How Your Kitten Grows During Her First Year
Your kitten’s entire future is determined by the way she is raised during her early kittenhood. A well cared for kitten, reared by a well fed cat mom will most likely grow into a beautiful feline personality. She will become even more socially advanced if she is held and cuddled by humans, even if it is only for a few moments each day.
Kittens who are born to moms that are forced to spend a lot of time searching for food will develop more needy timid personalities with less stable social skills. That is because they have been left alone a great deal and have not been given the nurturing time they really needed.
Kittens are born deaf and blind. They are raised by single mothers since their fathers will contribute nothing toward their upbringing. Kittens do have the senses of smell and touch and will depend upon these to get them through the first crucial days of their lives.
There is another major plus every kitten is born with. That is a loud shrill voice. When a mother cat hears one of her kitten’s high pitched cries she will respond asap. The kitten will rely on knowing her mother’s scent, being able to touch and push for milk and knowing she will be protected.
The newborn kitten will probably resemble a mouse more than a cat, but is about to undergo the greatest growth period during the first six weeks. By age six weeks, the kitten will be a powerhouse energy source of fur; a darling baby cat almost ready for adoption. The umbilical cord is still attached at birth and will not fall off for a few days.
For the first 14 days, kittens will not be able to produce stress hormones. This prevents them from remembering anything bad that may happen before they are able to see. Later, they will be well equipped to handle stress as long as they are properly cared for by their mothers and later by their persons.
Age Two Weeks
Most kittens will have doubled their birth weight by age one week and are putting on weight steadily.
A kitten’s eyes will open and they will be blue in color. They will remain blue until age six weeks when the cat’s true genetic color will be pernament. Kittens at this age should never be placed under bright lights because their pupils are unable to dilate.
A kitten will now be able to hear, and will also begin to take her first steps without help. This is an important age since her stress hormones will also start to kick in, later enabling her to better explore and interpret her environment.
By nine days, the kitten’s sense of smell develops.
Age Three Weeks
They will begin to eliminate by themselves and will start to communicate by purring.
This is the age when an outside cat mom will bring prey to the kittens for the first time. She will give them the opportunity to smell the prey and to touch it.
Age Four-Five Weeks
Kittens will be forced to develop interests in other foods such as meat. Cat moms will spend more time away from the nest so the kittens will gradually be weaned off her milk.
Some more adventurous kittens may wander away from the nesting area. Their heads are still very big in comparison to the rest of their bodies.
The sense of smell is now fully mature and baby teeth can be seen.
At five weeks, you can supplement their diets with baby food. Check all labels and make sure the baby food does not have anything that cats can’t tolerate such as cow milk products. (Many cats are lactose intolerant.)
Kittens can also be introduced to some canned meat such as chicken in kitten foods.
Litter box training begins but they will need their own box which is smaller and easier to get into and out of. Do not use clumping clay litter because kittens will most likely eat it. Clay can be very dangerous to their digestive systems.
Age Six Weeks
The kittens should have been handled by humans by now because this is the age of no return. If human contact has not been experienced by the kitten, she will probably never be able to get close to a person or to become the cat companion many people would like to have.
Kittens receive their first shots at this age which will defend them against such diseases as
Age Eight Weeks
The kittens should now be fully weaned and ready to go to their forever homes. Their personalities are formed and they will be equipped with most, if not all, of their social skills. If your kitten has had very little human contact at this stage, it will be too late to begin a complete socializing process.
Most kittens will be eating about four small meals per day which can consists of kitten food mixed with some dry food. Always read the labels and make sure you are not feeding your kittens by products. They need real meat or poultry.
Age 3 to 4 Months
This is the extended golden age of kittenhood and will last until a kitten becomes sexually active. For some female kittens, adolescence can happen as early as four to five months.
During this period, there will be lots of play and exploration. Kittens will need to be around different people who will play and hold them. It also helps if there are other kittens they can interact with.
This is one of the keys to good socialization. It is when kittens learn how to live and get along with each other.
They have play rules. A kitten will signal to a littermate that she wants to play or doesn’t want to play.
Kittens raised in happy litters are generally more socially balanced than hand-reared kittens. When kittens are raised by people they miss out on the daily interaction with other kittens. In some cases, kittens will never be able to overcome this.
But the good news is feral kittens who are rescued early enough can grow up to be very friendly cats if given lots of attention.