Your cat just had kittens and you’re thinking, “Now what?” Kittens go through rapid development for the first 12 weeks and will require attention, veterinarian visits, socialization and much more. Review the kitten growth chart details below to find out how the kitten development stages progress and what your responsibilities will include.
If you think your cat might be pregnant, you can check for signs that she is expecting before paying a visit to your veterinarian.
Kittens are born with their eyes and ear canals closed. They do not have any sight or hearing and will most likely stay close to the mother. The umbilical cord will dry up and fall off within a few days. Their main activities will include eating, sleeping and passing waste. The mother cleans the kitten regularly, and this also helps stimulate the newborn.
The eyes will begin to open, but vision will be blurry. The kitten will start to develop its sense of smell.
The kitten may have blue eyes at birth, but this will change as the kitten ages. You may start to see this change in the third week. Hearing begins and starts to improve, and you may notice that loud or abrupt noises scare the kitten. Because of the change in hearing, the kitten’s ears will begin to stand up.
The sense of smell continues to improve, and the kitten will begin to pass waste without prodding from the mother. Teeth may start coming in this week, and purring might commence. Your kitten may also go mobile and start walking this week!
The kitten will start working on balance and will walk more. The head is usually large compared to body size, so your kitten may be wobbly while moving around. The kitten will begin to explore the surroundings, and you may find yourself on the hunt! Kittens usually stay close to the mother, but this can vary if you get a really inquisitive (and brave) kitten.
Evaluate any harmful items, chemicals, plants or small openings to minimize risk to the kitten. The kitten will still be nursing at this time, and you can start the introduction to the litter box. Don’t be afraid if the kitten tries to eat the litter; this is normal. Accidents are expected, and there is a way to remove urine stains if needed.
This is a great week to start socializing and bonding with your kitten. They start moving around more and will start to play. The kitten will still be nursing for a few more weeks, but you can introduce canned food made for kittens. If you haven’t already, introduce the kitten to the litter box. You will need to provide a smaller box with less litter than in the adult cat’s box.
If you choose to give a worming treatment as a precaution, it is usually done in the sixth week. You will notice the kitten is more playful and constantly on the move, and may even start scratching different surfaces to sharpen the nails. This would be a good time to implement a scratching post to teach the kitten where this behavior is allowed.
Vet trip! Vaccinations are typically started in the seventh week. The kitten will be more active and playful, and you should see an improvement in coordination. This week is also a good point to introduce the kitten to grooming. Use a brush on the kitten, give it a bath (make sure not to get soap in the eyes, ears or nose, and dry thoroughly) and start handling the paws regularly.
If the kitten gets used to its paws being handled, this will make nail clipping much easier in the future. I started this with my kitten, and he didn’t mind his paws being handled. Something about seeing that clipper just annoys him though, so I usually trim his nails when he is very tired or just woken from a nap. You may have better luck with your kitten, so try to hold the paws regularly while gently pressing to extend the nails.
No major changes happen this week. The kitten will continue to be active and social with other kittens or the mother. Continue practicing grooming and getting the kitten adjusted to its paws being handled.
The weaning process should be finished and the kitten eating provided food regularly. Play time and human interaction should be high this week.
The nails should be long enough (and probably sharp enough) by now to start trimming. If you administered worming treatment, this is the week for the second application.
Vet trip! The second set of shots are needed this week. The kitten increases its playing and socializing time and may even roughhouse with fellow siblings.
This week usually involves another vet appointment for a rabies shot (if applicable; some countries do not administer this due to absence of the disease).
Your kitten should continue to grow in size and weight each week, but contact your veterinarian if you notice a lack in either area. Make plans to spay or neuter your kitten around the six-month mark, although some vets perform this operation based on weight or after two months. Exact weeks vary for worming treatments, so check with your vet for a recommendation. You can also inquire about microchipping.
If you notice fleas on your kitten, don’t rush to treat them with chemicals. Review our instructions for flea removal for kittens. Heartworm medications can be a personal choice. Discuss your options during one of your vet visits and determine if treatment is desired. Your vet can also review different types of heartworm treatments with you.
Always supervise your kitten around other pets and people, and plan to cover wires and small access areas (like the attic) to ensure your kitten won’t be harmed or stuck in a poorly ventilated area. I remember that when I was a child, my family was replacing the walls in the main family room, and an area behind the fireplace was exposed. The cat climbed behind there so far she couldn’t be seen. Later that day, the Sheetrock went up, and the wall starting meowing shortly thereafter! Cats can and will try to squeeze into tiny spaces, so making sure you know where your cat is at all times never hurts.
Photo: Dr DAD/Flickr