As a cat parent it is important for you to understand the growth process of baby kittens. You should know how to identify the age of kitten because there are various important transitions that have to be made between 0 to 8th week of a baby kitten. Here we have everything you need to know.
In this article, I’m going to talk all about the biological development of young kittens and how to determine your kitten’s age.
1. Newborn Kittens (0 Week)
At this stage you have a newborn kittens in your hands, they are very cute and vulnerable because they can easily get sick if you will not take proper care of them. It’s important to know that they can’t thermo regulate and need to be kept very warm at this age; they also don’t have a gag reflex, so you need to be very, very careful while you’re feeding them.
Kitten who are orphaned and didn’t consume colostrum from their mom within the first day of life they will be more susceptible to disease, so be very careful about handling them and keeping them in a safe space and avoiding any contact with other animals. The colostrum present in the mother’s milk provides passive immunity to the kitten in the form of antibodies, and if a newborn kitten doesn’t nurse on mom during the first day of life, that means they’re going to be even more immune compromised, so keep these baby kittens safe and be sure to provide bathroom support in the form of stimulating them to go potty, here’s an article on how you can do it.
So how can you tell if a baby kitten is a newborn?
- Eyes closed
- Ears folded and really small
- No teeth
- Pink gums, nose, mouth, toe
- Visible umbilical cord
- Weight between 75 to 150 grams
- Temperature between 95 to 97 degrees
It’s recommended that you’re weighing them multiple times and making sure that they’re gaining weight, and because they can’t thermo regulates at this age, it’s critical to provide them with a heat source that should ideally be between 85 to 90 degrees at this time.
Here’s some behavior of newborn kittens:
- Kitten will sleep most of the day, waking up only for toilet and eat.
- They might be able to wiggle to move towards or away from heat.
- When handle them, they should be pretty alert and make sounds.
The care schedule for zero to one week old kitten is every two hours, it might sound like a lot, but it’s important to do even overnight, so please care for these guys every two hours, after you care for them, they’ll just go to sleep.
2. Baby Kittens (1 Week)
A one week old is the time when baby kitten made it through the very most vulnerable week of life, so good job. They almost doubled their birth weight if they’re doing well, when that happens, you may find that they slowly start to respond to sounds a little bit more than they did before and able to lift their head up and wiggle around using their limbs.
Characteristics of one week old kitten:
- Head and belly got a lot bigger.
- Claws are non retractable.
- The eyes slowly start to peel open.
- Umbilical cord lost.
- Ear canals will start to slowly open up.
- Weight between 150 to 250 grams.
- Temperature between 97 to 98 degrees.
Their environment should ideally be around 85 degrees, at this time and it’s critical to provide them with a heat source. The average amount per feeding is 6 to 10 milliliters, and they should eat kitten formula every two to three hours, including overnight.
At this stage kitten still largely uncoordinated and they still sleep for the majority of the day, you might just see that they’re a little more active, a little bit squirmier, and they’re starting to try out some of those first walking behaviors.
3. Baby Kittens (2 Weeks)
At two weeks old, kitten’s eyes will be open and it can look a little funny while they’re doing this, Kittens this age will have enlarged pupils and their vision will be very poor. One eye might open more quickly than the other or it might only happen halfway one day. All kittens are born with blue eyes, and that’s not due to pigmentation, it’s due to a lack thereof, as they get older, the kittens true pigment will come through, but by 14 days of age, kittens will generally have their eyes nice and wide open.
The ears will be upright but very small, like a baby bear cub, and by peeking inside the mouth, we can see that she still has no teeth. The claws will still be non-retractable.
Baby kitten at this age will weigh between 250 and 350 grams. Their average temperature is 98 to 99 degrees, and it’s still important to give them a heat source, at this time, their environment should ideally be around 80 degrees. Their average amount per feeding is 10 to 14 milliliters, and they should eat every three to four hours, including overnight. At this age, kittens can receive their first dose of de-wormer which is typically repeated again after two weeks.
