Kitten development is very quick over the first 8 or so weeks of life.
Newborn kittens are blind, deaf, and completely helpless, but within a few weeks grow into the fluffy, playful bundles of joy that we adore so much!
This page goes through the major milestones in kitten development from newborn kitten to 12 weeks old.
If you want to know what the little fur balls are able to do at different stages in their early life, read on!
Newborn kittens are blind, deaf and can’t smell very well. Their eyes are shut and their ears folded over. They rely on what little sense of smell they have, and their sense of touch, to locate their mother. Their umbilical cord is still attached to their tummy.
When they’re not asleep, they’re feeding almost constantly. This is vital for growth, normal development and for building up resistance to diseases.
Believe it or not, each kitten usually has a preferred nipple which they like to feed from, and they can locate this by its unique smell. How clever is that?!!
A newborn kitten weighs on average 3.5 Oz (100g).
The kittens will start to hear (though not very well yet) and the umbilical cord will fall off.
They’ll still feed a lot and will start to squeak when they’re hungry, purr when they’re happy and hiss if they feel scared.
By the end of week 1, their weight should have doubled.
Their eyes usually open by the end of week 2, but at this stage their eyesight is blurry. All kittens have blue eyes – their adult color develops later.
Also by the end of week 2, they can hear and their milk teeth start to come through.
At this stage, kittens will start to attempt to walk. The first few tries won’t be very elegant (!) but they’ll rapidly become more steady and sure on their feet.
As their eyesight, smell, hearing and ability to walk improve, they’ll start to move around more and explore outside their nest. Mommy cat will often start teaching them how to use the litter box at this stage.
Until kittens about 3 weeks old, you should resist handling them except for short periods. Too much handling by humans in these early stages often upsets Mommy cat, and in a worst case scenario she may even reject them because of it.
At 3 weeks, their weight will be around 4 times their birth weight.
Weeks 4 to 6
Weaning starts – feral kittens will start to eat prey brought to them by their mother. They’ll start to play with each other and with cat toys, and will start to use the litter box voluntarily.
You should now start handling the kittens – a lot! This is a really important part of normal kitten development as it gets them used to humans and helps turn them into sociable, friendly cats.
Weeks 7 – 12
Weaning continues, and the kittens now need their mother’s milk much less. Mommy may become very reluctant to feed them. This is OK, as long as they’re eating and thriving this is normal.
Most kittens are fully weaned by about 8 weeks old (though they’ll still try to feed off Mommy if they can!)
Their eyes will change color from blue to their adult color (unless the adult color is blue of course!
Kittens can be homed from about 7 weeks of age, as long as they’re fully weaned. Many breeders prefer to keep them until they’re a bit older (often until they’re 12 weeks old) so that they can sort their vaccinations and worming treatments before they go to their new owners.
Kitten development is rapid – you’ll be amazed at how quickly your kitten grows. They stay little for such a short time I’d advise you to have the camera and camcorder permanently charged so you have lots of visual memories of your kitty as a baby!