If you have a new kitten, you may wonder how to track their age and development during their crucial first year of life. Today, our Walnut Creek 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 make adorable and beloved household pets, but they require particular care tailored to each stage of their life. Neglecting or mishandling their needs can adversely affect their health and lifespan. In this discussion, we will explore how to provide the best care for your new furry companion throughout their kitten years.
Under 1 Week Old
This is a critical stage as kittens are highly susceptible during their first week of life. They cannot hear or see at this point, as their eyes remain closed. Additionally, their ears are folded shut, rendering them unable to hear. During this time, the kitten still has an umbilical cord attached, which should not be removed; it will naturally detach when the time is right.
To ensure their well-being, it's essential to maintain a warm environment for the kittens, maintaining a temperature range of 85 to 90 degrees. Feeding is also crucial, with kittens needing to be fed every 2 hours. Typically, the mother cat takes care of this responsibility, but if she is unavailable, the task falls to the human caretaker.
It is advisable to consult a qualified veterinarian for guidance on feeding schedules and dietary requirements.
The kitten's ears begin to unfold, and their eyes typically open at around 10 days. Kittens initially have blue eyes, which often change as they mature. It's important to keep the kittens warm and feed them at regular intervals every 2-3 hours. Ensure that the kitten remains warm.
The kitten's eyes are open, and 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, but 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 emerged, and the molars will soon start to appear. You can start feeding them wet kitten food and gradually transition them away from 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
Regardless of your kitten's age, you should schedule their initial veterinary appointment within the first week of bringing them home. The veterinarian will assess your kitten's health and provide information about their dietary requirements. This visit also offers the opportunity to address any questions you might have concerning 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.
Ensuring your kitten receives vaccinations and parasite prevention on time is essential. The first round of shots should be administered when your kitten is between 6 to 8 weeks old, and spaying or neutering should be done when they reach 5 to 6 months of age. This proactive approach helps prevent serious diseases and conditions from occurring.
How do you tell how old a kitten is by its teeth?
You can estimate a kitten's age by examining their teeth. Kittens typically start developing their deciduous (milk) teeth around 2 to 4 weeks of age, and permanent teeth begin to replace them around 3 to 6 months.
Signs That Your Kitten Should See a Vet
When caring for a kitten, you should watch for various signs throughout your kitten's life that may indicate a problem or even a need for a veterinary emergency. If you observe your kitten exhibiting any of the following signs, contact your vet right away 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.