Two-week-old kittens are starting to spend a little more time awake and they might even try to take their very first steps, so they’ll be quite uncoordinated and might wiggle around like a little worm, they might be able to take some steps forward and start to exhibit signs of curiosity about the world around them, but they definitely are not interested in playing yet.
These little ones still going to be nursing and need to be stimulated to go to the bathroom, but when they’re awake, they should be able to hold their head up, look around, and make crawling motions.
When I’m caring for a two weeks orphan, I make the switch from a syringe to a bottle. I find that most of the time, kittens do a lot better on a bottle around this age than they do when they’re younger. They’ll also have what I call a triangle tail. It’s a very short little triangular tail, and while they’re walking, it will wiggle behind them like an antenna.
4. Baby Kittens (3 Weeks)
Three weeks is arguably the cutest kitten age ever. At three weeks old, kitten’s eyesight is rapidly improving and you can see more of the blue of her eyes, that’s because her eyes are maturing and her pupils are able to dilate according to the light, so she can actually focus better and start looking around a little bit more.
- Their vision isn’t quite perfect, but it’s definitely getting a lot better.
- Ears on the other hand, are fully mature at this age.
- The hearing has completely improved and now able to respond to sounds.
All these improvements in hearing and vision make them a lot more interactive.
Kittens three to four weeks old will weigh between 350 and 450 grams. Their average temperature is 99 to 100 degrees and it’s still important to give them a heat source so their environment may be around 75 degrees. Their average amount per feeding is 14 to 18 milliliters, and should eat from a bottle every four to five hours, including overnight, so this is the age where you start to really feel like you’re interacting with a small cat.
Baby kittens at this period also have major improvements in their coordination, she can start to slowly walk around, but they will not going to be prancing or running or playing at this age, on the other hand they will be able to put their feet underneath her body and transport herself where she needs to go, and they going to be awake a lot more often.
This is the time where you might notice that they’re just kind of sitting there looking around, and they’re not necessarily asleep all the time in between meals. Sometimes I’ll visit them and their just staring off into the distance, or rolling around on back being adorable!
Teeth and Grooming:
If you’ve got a kitten who you think might be three weeks old, a great way to know is to look inside the mouth and observe those first teeth start to come in, so if you look inside the mouth, you might see those tiny teeth at the front of the mouth, those are called the incisors, don’t be fooled by those first teeth. The incisors are not designed for eating meat, they’re designed for grooming, and that’s why at three weeks old you might see a kitten start engaging in her first grooming behaviors. You can teach these kittens to start grooming themselves and I like to use a toothbrush to show them how to do that.
Kittens three weeks and younger will absolutely be getting either licked by their mother or will need you to do the work of stimulating them to go to the bathroom. If you are lucky, you might start noticing them going to the bathroom on their own. Maybe they have a little accident in their blanket or you see that they are starting to go poop on their own in their bed.
These cuties should still be either nursing or on a bottle, there are some people who will try to wean a kitten at this age, but I highly discourage that, it can be very dangerous or even deadly for these kittens, so definitely read my article about weaning age to learn why you should not wean this young.
5. Baby Kitten (4 Weeks)
At four weeks old, a kitten’s vision and hearing is rapidly improving, the eyes will appear much bluer as the pupils focus on the items around them and you’ll notice that when you look at them, they’re looking right back at you.
If you look inside the mouth, you’ll see that the canines have started to come through, they look like a tiny fang right next to their incisors. Don’t forget: just because they have their incisors and their canine doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily ready to eat meat, at this age kittens will generally still be nursing on their mom or on a bottle, but they are rapidly approaching weaning age.
They will weigh between 450 and 550 grams, with an average temperature around 99 to 101 degrees. At this age they don’t rely on a heat source anymore, as long as the room is between 70 to 75 degrees. Their average amount for feeding is 12 to 22 milliliters per meal, and they should be bottle fed every five to six hours, including overnight.
Kittens four to five weeks old begin confidently exploring their surroundings and developing much more coordination. They can walk very confidently and explore at a faster pace. At this age, kittens are notably more responsive than earlier weeks, they really start to look around and respond to the sights and sounds in their environment.
