Are you interested in fostering a baby kitten? Or maybe you’ve just discovered a litter of squeaking little critters beneath your porch? The first six weeks of a cat’s life encompasses remarkable and lightning-fast changes.
During this crucial developmental window personality traits appear and health issues emerge. If you dedicate yourself to caring for a kitten during this stage of its life, here are some important things you need to know to nurture your new baby.
Weighing in at mere ounces, a couple of newborns will easily fit into your cradled hands. Still helpless, their eyes and ear canals are not yet open. Momma cats will instinctively mother their babies, taking care of their feeding, cleaning, and warmth needs. If mom has been vaccinated, the kittens receive her immunity and are good to go until they’re old enough for their own kitten shots. During the first week a kitten’s only agenda is to sleep, nurse and expel waste!
Beginning in week two the mommy cat should be offered a high-quality canned kitten food in order to replenish the nutrients she’s passing on. During the second week a kitten is capable of doubling its weight, and will continue to gain around 10 grams daily.
Did you know that all kittens’ eyes appear blue at first? The eyes start to open in week two and will be fully open by the end of the week. Their eyes aren’t yet contracting and dilating properly, so they should be protected from bright light. Their sense of smell is becoming more developed at this time, helping them to become acquainted with their environment.
Week three brings immense changes to the little furballs in your care! The sense of smell becomes well developed, eye color will transition to its final hue, and the kittens can eliminate waste without being prodded by mommy’s licking (which stimulates the digestion process).
Tentative steps are taken in the third and fourth weeks, with heads much larger than bodies, and tails are short and stubby. The kittens will continue to nurse, but their instincts to explore the world start to kick in.
Related: How to Kitten Proof Your Home
Week five brings many milestones. The kittens will be walking and playing now, and it’s a good time to start them socializing with humans. You can now introduce them to the same canned food that mom has been eating.
Momma cat will begin weaning about now, but the babies still need to suckle until eight to ten weeks of age. Give the kittens their own small, shallow litter box; a shoe box lid filled with a natural litter product is perfect!
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At six weeks the kittens have come into their own, and are almost ready for their forever families! A well socialized, box-trained, and weaned kitten can be separated from its mom starting at eight weeks, but ten or 12 weeks is an ideal time for your little brood to make the transition into the wide, welcoming, wonderful world that awaits them.
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