Newborn kittens tend to grow very fast. They double their weight by the end of their first week. At around two weeks, kittens will open their eyes. Soon the blurriness they see will become clearer, and they will be looking out into the world as cute as a…..kitten!
5 Major Milestones During Kitten Stage
These general age-related milestones vary by kitten and breed, feeding, and experience, but all kittens will pass through these milestones during their first year.
Week 1: Newborn kittens weigh only a few ounces but usually double their weight in the first week. A kitten’s mother is focused on keeping her babies warm, feeding them, and licking their bodies to stimulate digestion and elimination. The first milk the kitten receives from their mother is colostrum which contains antibodies to protect the kittens from diseases during these first vulnerable weeks of life. The umbilical cord usually drops off on day two or three.
Newborns cannot move much, and the only noise you will hear from them is a faint mew. And they cannot see or hear since they are born with their eyes tightly shut and tiny ears folded tight. They are also toothless at this early stage.
Sometime between 5 and 14 days, kittens’ ears will start to unfold, and their eyes will begin to open. All kittens start off with blue eyes!
Week 2: Kitten’s eyes open completely during this time, but their vision is blurry and sensitive to light. They also begin to develop a sense of smell. At this time, they start to become aware of their littermates and will begin to compete for their mother’s nipples.
Week 3: Kitten’s sense of smell is fully developed now, and the ears become erect, although hearing is still developing. You may start to hear a little purring coming from the kitten. Baby teeth will begin to emerge from the gums. Gentle but brief handling by a human is okay at this point. And at this stage, the kitten’s mother no longer needs to stimulate her kitten to help them digest or eliminate, but she still needs to be in charge of their grooming.
Week 4: Kittens in the litter now begin interacting with each other and showing interest in the environment. They may attempt to walk at this stage, and by the end of the week, they might be exploring and playing when they are not busy napping or nursing.
Week 5: Kitten vision is fully developed in week five, and you may notice your kitten’s eye color changing now. Kittens start to pounce on each other and walk around to explore. Some seem to be in constant motion when they are not sleeping.
This is the time to begin socializing with your kitten, to get them used to human touch and handling. Solid food can also be introduced this week, but they still need to nurse. Keep a little moistened food out in very small amounts during the transitional period in addition to fresh water.
This is also a good time to introduce your kitten to a litter box, starting off with a shallow box for easy entry. You only need a few inches of litter.
Weeks 6-9: Over these weeks, your kitten continues to develop and grow, but now at a much slower pace. By about 8 weeks, all the very sharp baby teeth will be in. Within the next couple of weeks, your kitten will be fully weaned. By the end of week 9, kittens tend to weigh about 3 pounds, and the eye color you see will be their permanent adult color.
Your First Veterinary Visits
Before bringing your new kitten home, set up your first appointment and register your new family member with Harmony Animal Hospital. That way, we’ll be ready to receive your kitten in case of an immediate need.
At your kitten’s first appointment, your Harmony vet will do an exam, provide needed vaccinations, go over several kitten topics with you, and set up a schedule to bring them in for their series of vaccines and treatments for worms and fleas. This is a very important protection for your family and friends.
If your kitty shows any signs of illness before their first visit, our vets will want to see them right away. Signs of illness in kittens can vary depending on the issue, but listlessness, vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive itching, and eye discharge can all be signs of a kitty health issue. So, if your kitten is showing any of these signs or is injured before their first appointment, call us at Harmony Animal Hospital immediately.
Deworming should be done every month for the first six months and then every three months through the first year. After reaching the 1-year mark, deworming should be done twice a year.
- Months 1 – 6: monthly
- Months 7-12: quarterly
- Year 1 on: twice a year
Flea Management. Even in the cleanest of homes, fleas are unfortunately common. Your Harmony vet will talk with you about kitten-friendly flea management at your first appointment. You will need to keep a lookout for fleas in your cat’s fur throughout their life. Harmony pet pharmacy has safe flea treatments that the vet can discuss with you.
Read more about parasite prevention.
Now is the time to consider health insurance for your kitten and future cat. With cats living longer than ever before, you will want to have the resources to treat conditions throughout all their life stages. And here at Harmony Animal Hospital, we want to be able to provide the best services possible at all times. Cost can become an important consideration when treatments are expensive. Having pet insurance can be the difference for some families. We understand that every patient’s circumstances are unique. In most cases, however, cats benefit directly from pet parents taking out insurance to cover veterinary bills.
Like medical and health insurance for people, pet insurance policies are complicated. We hope the following link will provide important insurance policy information and considerations as you weigh your options.
