a scratching post being introduced to avoid them decided to use the furniture. By week eight, the teeth are fully-grown and will be fully weaned within this period or the following week. A second course of worming is done at this point.
At nine weeks, the average kitten will weight three pounds, their eyes will be the adult colour and they will be ready for the next set of vaccinations. By ten weeks, they are fully weaned and no longer reliant on their mother.
The first few months
After the first few months, kitten development is less dramatic but still very interesting. It is during these later months of their kitten lives that their personalities come to the fore; they learn to socialise with you and others in the household, hone their hunting skills with socks or balls of paper and become a part of the family. There can be times where they will drive you mad running up the curtains or chewing a book corner but these will be few compared with the pleasure of watching them develop into an adult cat.