Kitten Development – Birth to 12 Weeks
The Miracle of Birth
There are about sixty-five days spent in gestation for a litter of kittens. When a female cat becomes pregnant, she expresses a need for heightened levels of attention and caressing. As her belly expands, you will start to be able to feel the kittens moving and kicking inside of her, and she will be thrilled when you stroke her stomach. She is prepared to “build her nest” around ten days before the baby is due to be born, and she will sleep in the nursery at that time.
I do my best to ensure that she has a pleasant experience at the nursery. I provide her with a spacious and comfortable birthing box that is lined with baby blankets. Her very own litter box, scratching post, and food and drink dishes are all included in the set.
She will come out to spend time with our family throughout the day, but as the due date draws nearer, she will want to spend more time in her birthing box, getting ready for the big day.
I count myself very fortunate to have been there for the birth of each and every kitten that has been born in this house up to this point.
My responsibility is to keep an eye out for any issues while also stroking and reassuring the mother. I immediately make sure that all of the cables are cut and that the kittens are released from the bag without delay. It blows my mind that in such a short amount of time, a little over two months, a kitten can grow so fully formed. Even though they are very young and their eyes are not yet open, they have a highly developed sense of smell and will crawl over to their mother as soon as possible to nurse.
After they have finished nursing and have gotten comfortable, I examine each kitten and make a note of their weight.
Birth to 4 weeks
I do frequent checks on the kittens throughout the first week, ensuring that they are all kept warm and that they are feeding. Every day, I tidy up the infant room and give them each a clean receiving blanket. Every day, I check to make sure that they are putting on more weight. It is not uncommon for their weight to have increased by a factor of two by the end of the first week.
When they are around two weeks old, their stunning blue eyes will open for the very first time and take in their surroundings. This is also when you will hear them purring for the first time. The mother cat will eventually feel the need to escape the kittens for some space of her own, and in the meanwhile, we get to spend some quality time grooming and snuggling.
They will now begin to learn how to play.
At this age, there are so many fresh experiences to be had.
At this point, we will start to train the litter. We begin with the lowest sized litter box possible, using ordinary litter that is initially not scoopable. Place each one in turn, and you could find that some of them scratch and go on the very first try. I’m simply going to keep doing it many times a day for each of them until they’ve all got it down pat. They learn a lot from their mama because they copy everything she does and observes everything she does very intently.
At around four weeks old, the kittens are old enough to sample some “real food” for the very first time. I put out a small dish with baby food and use a cotton swab to dab some on each of their lips. Similar to learning to use the litter box, some people get the concept quickly and learn it easily. Others may not want to engage with the concept of “real food” just yet. However, before long they will come to adore it.
The first time a genuine wash is given to a kitten at the age of four weeks is another first for them. The mother has done a sufficient job of cleaning them up to this point; but, now that they are learning to use the litterbox on their own, learning to lap food from a dish, and being so active in their playtime, the mother is unable to keep up with them, and I now assist her with bath time.
I give them a bath once every two weeks, and I also begin combing their coat every day to remove any tangles or mats. Even though they don’t develop knots and still have their kitten fluff, I brush them nevertheless just for practice. They will get used to having their hair combed often by the time they are adults since this will be a must for them.
We are already five weeks old, which seems impossible to believe! And here I was thinking that my two children grew up too quickly!
The “kitty chamber” is now open for the kittens to explore at their leisure.
They are able to go to the bathroom without any difficulty since the large litter box in the nursery has been relocated. They still like nursing their mother and would gang up on her if she is in the house. But they are eating more meals by themselves. Everyone continues to sleep in the nursery throughout the night until they are 6 weeks old.
At this age, babies are beginning to adjust to eating more solid food and needing less breastfeeding. At the end of six weeks, you should also give them their second bath. It’s no huge problem since each individual has been in this position before. It becomes simpler each time you do it. Following the wash, each of them has a comprehensive grooming session. It is extremely vital to get them into this habit at an early age and to continue it throughout their life. As they become older, they will become more tolerant of, and may even love, having their fur washed and combed.
At this age, the baby is so fluffy and so adorable that it makes for an ideal moment for a picture session. They have at this point finished completely investigating the kitty chamber, and they are prepared to go on to new terrain.
They need to be eating the Iams dry kitten food well at this point and using their litter boxes consistently by now. Oh, but kids reach adulthood far too quickly. The mother cat begins to withdraw some distance from herself in an apparent attempt to conceal herself from the young gobblers.
Toward the end of the eighth week, she will often begin to reprimand them for their attempts to breastfeed.
Initial health examination and vaccinations for the kittens.
This will be the first time that the kittens have needed to see the veterinarian if they have been in pristine condition up to this point. It gives me great joy to bring our two new kitties in for their first examination. It is always a lot of fun to brag about how gorgeous our newest additions are. During these last weeks at home, the kittens experience extraordinary growth, gaining at least one pound, experiencing a thickening of their coat, and beginning to display their real colors.
At this age, they are incredibly active, and they are busy investigating every corner and cranny of our home. Very playful as well, to the point that they can occasionally get the more senior cats to engage in a game of tag. They have a keen interest in humans and will follow our kids around, looking for opportunities to interact with them. I like to give them a treat of canned food twice a day. They become so thrilled about it that when I call them, they run as fast as they can to get to me.
Going to their new homes . . .
They will get their second vaccine after twelve weeks, at which point they will be close to being ready to go into their new homes. Because we want to ensure that they are properly using their litterboxes and are of a healthy height and weight before we release them, we often release them immediately after they have had their second round of vaccinations.