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Developmental Milestones in the Kitten

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Your cat just delivered a litter of cute little kitties. They seem so helpless, unable to see and hear. When can you expect them to begin showing changes as they grow? Here is a quick overview of the developmental milestones in the kitten.

Senses

Kittens are born blind, with their eyelids sealed shut. By the time they are 2 weeks old, the eyelids and open and the kitten can begin developing their vision.

Kittens are also born deaf, with sealed ear canals. By the age of 17 days, the ear canals are open and the kittens can start to hear. By 25 days, kittens will respond to sights and sounds.
Elimination

In addition to being born blind and deaf, kittens are also unable to voluntarily eliminate urine and feces. The mother must lick the genital area to stimulate elimination. By 23 days of age, the kittens are able to eliminate without help.

Walking

Kittens will start out life squirming and "swimming" across the floor. By 18 days of age, kittens begin the rudimentary first steps of walking.

Characteristics specific to cats also develop at predictable ages. Kittens are born unable to retract their claws. By 27 days of age, the claws can be retracted at will. Learning from their mother, kittens as young as 30 days of age will begin to rake at litter.

Eating

By the time a kitten is 4 to 6 weeks of age, he can start eating solid food and can be safely weaned at 8 to 12 weeks of age.

Around the time kittens are able to eat solid food (4 to 6 weeks), the first teeth begin to erupt. The canine teeth usually erupt at 3 to 4 weeks and the incisors erupt at 2 to 4 weeks. The baby premolars erupt at 4 to 6 weeks.

These first teeth are temporary and are soon replaced by permanent teeth. The front teeth, incisors, are replaced with permanent teeth around 3 to 5 months of age. By 6 months, the permanent canines erupt. Permanent premolars erupt at 4 to 6 months and the molars erupt at 5 to 7 months of age.

Catnip may be a favorite of the queen but kittens do not respond to this herb until they are at least 8 weeks of age.

Reproduction

Your kittens are growing quickly. Be aware that by the time most kittens are 6 to 8 months of age, puberty has set in and unplanned pregnancies are possible, if precautions are not taken.

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