Kitten milestones at a glance
- Birth to week 1 – Kittens are born with eyes closed and ears folded. They weigh between 90-100 grams. The umbilical cord stump falls off around day three. By the end of the first week, the kitten has doubled his weight.
- Week 2 – Eyes begin to open. First baby teeth erupt.
- Week 3 – Ears are now erect. Some kittens begin exploring.
- Week 4 – Canine teeth (fangs) have erupted. The hearing is well developed.
- Week 5 – Eyesight is now fully developed. Kittens begin to try solid food.
- Weeks 6 to 8 – Eye colour begins to change. Kittens are now extremely active. They should receive their first vaccination at six weeks.
Birth to week 1
- Eyes and ears – Kittens are born blind and deaf. Their eyes are closed and their ears folded down.
- Teeth – Kittens are born without teeth.
- Body temperature – Newborn kittens are unable to regulate their body temperatures and rely on mum to keep warm. Keep the environment at a constant temperature to avoid hypothermia or hyperthermia.
- Umbilical cord – Attached to the kitten for the first four to five days.
- Toileting – The mother stimulates her kittens to go to the toilet. After her kittens have fed, she will lick their bellies and genital areas, eating any feces and urine.
- Weight – Newborn kittens weigh between 90-100 grams (3 ounces) by the end of the first week they should have doubled their weight to 200 grams (6 ounces).
- In the first week of life, kittens do little more than sleep and eat. When they are awake, they stay close to their mother. The mother stimulates urination and defecation in her kittens by licking them.
While it is important to keep an eye on the mother and her kittens, too much interference may result in the mother cat moving her kittens to another location.
- Eyes – By the second week, their eyes are beginning to open (although their vision is not very good at this stage). All kittens have blue eyes at this stage. The kitten’s pupils don’t dilate and contract efficiently, so avoid bright light. Young kittens are vulnerable to eye infections, so keep a watch for crustiness or white/yellow secretions.
- Ears – The ears are still folded at this age.
- Teeth – The baby (deciduous) incisors erupt. These are the small teeth at the front of the mouth.
- Smell – The sense of smell is developing and will often have a preference for a particular nipple.
- Weight gain – Around seven to ten grams a day. By the end of the second week, they should weigh approximately 300 grams (10.5 ounces).
- Ears – By three weeks, their ears will be erect, and their sense of hearing is developing.
- Some kittens will try to walk and explore.
- By three weeks, kittens become more aware of their littermates.
- Some kittens may begin to purr.
- Toileting – The kittens may defecate on their own at this stage, the mother will still clean up their waste.
- Eyes and ears – Eyesight is improving, and the sense of hearing is now well developed.
- Teeth – Deciduous canine (fangs) teeth have erupted.
- Smell – Sense of smell is fully mature.
- Claws – Claws are now retractible.
- Weight – The kitten should now weigh approximately 500 grams (18 ounces).
- The kittens are becoming more and more active and are interacting with their littermates. They may attempt to explore outside the confines of their kittening box.
- The mother is still grooming her offspring, but they are also able to groom themselves.
- It is at this time that the mother will begin to leave her kittens for short periods.
- At this stage, you can provide a small bowl of water for kittens to drink from.
- Worm kittens – second dose.
- Teeth – Premolars start to emerge.
- The weaning process can begin around five weeks of age. Start slowly by mixing canned or dry cat food in with some kitten formula to make baby food (check the ingredients to make sure the food contains no onion, as this is toxic to cats). Not all kittens will take to food immediately, so patience is important. Introduce a small amount, initially. You can introduce solids either by placing a small amount of food on your finger or in a cat bowl.
- Although they may have begun to wean, kittens are still regularly nursing from their mother.
- Kittens are much more graceful on their feet at this stage and are exploring a lot more, often stalking and pouncing on their littermates.
- They may start to use the litter tray, although you will likely still find some accidents. Make sure that the bedding is easily washable, so you can ensure the area remains clean. Provide them with a small litter tray, and make sure it has litter which is safe for young kittens to use (and possibly eat).
Image credit, Pieter & Renée Lanser
- Eyes and ears – Vision and hearing are now fully developed.
- Kittens are extremely active, playing-fighting and pouncing.
- At six weeks, kittens are now grooming efficiently.
- Testicles – Male testicles begin to descend into the scrotum.
- Eyes – Eyes begin to transition to adult colour.
- Teeth – All baby teeth are present.
- Weight – 750 – 800 grams (1.65 – 1.7 pounds)
- Kittens are eating more and more solid food.
- There is an increase in energy; kittens are now exploring further and climbing.
- Kittens are almost fully weaned.
- Eyes – The eye colour is now fully developed.
- Ears – In proportion to the head.
- Weight – 900 grams (2 pounds)
- The kittens are extremely active, and the mother will have longer periods on her own.
- The role of the human is to take an active part in the socialisation process without intruding, especially in the very early days. Take the time to not only play with your kitten but also to offer plenty of cuddles and familiarise it with being handled, in general. This includes frequently touching the paws, ears, and mouth, which will make basic health inspections, medicating, and claw trimming easier, as the kitten is brought up to accept this.
- At this stage, kittens are eating four, small meals a day and, by eight weeks, should be eating mostly solids.
- Once a kitten reaches 2 pounds, it is safe to spay, neuter and microchip.
- Kittens receive their first vaccinations between 6-8 weeks of age.
- Worm kittens – third dose.
Cats remain kittens for longer than eight weeks; the aim of this article was to cover the early stages of kitten development.
This is a guide only, as all animals work to their own schedules; however, this does provide you with a guideline as to what should be happening and when.
It is important to keep records of weight; kittens should gain weight steadily and seek veterinary attention if weight gain stops. Also, be on the lookout for signs of sickness in your kitten. These could include loss of appetite, sleeping alone (at a very young age), rejection from the mother, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, discharge from the mouth, eyes and anus.