Birth to week 1 – Kittens are born with eyes closed and ears folded. They weigh between 90-100 grams. The umbilical cord stump falls off around day three. By the end of the first week, the kitten has doubled his weight.
Week 2 – Eyes begin to open. First baby teeth erupt.
Week 3 – Ears are now erect. Some kittens begin exploring.
Week 4 – Canine teeth (fangs) have erupted. Hearing is well developed.
Week 5 – Eyesight is now fully developed. Kittens begin to try solid food.
Weeks 6 to 8 – Eye colour begins to change. Kittens are now extremely active. They should receive their first vaccination at six weeks.
Eyes – By the second week, their eyes are beginning to open (although their vision is not very good at this stage). Do not force their eyes open, as it could result in damage. Young kittens are vulnerable to eye infections, so keep a watch for any signs of infection, such as crustiness or white/yellow secretions. All kittens have blue eyes at this stage. The kitten’s pupils don’t dilate and contract efficiently, so avoid bright light.
Teeth – The baby (deciduous) incisors erupt. These are the small teeth at the front of the mouth.
Ears – The ears are still folded at this age.
Weight gain is around seven to ten grams a day. By the end of the second week, they should weigh approximately 300 grams (10.5 ounces).
The sense of smell is developing. They will often have a preference for a particular nipple.
The weaning process can begin around five weeks of age. Start out slowly by mixing canned or dry cat food in with some kitten formula to make baby food (check the ingredients to make sure the food contains no onion, as this is toxic to cats). Not all kittens will take to food immediately, so patience is important. Introduce a small amount, initially. You can introduce solids either by placing a small amount of food on your finger or in a cat bowl. Kittens should be provided with a shallow bowl to eat from.
Although they may have begun to wean, kittens are still regularly nursing from their mother.
Kittens are much more graceful on their feet at this stage and are exploring a lot more, often stalking and pouncing on their littermates.
They may start to use the litter tray, although you will likely still find some accidents. Make sure that the bedding is easily washable, so you can ensure the area remains clean. Provide them with a small litter tray, and make sure it has litter which is safe for young kittens to use (and possibly eat).
Eyes – The eyes start to change colour from 6-8 weeks.
Premolars have emerged.
The kittens are extremely active. The mother will have longer periods on her own.
The role of the human is to take an active part in the socialisation process without intruding, especially in the very early days. Take the time to not only play with your kitten but also to offer plenty of cuddles and familiarise it with being handled, in general. This includes frequently touching the paws, ears, and mouth, which will make basic health inspections, medicating, and claw trimming easier, as the kitten is brought up to accept this.
At this stage, kittens should be eating four, small meals a day and, by eight weeks, should be eating mostly solids. They should have almost all of their baby teeth by now.
Cats remain kittens for longer than 8 weeks, the aim of this article was to cover the early stages of kitten development.
This is a guide only, as all animals work to their own schedules, however, this does provide you with a guideline as to what should be happening and when.
It is important to keep records of weight, kittens should gain weight steadily and seek veterinary attention if weight gain stops. Also, be on the lookout for signs of sickness in your kitten. These could include loss of appetite, sleeping alone (at a very young age), rejection from the mother, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, discharge from the mouth, eyes, anus etc.