From birth to adulthood, a cat goes through several stages. While kittenhood can be used as a blanket reference to this period, there is nothing general about the transition in terms of developmental, nutritional, care, grooming, and health needs. Various kitten growth stages call for specific measures to ensure that your kitten not only lives a fulfilled life but also transitions to the next stage hassle free.
In order to be sufficiently prepared to deal with any eventuality, understanding the various stages of kittenhood is paramount. We have exhaustively researched on this and discovered that kittens can actually develop significantly in a matter of a few days especially during the first six months of age.
We have compiled comprehensive information about this. To make it even more specific, we have divided the stages into weekly and monthly developments. Here is everything you need to know about each.
#1: New Born
Kittens are born with closed eyes, folded ears, and no teeth. They weigh between 2.9-3.9 ounces. They cannot stand on their own, eliminate waste, or keep themselves warm.
They are completely helpless and depend on their mother or you for food and all of their other needs. They also spend 90% of their time sleeping and the rest of the time feeding.
#2: Week 1
During his first week of life, your kitten will need round-the-clock monitoring. He will have the umbilical cord stump for 1-3 days, after which it falls off. By day 3, the ears start to slowly unfold, but the eyes remain closed. His sense of smell, hearing, and sight start to develop gradually.
The kitten needs constant suckling. If he has no mother, ensure that you feed him on cat formula every 2 hours. After feeding, stimulate him to eliminate waste by gently rubbing his anal area with a warm damp cotton ball or washcloth; a mother cat does this with her tongue. He will probably urinate every time you stimulate him and have a bowel movement at least twice daily.
As the week progresses, the kitten becomes more aware of his surroundings and may even start to wiggle around. His eyes also start opening. This is a good time to enhance social development. Handle him gently to build a connection.
By the end of week 1, the eyes are almost completely open though his eyesight is yet to be focused. His ears also continue to unfold. He should be about double his birth weight by the end of the week.
He is not able to control his body temperature and should, therefore, be kept warm by mommy or in a nest with enough room to move around in if he feels too warm.
#3: Week 2
During the second week, siblings in a litter can find comfort and warmth in each other. They will hardly go far from each other, the nest, or their mother.
Your kitten’s eyes will continue to open, but his sight is still not fully developed. Keep him away from very bright light since his pupils cannot properly dilate and contract. His eyes will be all blue.
The greatest milestone in this stage is the appearance on the first incisors. The ears are not yet completely unfolded; he can orient to sound but cannot recognize it yet. His sense of smell also improves. He may start hissing at unfamiliar sounds and scents.
As he familiarizes himself with his surrounding, he may try some uncoordinated walking. His social skills are also better, and so you should increase your frequency of handling him.
He will still depend on his mother or you for feeding, bathroom needs, and body temperature control. This is a good time to give him his first round of deworming.
See Also: How to Tell If Cat Has Worms
#4: Week 3
Your kitten will still spend a substantial amount of time sleeping. When he is awake, he plays and continues to develop his fine motor skills in the process. You will notice that he walks more comfortably.
His eyes are now fully open but are still blue. His ears are unfolded and upright. With the ear canals now open, he can recognize sound. This is the time to start talking to him and introducing him to some low-level household sounds.
His teeth continue to erupt and canines follow after the incisors. He also starts purring to communicate to his mother and siblings, but he hasn’t quite learned the art of claw retraction.
Here’s the best part: your kitten can now control waste elimination on his own. It is time to introduce him to his litter box! Try some non-clumping natural litter (because he’ll definitely eat some), a shallow box, and a few inches of litter to start with.
Once you show your kitten the litter box, he should use it by instinct. You can help by placing a cotton ball that you have used to stimulate him in the box.
He will feed on more milk and will be able to last longer without feeding. He can also handle some solid cat food. In the beginning, you can start with some wet cat food and probably mix it with a little formula to ease the transition.
When your kitten is feeding, stay around and gradually move the food closer to you until the food is in your lap and your kitten is comfortable feeding from there. This goes a long way in strengthening your bond.
At this stage, your kitten will be quite playful. Be prepared to get down and spend some time playing with him. You can also provide him with some safe toys to keep him busy.
By the end of week 3, he should weigh somewhere between 12.8 – 14.1 ounces. His fur should also start to fill out.
#5: Week 4
Your baby is now past the neonatal stage. He is stable on his feet, can hold his tail upright, and can now play with siblings, toys, and people. He can even form play alliances with his litter mates! With his fur already filling out, you can determine if his coat will be short, medium, or long.
His sense of smell and hearing is well developed. His vision has also greatly improved, but it is not yet fully established. Armed with these, he is more comfortable to explore areas beyond his kittening box. The mother cat will also be more at ease when she leaves her kittens for short periods of time.
