If you've recently welcomed a new kitten into your home, you might be curious about how to monitor their age and development throughout their vital first year of life. Today, our Los Angeles County 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 capture our hearts with their irresistible charm but come with unique requirements demanding our attention. Each stage of their life presents distinct needs, and neglecting any aspect can detrimentally affect their well-being and lifespan. This discussion explores how to nurture your new furry companion effectively throughout their kitten years.
Under 1 Week Old
This stage is crucial as kittens are highly vulnerable during their first week of life. They cannot hear or see at this point, with closed eyes and folded ears. The kitten's eyes remain closed throughout this initial week, and an umbilical cord should still be attached, which should not be removed as it will naturally fall off when the kitten is ready.
During this early stage, it is essential to ensure that kittens are kept warm, maintaining their environment at a temperature of 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Feeding is also a critical aspect, with kittens recommended to be fed every 2 hours. Typically, the mother cat takes care of this responsibility, but if she is unavailable, it becomes the responsibility of the human caretaker.
We strongly advise consulting a qualified veterinarian for guidance on feeding routines and dietary requirements.
The kitten's ears will begin to unfold, and their eyes will typically open around the 10th day. Kittens initially have blue eyes, but they are likely to undergo a change as they grow older. It is important to ensure the kittens are kept warm and fed regularly, typically every 2-3 hours. Maintaining their warmth is crucial for their well-being.
The kitten has opened its eyes, and its ears have unfurled. This marks the moment when the kitten will begin taking its first unsteady steps (make sure your camera is ready). Feeding will occur approximately every 3-4 hours, and it's crucial to continue keeping the kitten warm.
Your kitten will begin growing its first teeth and continue requiring nursing or bottle-feeding. The kitten will actively display its curious nature and take more significant strides in exploring its surroundings (ensure the area is baby-proofed to prevent potential harm). It's essential to maintain a warm environment for the kitten.
The kitten is growing its canine teeth. It can now run, jump, and play (watch out for that vase on the coffee table). However, it still requires a bottle and a heat source to stay warm while resting.
Five to Six Weeks
The premolars have shown up, and their molars will start making an appearance. You can introduce them to wet kitten food and ween them off 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, ensure you schedule their initial veterinary appointment within the first week of bringing them into your care. During this visit, your veterinarian will assess your kitten's health and provide guidance on their dietary needs. This opportunity also allows you to address any queries you might have concerning the care of your new family member.
Regular wellness examinations offer your kitten the best chance at a long and healthy life. These checkups enable your vet to evaluate your kitten's overall health and well-being, including their dietary requirements. Additionally, your vet can detect any diseases early, making treatment more accessible and more cost-effective before they become severe.
It's crucial to keep your kitten up to date with vaccinations and parasite prevention as per the recommended schedule. Ensure your kitten receives their first round of shots at 6 to 8 weeks old, and consider spaying or neutering them at 5 to 6 months old. This proactive approach helps prevent the emergence of serious diseases or conditions in the first place.
How to tell how old a kitten is by their teeth
A straightforward method for determining a kitten's age involves examining its teeth. Baby teeth typically begin to develop when the kitten reaches approximately 3 weeks of age, and they will have their permanent teeth by the time they get 3 to 4 months of age. The middle incisors are the first to emerge at around 14 weeks, followed by the second and third incisors at approximately 15 and 16 weeks, respectively.
Kitten teeth are exceptionally small, which can make it challenging to distinguish between baby teeth and permanent ones. To make this distinction somewhat easier, having examples of both types to compare can be helpful. Baby teeth are slightly smaller with pointed tips, whereas permanent teeth are somewhat wider and feature flat edges.
Signs That Your Kitten Should See a Vet
When you care for a kitten, you should vigilantly observe for potential issues or veterinary emergencies throughout every stage of your kitten's life. If you notice your kitten exhibiting any of the following signs, promptly contact your veterinarian to arrange 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.