If you have a new kitten, you may be wondering about how to track their age and development during their crucial first year of life. Today, our Seattle vets share some information about how to tell how old a kitten is, and advice about how to care for your new feline friend.
Raising a Kitten
Kittens are adorable and lovable household pets, however, they have very specific needs that have to be taken care of. These needs are different for every stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed it can impact their overall health and longevity. Here we talk about how you can care for your new furry friend during their kitten years.
Under 1 Week Old
This is a crucial stage; kittens are extremely vulnerable in their first week of life. They can not hear or see. They are born with their eyes closed and they stay closed for the first week. A kitten's ears are folded closed so they can’t hear. While the kitten is this age there should still be an umbilical cord attached to the kitten.
If you try to remove it, it will fall off when it's ready. Kittens should be kept warm at this age, and a heat source should be provided to keep their environment between 85 and 90 degrees. It is recommended that kittens be fed every 2 hours. Normally, the mother cat will take care of this, but if she is unavailable, the human caregiver will.
We will recommend speaking to a qualified veterinarian to go over feeding regimes and dietary requirements.
The kitten's ears will begin to unfold, and their eyes will open around 10 days. Kittens have blue eyes at birth, but they will most likely change as they grow. Kittens still require warmth and feedings at regular intervals of every 2-3 hours. The kitten will require warmth.
The kitten's eyes are open, and one of its ears has unfurled. This is when the kitten will take its first wobbly steps (prepare your camera). The feeding will take place every 3-4 hours on average. The kitten will still require warmth.
Your kitten will begin to develop teeth, but it will still require nursing or bottle feeding. The kitten will begin to exhibit its inquisitive nature and will take greater steps to explore the world around it (baby-proof the area, because if it can hurt them, they will find it). The kitten still requires warmth.
The kitten will eventually grow canine teeth. The kitten can now run, jump, and play (though the vase on the coffee table is no longer safe). When resting, it will still require the bottle and a heat source.
Five to Six Weeks
The premolars have shown up and their molars will start making an appearance. You can introduce them to wet kitten food and ween them off the bottle.
Seven to Eight Weeks
The kitten will eat wet food and their eyes will change from blue to adult color.
Essential Preventive Care for Kittens
No matter how old your kitten is, you should take them to the vet during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will examine your kitten and advise you on their dietary requirements. This also allows you to ask any questions you may have about your new family member's care.
Regular wellness exams will give your kitten their best shot at a long and healthy life. These cat checkups allow your vet to assess your kitten's overall health and well-being, including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.
You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.
Signs That Your Kitten Should See a Vet
There are many things to look out for when caring for a kitten at every stage of its life that could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your kitten, contact your veterinarian right away to schedule an appointment.
Here is what you need to keep an eye out for in a newborn kitten:
- Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
- Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
4 Weeks +
When your kitten is 4 weeks old or older, you still need to keep an eye out for the signs above in addition to these behavioral signs:
- Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
- Signs of play biting or aggression
- Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.