While he will still get some grooming job from the mother, he starts making attempts at grooming himself. He is also better at controlling his body temperatures, but you should still provide a source of heat where he can go when he needs some.
If you already introduced wet food in week 3, continue with this and gradually introduce dry food mixed with formula. Allow him to continue suckling or bottle feed. Eventually, he’ll eat more food and take less milk. Be sure to provide him with plenty of water.
By the end of week 4, his weight should be about 15.5 – 16.6 ounces. This is a great time to give him his second dose of dewormers. Continue playing with him, enhancing self-play, and petting him.
#6: Week 5
His sense of sight is fully developed now. With all his senses at his disposal, he sets out to explore the world in full gear. He can also retract his nails at will. His activity level is at an all-time high; he can play until he drops.
His premolars also start showing up. He can now eat wet food mixed with kibble 2-3 times in a day. As he approaches week 6, his instinctual behavior becomes more intense; he will attempt to stalk imaginary prey, hide, pounce, and dig. He is also more agile and stable.
He should continue to be handled more frequently and during good times such as play and feeding times. This helps him to associate people with pleasant experiences.
At week 5, a kitten’s individual personality is developing. His litter box habit should be established by now, but you can expect a few accidents once in a while. His weight should be at 18.5 – 19.5 ounces.
#7: Week 6
At this age, your kitten is now getting more confident. He can eat cat food on his own without the mother’s presence. This means that he may start developing a preference for certain foods, say dry or wet cat food.
It’s advisable that you start feeding him the kind of food that you are comfortable with since once he develops a taste for a specific food, it may be hard to introduce a different kind or brand.
See Also: How to Make Homemade Cat Food
Although he can feed on his own, he will still visit mommy for some snack. His suckling will, however, be light and less frequent. He will also seek out mommy for comfort and reassurance.
His socialization skills will also improve in that he can associate comfortably with several members of your household. This is the time to teach him safe play. Dissuade your kitty from scratching or biting your hands. Since he is still impressionable, any habits that he picks up can define the rest of his life.
You will notice that he is more stable while walking. He will no longer wobble or bump carelessly into things. He can now use his tail for excellent balance. With this confidence, he can now stalk, hide, and pounce more effectively. He is also able to ‘dig’ in the litter box or by scratching on your furniture.
Your kitten is now ready for his first round of vaccinations. In terms of grooming, he will now be well adept at it. He can clean himself from head to toe, without missing a spot. Grooming will now be a common trait between siblings. This will enforce more interactions and bonding in a multi-pet home.
Nails will now have grown to considerable length and should be trimmed for the first time. He should also be introduced to a scratching post. It’s also a good time to encourage him to play more with toys. This will keep his energy levels in check which means less time bothering you for play and petting.
#8: Week 7
By the seventh week, most kittens are almost fully weaned, especially those who are raised without their mothers. Your kitten will be feeding twice or thrice a day. He can eat wet and dry food mixed together. You can, however, start separating his food gradually to avoid digestive problems during the transition.
Your kitty will continue to play and learn about his surroundings. This is the time to introduce him to new places in the house and around the backyard. He can also now be introduced to other cats that are not from his litter.
Dogs and other pets can also be safely introduced to your kitty at this stage. This should, however, be done under supervision since he is still a baby and may not be able to distinguish between safe and harmful play.
See Also: How to Introduce a Cat to a Dog
If your kitten did not have his claws trimmed at the age of six weeks, then this is the time to do it. It’s also important to make the experience enjoyable and comfortable so that it becomes a part of routine that he looks forward to.
At this age, your kitty will be at the height of his coordination. Hence he will be playing, feeding, and exploring more than ever. His weight should be approximately 27.1 – 28.2 ounces.
His premolars will be visible, and his eyes may change color. His instincts will also be more acute with his ears now fully erect—or neatly folded for breeds with folded ears. He can use the litter box more comfortably and without fail.
#9: Week 8
This is a major development stage for your kitten.
He is now 2 months old and weighs as much as 2 pounds. He is now ready for the third round of dewormers. This is the time to neuter your kitten or spay your molly. He is now getting more adventurous and can actually stray away from home if left unchecked in the outdoors for too long.
He now has excellent paw-eye coordination. He will have 26 baby teeth which are sharp and well adapted. He will daringly leap higher and can take to resting on high places. He can also hunt mice and other crawlies for fun.
His muscles and body are more developed, and he will look more like an adult cat. His weight gain will, however, slow down while his body gets more toned. Sleeping and eating take a more definite routine; it’s upon you to train your kitten on a schedule that is desirable to both of you.
