Are you considering a new kitten for your family or expecting a litter from your cat? Our Los Angeles County vets address common questions in this post, covering when newborn kittens typically open their eyes and offering essential care tips.
If you're unfamiliar with very young kittens, it may shock you to find out how different they look from their adult counterparts! Their eyes are sealed tightly shut, and their ears are usually folded against their heads. They can't stand and are more or less helpless - but with proper love and care from their mother or caretakers, they can grow up happy and healthy.
When a Newborn Kitten Will Open Their Eyes
Kittens grow and change at varying rates due to different factors. Most newborn kittens begin to open their eyes between 2 to 16 days after birth. During this time, their vision gradually improves, although both eyes may not open fully simultaneously. By approximately 2 weeks old, both eyes are typically open, and around 3 weeks old, many kittens can focus with both eyes. All newborn kittens have blue eyes, but their eye color will change as they age, usually settling on their true color at around 8 weeks old.
Taking Care of Your Kitten's Eyes
Do your best to keep very young kittens away from bright lights that could potentially hurt or damage their developing eyes. If your kitten doesn't have a mother or if their mother isn't taking good care of them, you need to make sure the newborn kittens are clean and healthy. Keep their faces clean with a warm, damp clean washcloth and, most of all, never try to force a kitten's eyes open before the lids open naturally on their own. Patience is key!
Problems to Watch for & How to Manage Them
Newborn kittens may develop a crust on their eyes, preventing them from opening. This issue is common and can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. To avoid recurring infections or spreading among littermates, it's crucial to maintain cleanliness in their bedding and shared areas. If you notice the crust in their eyes, gently clean it with a cotton ball soaked in warm, clean water – avoid using soap. However, if there's no improvement or their condition worsens, don't hesitate to contact your vet for proper care.
Newborn Kitten Care Tips
Similar to newborn human babies, newborn kittens spend a lot of their time sleeping, waking occasionally to be fed and cared for. Kittens can sense warmth and use their sense of smell to move toward their mother's belly and are dependent on a source of milk and warmth to aid them in their development.
Newborn kittens sleep approximately 22 hours a day, but more mature kittens and adult cats require less sleep. Your kitten's mobility will start to improve at about the same time their teeth start coming in; at around two weeks, they are crawling, and by four weeks, they can walk, jump and play more steadily. This is also when their capacity for mischief increases, as they are curious and adventurous – and often eager to practice climbing!
Newborn Kittens Need to Stay Warm
Newborn kittens need help staying warm since they cannot regulate their body heat like adult cats. If they don't have a mother or littermates to snuggle up with, you can assist them by using a heating disk or a heating pad set to low beneath a soft blanket in their crate.
You should also make a little nest out of blankets for the kitten to lay in for comfort. You must make sure that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and providing a comfortable place in your kitten's cage/crate that does not have a heating item so they can go there if they get too warm.
You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold, they will catch hypothermia. For this reason, their area should be kept at 85ºF or 29ºC.
Newborn Kitten Require Proper Nutrition
Caring for a motherless newborn kitten involves providing proper nutrition and feeding them regularly. You'll need to use a special kitten formula and bottle-feed them every 2-4 hours. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best formula and feeding schedule for your kitten, as each kitten's needs may vary.
For kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk, and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. And, for your kitty to digest food properly, they will have to be kept warm.
Kitten Preventive Care
No matter your kitten's age, it's crucial to schedule their first vet appointment on time. During this visit, the vet will check their health, discuss their diet, and answer any queries you have about taking care of your new furry friend.
It's essential to make sure your kitten receives routine preventive care, including routine vaccinations, wellness exams, and parasite prevention.
Regular wellness exams allow your vet to evaluate your kitten's overall health and well-being, including their dietary needs. Your vet will also be able to diagnose any diseases early in their most treatable stages before they become more serious and expensive to treat.
You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of their vaccinations and parasite prevention care on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.