First Year Vaccines
Vaccinations are essential for new kittens, and they will need to get them throughout their first year. Talk to your Harmony Animal Hospital veterinarian about which ones your kitten needs and when these vaccines should be administered. Here at Harmony, we have a very carefully considered and researched vaccine philosophy that has the best interest of your cat at its core.
It is important that your kitten not be permitted outside until at least a week after it has finished its first course of vaccinations at about 13-14 weeks (depending on the vaccine).
If you do not want your kitten to reproduce, you will need to have them spayed or neutered, usually around 5 months, but definitely before letting them outside unsupervised.
Spaying is the removal of a female cat’s ovaries and uterus.
Neutering is the removal of a male cat’s testicles.
Your Harmony vet will discuss spaying and neutering at your first vet appointment.
Our surgeries of spaying and neutering are handled differently from many other clinics. At Harmony Animal Hospital, we treat only one kitten at a time, giving each patient individualized attention. We take great care to ensure your kitten or cat is as comfortable as possible. We provide the best anesthesiology, use the latest technologies, provide wound closing with a laser treatment, and warming blankets for the recovery period.
We have three goals when spaying or neutering your cat: safety, pain management, and communication. Here is what you need to know about Harmony’s exceptional spaying and neutering promise. It is a good idea to read our philosophy before your first appointment so that your Harmony vet can move right into the specifics of each vaccine with you.
Good dental care is vital to your kitten’s and cat’s health.
At six months, your kitten’s new set of teeth will start emerging–all 30 of them!
It is between 6 months and 12 months of age that we recommend the first Complete Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT). This includes Full Mouth Series Dental X-rays for an oral status baseline. We can then determine if there are any immediate issues to address or potential issues to monitor as your pet grows. It is optimal to do this in conjunction with your pet’s spay or neuter unless you are delaying either for reasons you and your vet have discussed.
Harmony Animal Hospital has extensive dental services. Our vets will cover everything you need to know so you can start now, during the kitten stage, to do everything you can to keep the teeth of your kitten and soon-to-be cat as healthy and strong as possible.
Our dental page and video will provide you with a much more comprehensive discussion of dental care and services with tips on toys, brushing technique, treats, broken teeth, and more.
It is important that your kitten can be identified and returned to you if they become lost or injured away from your home. Cat parents who keep their cats indoors should not skip the microchip either, as cats are clever and sometimes sneaky, and an open window or door can easily tempt your indoor cat to go on an unexpected adventure that you may be initially unaware of!
Here at Harmony Animal Hospital, we offer microchipping, which is probably the best form of identification. It is a quick, inexpensive, permanent way to help reunite lost cats with their worried families. With a quick and simple outpatient procedure, your cat will have a scannable way to identify your name, address, and phone number. Microchipping is a solution that can work for almost anyone with any budget, but there are a few misconceptions and little-known tips to be aware of to increase your chances of making the technology work for you.
Collar with ID
Some cat parents like their cat to wear a collar as well. When your kitten is six months or older is a good time to fit a collar with an identification tag, a magnet, or perhaps a “key” to your electronic cat flap. But do not put on a collar just for appearances, only for function. And be sure that if you place a collar on a young, rapidly growing cat, you remember to check the collar’s fit by placing one or two fingers under the collar. Increase its size when needed.
Indoor or Outdoor Cat?
Talk to your Harmony vet about whether your kitten will be an indoor or outdoor cat. Our vets can help you understand the pros and cons of either decision. Read more about the pros and cons further down on this page.
Bringing Your Kitten Home for the First Time
Leaving their mother and their litter for the first time to come home to your house is exciting but daunting for your new kitten. Knowing this, it is best to choose a room and a limited space for your kitten at first so they can gradually get used to the new surroundings. This limited space can also aid in litter training. When choosing a space, keep the following in mind:
- Choose a room without long curtains, as your kitten would want to run up them and perch at the top.
- Ensure there are no hazards in this room, such as fireplaces, poisonous plants, or small spaces where your kitten could get stuck or trapped.
- Keep the windows in this room securely closed, and keep all breakable objects off of window sills and shelves.
- Put the litter tray in one corner and the food bowl in another. Keep the water bowl away from both the litter tray and the food bowl.
- Place a kitten lower-height scratching post in the room that will soon be replaced with a taller adult one.
- For a place of comfort, a feeling of security, and a place to hide, place a cardboard box on its side with a thick, soft blanket inside.
- Also, place a padded washable cat bed in a quiet area of the room and line it with a thermal, washable fleece blanket to keep your new family member warm.
- Finally, keep a couple of toys in this room for playtime and stimulation but be sure not to leave out any toys with strings when you are not present.
