How Old Is My Kitten?
New cat owners might wonder whether their kitten is old enough for certain activities, while experienced caregivers know to look out for certain indicators to assess a young cat’s development. Our Gilbert vets share some milestones they typically reach within 8 weeks.
Examining a newborn kitten’s eyes and ears is the best way to assess its age. Their closed eyes and flat ears indicate its very young age.
Eyes can reveal much about your cat, as well as signs of health problems. Kittens may have eye conditions such as conjunctivitis and glaucoma as well as herpes simplex in their eyes.
At this stage, a kitten’s eyes may not fully open yet; however, their pupils will begin to dilate as early as their second week on Earth. Their sense of smell will develop rapidly at this stage and hissing at unfamiliar odors is an integral part of learning to live.
Once the eyes are fully open, a kitten can be identified by its distinctive bright blue coloring (although their irises will soon develop into their adult hues). They begin socializing quickly and may eliminate on their own without assistance from an adult caregiver.
If a kitten experiences eye injuries at this stage, the effects can be fatal if left untreated. Your vet will perform a comprehensive eye exam using fluorescein dye to detect any bruising or deeper injuries to check the corneas; additionally they may request any relevant history/medical records from its mother so as to rule out preexisting conditions as the culprits.
Ears are another reliable indicator of a kitten’s age. Though newborn kittens typically arrive with closed ear canals, their first signs of life often become noticeable by the second week after birth – when their ear flaps begin unfurling and playing/exploring ensues. At this stage in development they still rely heavily on their mother and littermates for warmth and nourishment.
At approximately three and four weeks, their ear canals become open so kittens can hear more sounds, according to The Spruce Pets. This gives them more confidence to explore their environment; though they still may need help walking. They’ll hiss at strange smells or noises, and may knead their claws which still cannot retract fully.
Baby teeth that aren’t permanent start to shed as deciduous canines and premolars emerge, with yellow stains on the teeth signaling that a cat is over one year old, while missing or worn-down ones suggest they may be older than that.
At two weeks of age, kittens start developing their first set of deciduous incisors – also called deciduous canine teeth – known as deciduous incisors. By three to four weeks old, their permanent teeth begin to replace these deciduous canines.
At this stage, they begin exploring and growing more confident on their feet. Most of their time will likely be spent sleeping.
At six weeks, kittens should have been weaned from wet food to wet food exclusively, marking an important period in their development and it’s vitally important that supplement feedings be administered so as to maintain optimal weight and body condition for young kittens.
By now, your kitten should have had its umbilical cord stump fall off; any remaining remnant likely dates only days back. Yellow stains on its teeth indicate it has reached at least one year. At this stage, males should begin scent marking (sprinkling urine on surfaces to attract females).
Kittens develop quickly during their first few months, but their rate of growth begins to slow as they reach four or six weeks of age. At this time, a kitten may begin eating solid food more regularly and growing adult teeth that gradually push out baby ones; making it easier to tell their age simply by looking at its weight.
At this stage, kittens should have all of their adult teeth fully grown in and be at an ideal weight. Additionally, they will likely be eating multiple small meals daily and should gain one pound every month until reaching adult weight.
Be mindful that it may not always be possible to accurately determine a kitten’s age by weight alone; nutrition can have an enormous effect on body size, and different cat breeds develop at slightly varying rates. Eye opening and tooth development may provide more reliable estimates of age; the WALTHAM(tm) Kitten Growth Charts offer useful tools for monitoring these newborn fur balls from birth through adoption age.
On their first day, kittens are extremely fragile and completely dependent on their mother for survival. With eyes closed and ears folded backward, these tiny beings can only scoot and crawl to move about.
After about one week, kittens’ eyes will begin to open but their pupils won’t dilate. At this stage, kittens are still very fragile and tend to spend most of their day sleeping.
At three weeks old, kittens can begin walking a bit and exploring their environment. Additionally, they’ll begin using their litter box regularly and responding to sounds more readily due to open ear canals. Finally, their first baby teeth should also begin appearing – usually the front incisors.
At six weeks, Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed and Wembley are making great strides toward becoming independent cats. They enjoy exploring their environment while growing increasingly comfortable with both mom and human caregivers; additionally they’ve been socialized to people, places in the home and other pets as part of their preparation for adoption.