Baby kitten on this period can engage in social behaviors with litter mates and can learn from visual cues from other kittens. A lot of kittens will be using the litter box, but some of them will still need to be stimulated either by mom or through a tissue.
Because of their improved coordination, I think that this is the perfect age to start introducing kittens to play, sure they won’t be able to pounce and jump as confidently as an adult cat, but this is a good time for them to start some of those early playing behaviors.
6. Baby Kittens (5 Weeks)
Kittens five to six weeks old will weigh between 550 and 650 grams with temperature around 100 to 101 degrees, they should be fed every six hours, including overnight, but they should be supplemented with a bottle afterward until they are eating wet food with confidence, you can introduce a shallow bowl of water at this time.
While it’s important to weigh kittens at every age, it’s especially important to monitor weight while the kitten is weaning to ensure that they’re making steady gains.
At this age kittens are honing their hunting skills, and they’re perfecting their use of the litter box.
They don’t need to be stimulated to go to the bathroom anymore and they can go totally independently, probably the most exciting development about the five-week-old kitten is that this is the age where they start to wean to meat. If you look inside the mouth of a five-week-old kitten you’ll see those characteristic canines, the tiny incisors at the front, and you can see that she has her premolars in the back, those teeth are designed for cutting and shredding meat, so she is ready to start eating little bits of meat on her own.
7. Baby Kittens (6 Weeks)
Six Weeks kitten’s eyes will still be blue, but you’ll notice that between six and seven weeks, they’ll start to transition into their adult eye color, the melanin production in the eye increases and brings forth the adult eye color.
Here’s the characteristic of six weeks old baby kitten:
- Teeth are fully descended.
- Vision fully developed.
- Hearing fully developed.
- Weight between 650 and 750 grams.
- Temperature between 100 to 101 degrees.
Kittens at this age can thermo regulate well, they should be fed every six hours, though generally, they are able to successfully eat wet food independently and can therefore handle being left for eight hours overnight while you get some sleep.
At this period they can independently eat, drink, and use the litter box. They need to receive their first FVRCP vaccine, which is repeated again in two to four weeks.
The most important thing to know about this age is to be playing with them constantly to encourage their natural hunting behavior like pouncing and biting.
8. Baby Kittens (7 Weeks)
At seven weeks, kittens will be fully transitioning to their adult eye color, and you will notice that they are playful and inquisitive, and can climb, and if the kitten is male, that’s around the time that their testicles will start to descend.
At this age their weigh will be between 750 and 850 grams, and a temperature between 100 to 101 degrees, in addition to that they can thermo regulate well. This little ones should be eating a meal every six to eight hours and have ample access to water.
Kitten seven week old are really honing their micro-panther skills, so be sure to give them lots of access to enrichment and toys. Playing is essential, to teach them to appropriately target their prey and not attack humans, never play with kittens using your hands. Only play with toys.
9. Baby Kittens (8 Weeks)
Eight weeks is by far the most exciting milestone of all, because this is when kittens are ready to go to their forever home! They weigh right around two pounds and their temperature will be between 102 to 101 degrees and can thermo regulate well. They can be fed wet kitten food three times a day.
At this age kittens can be spayed or neutered, FIV and leukemia tested, micro-chipped, and prepared for adoption into a forever home.
These little guys go through so many changes in the first eight weeks of life.
But it all comes down to this: getting them to adoption age.
So that’s it. That’s a look at the first eight weeks of a kitten’s life. It is the simple growth process of baby kittens that you need to understand to assure that you can take proper care of these babies whether they have their mother or not.
I hope this helps you determine your kitten’s age and needs.
Of course, note that these milestones are not going to be the same for every single kitten.
It just goes to show that while there are some standard milestones to look for, every kitten is ultimately going to be different. So I hope you can use this article as a guide at the end of the day, we have to meet every kitten exactly where they are.
Feel free to share this with your friends to spread awareness about kitten.
Thanks you and see soon!