If you do not have an appropriate and safe room, consider a kitten pen (or even a dog pen) large enough to contain everything your kitten needs, including a sleeping bed, water, food, a litter box, and toys. Many of these crates are easy to move into cars or other rooms as your kitten feels more secure and ready to see other parts of your living spaces. These crates also give you somewhere safe to place your kitten at night or when you are not close by to watch the growing curiosity of your kitten.
Tips for the First Few Days in Your Home
It is wise to bring your kitten home in some bedding that will become their new bedding so that it feels familiar when everything else around feels new. Keep the first 24 hours calm. Children should know their new family member should be calm and unhandled by them for those first 24 hours. Place your travel basket in the new room and open the lid. Let your kitten explore on its own terms for a while as it takes in the new sounds, smells, lights, and sites for the first time. Keep an eye out to ensure your new furry family member is discovering the food, water, and litter box with time. It may be helpful to use the same litter that the kitten used in its early weeks. Do not worry if your kitten initially shows little interest in food.
Kittens need their sleep when they are young, but you will see bursts of energy and activity between their naps. Kittens love to climb, so be on call to come to their rescue, as going up is always easier for them than coming down. Spending time getting to know your kitten and their personality is critical for bonding, so look for the times when your kitten is awake and feeling active and energetic. If your kitten seems a little anxious or disinterested, pull back as they continue to acclimate to their new environment. Also, never wake your kitten up to play or to show affection. Your kitten needs a lot of sleep at this stage. Don’t coax them out of a hiding place. You can sit close by with a book or watch tv, but be patient as your new relationship develops with you and others in your family. Family members should visit individually at first rather than crowding around. And being down on the floor at the kitten’s level is best for initiating contact and play.
Handling Your New Kitten Early On
During these first couple days, handling is best done when your kitten initiates it by coming to you. But after this first 48-hour period, you should handle your kitten throughout the day to get them used to your touch. The handling should be for short periods of time at first instead of long continuous periods.
If you have young children, give them limited and supervised contact with their new family member to avoid over-handling. Make sure your children understand the importance of keeping the kitten’s initial room or cage secure and safe. Now is a good time to talk about how your kitten is feeling and who in the family is going to be responsible for what–the litter box, food, play, etc.
Do not rush to introduce your kitten to other dogs and cats in your home. This needs to be done carefully.
Feeding Your New Kitten
It is best when your kitten arrives in their new home to have the same food they have been having as a sudden change of diet combined with the stress of adjusting to a new home can cause stomach upsets and diarrhea. If you want to change their diet, gradually mix the new food with the old. Remember that kittens have small stomachs. They need to be fed little amounts often. Talk to your Harmony vet about the best food for your new kitten at your first appointment.
Kittens that are 8-12 weeks old need four meals a day. Kittens 3-6 months need three. And kittens over six months old need two. You may also want to provide some dry food in addition to moist food, depending on what your kitten likes and the habits of other animals in the house. Your Harmony vet will guide you with the best nutritional food sources at your first appointment. Be sure to provide fresh drinking water at all times.
Do not give your kitten cow’s milk, which can cause diarrhea. If your kitten has diarrhea for more than 24 hours, bring them to Harmony Animal Hospital for a vet evaluation.
Your Growing Kitten’s Changing Diet
Diet at 3 Months
At three months, your kitten is growing quickly, and they are eager to eat food. You can continue to moisten the food with warm water, but you may find that you no longer need to apply water.
Diet at 6 Months
At six months, your kitten’s growth will start to slow down considerably. Most kittens reach their full weight and height between 10 and 12 months, although some long-haired breeds like Maine Coon and Persian cats may not fully develop until they are 15-18 months of age. When talking to your vet about your cat’s nutritional needs, size, breed, and activity level will be part of the discussion.
Your Harmony vet will inform you at your first appointment about the best nutritional food sources and brands when to move from wet to dry foods, what a good eating schedule looks like, the importance of excluding or limiting human foods, as well as other important nutritional do’s and dont’s.
Setting Routines with Your Kitten
From the first day your kitten arrives home, it is essential to set the routines you intend to follow in the future. Many new parents feel that their kitten needs to be close to them at night when they first arrive. But this can set an undesirable precedent for nighttime play and excitement, and no sleep for either you or your kitten. So beware! Cats are naturally active at both dawn and dusk, but if done right, your kitten can soon adapt its sleeping habits to fit your lifestyle. Feel good about putting your kitten in its nice, cozy, warm, and secure bed at night until you return in the morning. A bed with high sides to keep out draughts and a low front to provide easy coming and going is best. The lining should be thick and warm.