He is now fully weaned and can eat dry food comfortably. With these major changes come more independence and specialized personality. The litter can now be separated and adoption considered. This should, however, be done on an individual basis since some kittens might lag behind in their development.
#10: Week 9
By now your kitten starts to take on the looks and traits of an adult cat. He will be more expressive in his communication and will be using body language more effectively. He can start reacting to catnip and other stimulating plants.
His menu will now be comprised of mostly dry food; hence you should ensure that he is drinking plenty of water to avoid constipation. You should also ensure that other members of your family feed him the right food since he will start getting more and more attached to others, especially kids who have snacks to share.
The eyes will now have taken their adult color, and the teeth will be growing stronger and sharper. Body weight will be between 37.3 and 38.4 ounces. Kittens with this body weight should by now be put up for adoption.
Litters now require more resources and time for their care, so individuals will do better in a new, loving home. This is also the age to release rescued or stray kittens back to their habitat, but only after they have been neutered or spayed.
#11: Week 10
At this age, he should be fully developed and completely mobile. He will be bolder in his play and other forms of socialization. This means he will be spending more time playing, mock fighting, and jumping alone or with his siblings.
By now he is completely independent of his mother and littermates. Sleeping and eating now follow a routine which can be completely different from the other pets. This kind of individuality also comes with the need for dominance.
Your kitty will start to ‘own’ certain toys or gadgets. He will also bond strongly with you and may start owning you too; by licking your skin, cuddling your arms and feet, and keeping a watchful eye.
He now weighs 42.6 – 43.7 ounces and has the equivalent age of a 3 to 5-year-old child. His eyes should by now have taken their true color, although in some kittens this might be achieved much later.
#12: Weeks 11 – 12
By now your kitten is well developed and can fit in the company of adult cats. He begins to test his physical limits by copying what adults and his minders are doing. This is the time to start teaching him tricks and introducing him to puzzle games.
He still has his baby teeth but can gnaw meat from bones and bite if attacked. Just like his adult counterparts, your kitty will start clawing for scent marking. With this behavior come territorial fights which can be disruptive for a huge litter.
At week 12, kittens should get their second set of vaccination. This protects them from feline enteritis and flu. For some breeds like the Siamese, it’s advisable to wait a week after the vaccination before adopting. This will be ample time to see if the kittens will react to the drugs.
See Also: Cat Vaccination Schedule
#13: 3 – 6 Months
At this age, your fur baby is now approaching a human teenager’s age. He will have developed personality traits that will define him for most of the rest of his life. Most cat lovers talk of some aloofness and degree of defiance from kittens at this stage. You should instill discipline as you wait out this ‘expressive’ stage of your kitty’s development.
He will be playing ‘hide and seek’ with you while becoming quite a handful at this age. His curiosity is now turned towards your daily activities—jumping on your computer and pawing on your fingers, digging into the shopping bags, scratching on your shoes, and so on.
At around four months of age, his baby teeth start falling off. This is followed by the growth of permanent teeth. You can make the experience easier by providing him with things to gnaw on; this helps in loosening the teeth. His gum will be painful so you should message with gauze to sooth it.
In a house with many kittens, social order will start taking shape. You will notice some kittens preferring the company of some adults while detesting that of others. Among the kittens, there will be leaders whom the others run to when spooked in the absence of adults.
#14: 6-12 Months
At 6 – 12 months, your kitten is already displaying the traits of an adult cat; think of a 15-year-old teenager and everything that he comes with. His baby teeth are now gone and in their place are adult teeth. At six months, your cat is actually capable of reproducing.
He should be fed good quality adult cat food and accorded adult cat care. By now, he has already established a relationship with everyone in your family including other pets.
He might be less responsive to you and a bit anxious as he tests the waters of adulthood. Exhibition of dominance and rebelliousness also continue in this stage, and your once sweet kitten might become less affectionate as he nears his first birthday.
This should, however, be no cause for alarm. As teenagers do, your kitten will soon come around. While this looks like the last stage of kittenhood, your kitten may continue to exhibit kittenish behavior up to the age of around 18 – 24 months.
Kittenhood is characterized by several growth stages. Each of these comes with a set of milestones and developmental changes that run across the various aspects of a kitten’s life. As with every living being, every stage calls for special care to ensure a smooth transition to the next.
While kittenhood may extend up to 2 years in some cat breeds, it’s during the first year of life that a kitten makes tremendous developments.
The above is a comprehensive look at kittens in general. When it comes down to individual kittens, you might notice slight variations in yours which shouldn’t necessarily translate to cause for alarm. If you are, however, concerned about anything, feel free to clear it up with the vet.
Did you find this information helpful? Do you have any observations that you would like to share with us? Feel free to leave us your comments below. You may also be interested in reading our article on how to care for newborn kittens.