If you have a new kitten, you may be wondering about how to track their age and development during their crucial first year of life. Today, our Bellevue vets share some information about how to tell how old a kitten is, and advice about how to care for your new feline friend.
Raising a Kitten
Kittens are adorable and lovable household pets, however, they have very specific needs that have to be taken care of. These needs are different for every stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed it can impact their overall health and longevity. Here we talk about how you can care for your new furry friend during their kitten years.
Under 1 Week Old
This is a crucial stage; kittens are extremely vulnerable in their first week of life. They can not hear or see. They are born with their eyes closed and they stay closed for the first week. A kitten's ears are folded closed so they can’t hear. While the kitten is this age there should still be an umbilical cord attached to the kitten.
Do not attempt to remove it will fall off when it’s ready. At this age, kittens need to be kept warm and a heat source should be provided to keep their environment between 85 to 90 degrees. Kittens are recommended to be fed every 2 hours. Momma cat normally will take care of this but if the mother is not available it falls to the human caretaker.
We will recommend speaking to a qualified veterinarian to go over feeding regimes and dietary requirements.
The kitten's ears will start to unfold and at around 10 days their eyes will start to open. Kitten starts with blue eyes but they will most likely change when they grow up. Kittens still need to be kept warm and with feedings at regular intervals of every 2-3 hours. The kitten will need to be kept warm.
The kitten's eyes are open their ear has unfurled. This is when the kitten will start taking its first wobbly steps (have your camera ready). The feeding will be on average every 3-4 hours. The kitten will still need to be kept warm.
Your kitten will start getting its first teeth it will still need to be nursed or bottle-fed. The kitten will start to show its curious nature and take greater steps to explore the world around it (baby-proof the area, if it can hurt them they can find it). The kitten still needs to be kept warm.
The kitten will get its canine teeth. Running, jumping, and playing are things the kitten can do now (the vase on the coffee table is no longer safe). It will still need the bottle and a heat source to keep warm when resting.
Five to Six Weeks
The premolars have shown up and their molars will start making an appearance. You can introduce them to wet kitten food and ween them off the bottle.
Seven to Eight Weeks
The kitten will eat wet food and their eyes will change from blue to adult color.
Essential Preventive Care for Kittens
No matter how old your kitten is you should take them for their first veterinary appointment during the first week they are in your care. Your veterinarian will evaluate the health of your kitten as well as inform you of their dietary needs. This also allows you to ask any questions you may have regarding the care of your new family member.
Regular wellness exams will give your kitten their best shot at a long and healthy life. These cat checkups allow your vet to assess your kitten's overall health and well-being, including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.
You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.
Signs That Your Kitten Should See a Vet
When caring for a kitten there are many things you need to keep an eye out for in every stage of your kitten's life, which could indicate a problem or even a veterinary emergency. If you see your kitten displaying any of the following signs call your vet immediately to schedule an appointment.
Here is what you need to keep an eye out for in a newborn kitten:
- Delays or difficulties in motor skills or coordination
- Refusing food (especially if being bottle-fed)
4 Weeks +
When your kitten is 4 weeks old or older, you still need to keep an eye out for the signs above in addition to these behavioral signs:
- Litter box usage/ not using the litter box
- Signs of play biting or aggression
- Fears and other concerning behaviors that should be managed when they are still young
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.