Cats are very particular about their bathroom habits, and most kittens learn how to use a litter tray by copying their mother. You may just need to show your new kitten where the litter tray is and then place it on the tray after they have awoken, after meals, and when it shows signs of sniffing, scratching, or crouching.
If your kitten’s tray is not in a cage, place it in a quiet but accessible corner where your kitten will not be disturbed. Again, make sure the tray is not near the food or water. If it is too close, your kitten may be reluctant to use it.
Problems with Urination or Elimination
If your kitten is not learning how to use the litter box, contact your Harmony vet. Urinating or defecating in places other than the litter box can be caused by either medical problems or behavioral issues. Medical problems often relate to urinary tract infections or cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), which are often associated with straining and pain, usually producing only a small amount of blood-tinged urine. Diarrhea can also be associated with elimination outside the litterbox.
If your kitten is straining to urinate or not urinating at all, please contact us at Harmony Animal Hospital immediately, as this behavior could be due to a blockage, which can sometimes be life-threatening.
Behavioral Causes for Inappropriate Urination or Elimination
Behavioral causes usually fall into two general categories: a dislike of the litter box or a stress-related misbehavior.
There are several factors that can contribute to litter box aversion. Cats may begin to dislike the litterbox when it is not cleaned often enough or when they object to the type of litter. Most cats are very fastidious creatures of habit that become used to the particular texture or smell of a specific type of litter. Many kittens also shy away from the litter box if it is located in a high-traffic or noisy area.
Examples of common stresses associated with inappropriate elimination include a new person or cat joining (or leaving) the household, new furniture or carpeting, moving, and new cats in the neighborhood that your cat is aware of.
Treatment is aimed at the particular underlying problem. Medical issues should be addressed first – a thorough physical exam, urinalysis, and possibly a urine culture to rule out infection. Once medical conditions have been ruled out or treated, behavioral issues can be assessed. Your veterinarian may initially give you some suggestions on how to proceed. If the problem continues, your vet may recommend a referral to an animal behavior specialist.
Behavior problems are often frustrating—patience and determination are usually key factors in successful treatment, and behavioral modification is more successful in some cases than others. Some problems, such as a dirty litter box, can be easily corrected by more frequent cleaning. Other issues, such as those that have been going on for a long time or are in multiple cat households, are much more difficult to treat. In some cases, behavior modification can also be combined with judicious drug therapy.
Suggestions for kittens with inappropriate urination:
- Make sure there are enough litter boxes available. The rule of thumb is one box per cat per floor of the house, plus one extra. (For example, for two cats in a two-story house, there should be three boxes upstairs and three downstairs).
- Offer different types of litter to determine if your kitten has a substrate preference. Offer some covered and some uncovered boxes. You may wish to try “Cat Attract” litter, available at pet stores.
- Make sure litter boxes are not in a high-traffic area – many kittens prefer a little “privacy.” However, beware that if the litter box is placed near a washer/dryer or furnace, the noise may frighten the cat away from the box as well.
- Clean each box daily.
- If there are cats outside that may be provoking your kitten in any way, try removing them from the area. Motion-sensitive sprinklers work great for this. Also, don’t leave food out, and remove anything that could be attracting them (access to trash, etc).
- Limit access to areas where your kitten likes to urinate inappropriately. Close doors or cover the area with plastic. You may wish to put a new litter box in this area. If your kitten uses it, you can gradually move the box to a new location.
Should My Kitten Be an Indoor or Outdoor Cat?
Some cat experts recommend keeping cats indoors because outside cats tend to have shorter lifespans due to the dangers of being out in the wild (think cars, stray animals, and potential exposure to diseases like leptospirosis). However, choosing an indoor vs. an outdoor lifestyle for your kitty is a personal decision you should discuss with your vet.
Benefits of Indoor Cats
Indoor cats are less likely to come into contact with dangerous situations than their outdoor counterparts. Secondly, indoor kitties can stay pest-free more easily. Worms, fleas, and ticks are all more likely to become a part of your cat’s life if she is outside a lot. However, whether your furbaby is in, out, or a combination, you should still use worm medications and any other pest control treatments your veterinarian recommends.
Benefits of Outdoor Cats
Outdoor cats have lots of stimulation as they explore the world, so some people choose to allow their cats outside. Also, cats who spend time outside can get lots of exercise while they wander. If you decide to let your cat outdoors but want to supervise him, you have a few options: screened-in porches and so-called “catios” are two ways to let your cat out of the house safely. And if you’re really ambitious, you can get your cat a ha