Kittens are pretty much helpless at birth.
Born blind and deaf and with very little in the way of motor skills, they are very dependent on their mother.
Mom cat not only takes care of feeding,(a kitten's body weight can double after just the first week,) but she also provides their warmth and keeps them clean. After each nursing session she will stimulate their genital area with licking and she actually eats any urine and feces they produce.
Everything being well, mom will not need any help from humans and it is best to keep away from the nest as much as possible during the early days.
umbilical cord will detach within two to three days and each kitten
will develop a preference for feeding from a particular nipple.
Generally it is best not to handle kittens under two weeks old.
Naturally if you are raising orphaned kittens then you will need to touch and handle them. But if mom cat is there to do her job it is best to let her take care of them.
After two weeks a little gentle handling is fine if mom cat is comfortable with you picking up her kittens.
Generally she will not mind unless you take them out of her sight.
If mom shows any kind of distress about her little one being picked up, then gently place the kitten back in the nest.
In fact after the age of two weeks a little human handling can be an important part of kitten development. It helps a kitten to learn how to socialize and interact with people, something it will be doing for the rest of its life.
It must be stressed how fragile young kittens are, so all handling must be done with great care. For this reason it is best not to allow young children to handle kittens.
Young children may not appreciate just how delicate the baby animal is and may hold them a little too enthusiastically.
It is around two weeks when the kittens eyes start to open, although they have not developed full sight yet. Around week three the kittens' ear canals will open up and their sense of smell will be developing.
At week three or four eye colors may start changing from the baby blue common to all kittens, into the color the kitten will carry into adult life.
Baby teeth will start appearing and the little ones may start purring.
At age five to six weeks kittens will be walking around exploring their surroundings a bit, although they may not stray too far from the nest. They may also be aware of, and start playing with, their siblings.
It is at this stage of their development that the kittens will likely want to sample the food that their mother is eating.
Mom should be eating quality cat food, as she needs the extra protein and calories.
Although five to six weeks is too early for kittens to be completely weaned, they will still suckle until they are eight or ten weeks old, it is good if they are gradually introduced to kitten food.
Help them by providing a shallow dish.
The little ones can now be introduced to the idea of using a litter box. Provide them with a very shallow tray, (nice and easy for them to climb in and out.)
As the litter is likely to find its way into the kittens mouths it is best to use a type made from natural material, such as wood chip or corn cob, avoid clumping clay litter.
At around five weeks kittens will be developing the ability to groom themselves. Grooming is important not only for cleanliness, but also because it helps the kittens regulate body temperature.
Litter mates will also learn to socially interact by grooming each other.
Around week six or seven mom will quite likely be encouraging her offspring to be a little independent. Maybe even occasionally pushing her kittens away when they try to nurse, which encourages them to try the solid food.
At this stage of kitten development, mother will not be making quite so much of a fuss of them so a little more socializing with humans can be introduced.
The kittens' sleeping patterns will begin to mature.
Weeks eight and nine will see the kittens play more aggressively with one another.
Play fights will be common and even the odd serious tussle. It is all part of kitten development in readiness for adulthood.
Eight to ten weeks old will be time for the kittens to get their first shots, be guided by your veterinarian. ASPCA recommends shots at two, three and four months and then annually.
At around fourteen weeks the kittens/juvenile cats will be a lot more independent and, although they not yet mature cats, some signs of adult behavior will be observed.
From age four months, and definitely by age six months, females should be spayed and males neutered.
The stages of development for a kitten can be fascinating. One day there is a tiny helpless creature entirely dependent upon its mother and then, seemingly in a flash, that same creature is a lively, spunky juvenile kitten, ready to take on the world.
That same young kitten, always ready to play and challenge your other cats, other pets and even humans for dominance, all too quickly becomes your -- equally lovable -- fully mature cat.
Each stage of kitten development is precious, enjoy each one.
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