Answers to Frequently Asked Kitten Questions

Tiny Kitten Fight
Tiny Kitten Fight

Kitten Eyes

When do kittens open their eyes?

Kittens usually begin opening their eyes at 5-10 days of age, and the process takes 2-3 days overall. Normally the eyes have fully opened by 14 days of age.

Why are all kittens born with blue eyes?

Melanin, the pigment that colours skin, eyes, and hair, needs to be fully deposited into the iris and exposed to ultraviolet light to develop the adult colour. During the first weeks of a kitten’s life, its melanin production increases, triggering eye colour change.

When do kittens’ eyes change colour?

Kitten eyes normally begin changing to their adult colour during week 5 or 6, and the process is usually completed by 3-4 months of age, though some cat breeds (such as the Siamese and Himalayan) maintain blue eyes into adulthood.

Kitten Feeding

What should you feed an orphaned kitten?

You can purchase Kitten Milk Replacer formulas at veterinary offices and pet supply stores. Feeding a chilled kitten can cause it to die, so if you find an orphan, warm it against your skin or on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel before feeding.

Can you give kittens cow’s milk?

Kittens fed cow’s milk will be undernourished and may develop life-threatening diarrhea because cow’s milk has a different nutrient profile than cat’s milk.

When should kittens be weaned?

Kittens can start making the transition to solid food at around 4-5 weeks, but should still nurse for at least 8. Ideally, they should have the opportunity to nurse sporadically for 12 weeks or longer while also eating solid food.

What should you feed kittens during weaning?

Blend a high quality kitten food in a blender with hot water and Kitten Milk Replacer to the consistency of baby food and serve it warm (not hot). Decrease the water and kitten milk replacer gradually so that by week 8, the kittens are eating solid food on its own.

Kitten Handling and Socialization

Will handling newborn kittens cause their mother to reject them?

It’s rare for a mother to reject her kittens due to handling. However, it’s a good idea to keep handling to a minimum during the first week. After that, handle kittens regularly but for only a few minutes at a time, near and in full sight of the mother. Always wash your hands before handling kittens to avoid introducing harmful bacteria, and return the kittens to the nest immediately if the mother shows signs of fear or agitation.

Why do mother cats move kittens?

Mothers usually move kittens because they’re nervous due to noise, bright lights, or lack of privacy. Inexperienced first-time mothers are more likely to move kittens.

How do you socialize a kitten?

Kittens should be handled regularly from week 2 onward and have the opportunity to interact with many different types of people (men, women, children) and animals (other cats, cat-friendly dogs, etc.) from an early age. Ensure that interactions are positive and not scary, or the kittens may develop phobias. Never play rough with a kitten or encourage him to bite you, because he’ll continue doing this as an adult. Let him attack cat toys instead.

Miscellaneous Kitten Information

When do kittens start to play?

Most kittens become playful at around 4 weeks of age.

When do kittens start using the litter box?

Kittens usually being imitating their mother in the box at around 3-4 weeks, though they may also play or sleep in the litter at this stage and have accidents while learning.

At what age should kittens be adopted out?

Kittens can be adopted out as early as 8 weeks, but ideally they should stay with their mothers and siblings for at least 12, as this is better for their long-term health and socialization.

For more cat and kitten articles, see the main Cats page.

References:

    • Animal Services – Virtual Shelter. (n.d.). Cat and Kitten Supplement. JointAnimalServices.org.
    • Cheng, A.M., DVM, CVA. (19 April 2009). “Eye Color Change.” MedHelp.org.
    • Cornell Feline Health Center College of Veterinary Medicine, American Association of Feline Practitioners, & Academy of Feline Medicine Advisory Panel on Feline Vaccines. (1999). “Vaccinations.” MaxsHouse.com.
    • Drs. Foster & Smith. (n.d.).” Care & Feeding of Queens & Kittens.” PetEducation.com.
    • Eldredge, D.M.,DVM, Carlson, D.G., DVM, Carlson, L.D., DVM & Giffin, J.M., MD. (2008). Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, Third Edition. Wiley Publishing, Inc.
    • Helmenstine, A.M., PhD. (n.d.). “Why Are Babies Born with Blue Eyes?” About.com.
    • IBOK Rescue. (n.d.). “Stages of Kitten Development.” IBOKRescue.RescueGroups.org.
    • Morris, D. (1987). Catlore. London, UK: Jonathan Cape Ltd.
    • Neville, P., & Bessant, C. (1997). The Perfect Kitten. Octopus Publishing Group, Ltd.

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