Kittens! Could anything on earth be sweeter? Despite TNR (trap, neuter, return) efforts with feral and strays as well as the spaying and neutering of our companion cats, kittens are still an cute inevitability. As the owner of a kitten, you have the unique opportunity to help develop your kitten into a happy, well-adjusted cat.
The first Two Weeks
Kittens weigh between 2 and 4 ounces when they’re born and generally double that in the first weeks of their lives. The little fluffsters are born with their eyes firmly shut, and they usually only begin to open after seven to 10 days. Feline youngsters also enter the world with their ear canals closed. These canals typically open up not long after the eyes.
If the mama cat is fine with it, you can handle the newborn kittens for a few minutes at a time. Early interaction with newborn cats can go a long way in building the foundation for a happy and well-adjusted future pet.
Socialization: Weeks 2 TO 7
The socialization stage in young kittens takes place when they’re 2 to 7 weeks old. At this point, kittens generally begin engaging their siblings in active play. By the time kittens are about 4 weeks old, they’re usually strong walkers. Once they get to 5 weeks, running becomes part of their skill set, too. Kittens at 7 weeks usually are extremely comfortable communicating with their peers — often their littermates.
Physical contact is essential for kittens during the initial seven weeks of their lives. Not only is ample early age physical contact linked to intelligence in felines, it’s also associated with qualities such as curiosity.
Playtime! : Weeks 7-14
Play time is the name of the game for kittens that are between 7 and 14 weeks old. Whether the play pertains to examining random objects in the surroundings or jumping around, this period in kittens’ lives is extremely investigative and energetic. This is the kitten’s most active play period when they engage in all kinds of fun with each other (hugging, ambushing and licking), toys (scooping, mouthing, pawing) or even themselves (tail chasing, dancing and leaping).
Amy Shojai, author of Complete Kitten Care, recommends making a point of playing with your kitten for at least 20 minutes, twice a day. This regular playtime strengthens the connections kittens feel toward their owners. It also offers them excellent exercise and promote self-confidence.
Finding their place: months 3 to 6
Youthful cats often start acknowledging concepts of dominance and social status once they’re between 3 and 6 months old. Not only can they usually identify social status among the cat kingdom at this point, they can also typically detect it among the human beings in their lives.
Teen angels: Months 6-18
Adolescent felines that are between 6 and 18 months in age continue in their journeys of understanding dominance and status in the world. This time period is crucial for cats as it also often signifies the start of hormonally influenced sexual actions. Many pet owners opt to neuter or spay pets of this age to prevent hormonal patterns and breeding in their cats. However, talk to a veterinarian about the most appropriate time in which to get your pet fixed.
Raising kittens can be quite an experience. The more you know about rearing a kitten, the better equipped you’ll be to help your cutie become a content and healthy buddy to you — for life.
Do your research, and check out books like Amy Shojai’s Complete Kitten Care and the other resources below to learn more about proper ways to raise your kitten into a happy, healthy and loving companion for life.
Planet Cat; Arden Moore, Sandra Choron and Harry Choron
Communicating With Your Cat; J. Anne Heldren
Nursing the Feline Patient; Linda E. Schmeltzer and Gary D. Norsworthy
Understanding and Training Your Cat or Kitten; H. Ellen Whiteley