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Newborn Kitten Care: A Week-by-week Guide

two kittens lying on the ground with text newborn kitten care on yellow background

It's hard to believe that a tiny kitten small enough to fit the palm of your hand can grow so much in a year. But the truth is, a lot happens during the first two months of a kitten's life. Most growth occurs during the first eight weeks of a kitten's life. Check out this kitten timeline to learn when to expect certain milestones on your kitten's journey to becoming a cat.

Newborn Kitten

newborn kitten

Newborn kittens have closed eyes and folded ears. They have no teeth; their nose, gums, and paws may look intensely pink. Kittens this young have yet to have a gag reflex or the ability to thermoregulate. As well, their claws will be non-retractable. 

The umbilical cord will be connected and will fall off by itself around 4 to 5 days of age. At this stage of their life, kittens cannot see nor hear; they can only navigate the world around them through scents and seeking warmth and comfort.

They will be about 95-97 °F at birth and weigh about 1.8-5.3 ounces or 50-150 grams. It is crucial to secure a gentle heat source for a newborn cat.

Behavior: Kittens this age sleep for most of the day. Newborns cannot defend themselves nor walk but may be able to go around by crawling. A healthy newborn will squirm and also meow if handled.

Kitten Care: Baby kittens belong with their mama cat full time, as they will with food, warmth, grooming, and bathroom assistance. If the mama cat is not around, kittens must be fed with a bottle and kitten formula every two hours by a knowledgeable caretaker, stimulated to pee and poo, and kept at a suitable temperature.

Week One

All cats will be born with blue eyes, changing with age. A one-week-old kitten will its eyes shut but no umbilical cord. Claws will still be non-retractable, and they will still have no teeth. Around 7 days, the ear canals will open, and the ears will somewhat unravel. The eyes will slowly open at around 8 to 12 days, which can take several days. One eye may open up more quickly than the other; it is imperative to let the kitten's eyes open at their own speed.

They will be about 97-98 °F and about 5.3-8.8 ounces or 150-250 grams. By week 1, the kitten should be around twice their birth weight. Providing gentle warmth to keep the kitten cozy and secure is essential.

Behavior: one-week-old kittens, though larger than newborns, will still be primarily uncoordinated and sleep most of the day. At this stage, a kitten should be able to hold its head up, move by wiggling its arms or legs, and be energetic and vocal.

Kitten Care: One-week-old kitties still unequivocally belong with mama cat. If mama is not present, they need to be fed with a bottle and kitty formula every 2 to 3 hours by a competent caregiver, stimulated to go to the bathroom, and kept at an appropriate temperature.

Week Two

two weeks old kitten

At 2 weeks, the kitten's blue eyes will be completely open. Their vision will be bad, and they will not be able to see things that are far away. At this point, the ear canals will be open; the ears will be small and rounded, like an infant bear. If you open the mouth, you will discover that there are still no teeth. Claws will still be non-retractable.

The average temperature of a three-week-old cat is about 98-99 °F. They will weigh about 8.8-12.3 ounces or 250-350 grams. The kitten's atmosphere should be maintained at around 80 °F.

Behavior: Two-week-old kitties will be more coordinated and start attempting their first steps. They will be unsteady and uncoordinated. Kittens this age may display some curiosity about the world around them but will not be playing yet, and will still spend most of their time sleeping.

Kitten Care: Two-week-old kittens still belong with their mommy full-time. If mama is not around, they must be fed in the bottle with kitten formula every 3 to 4 hrs by a skilled caretaker, stimulated to the bathroom, and kept at a suitable temperature. Two-week-old kittens may be given a dewormer.

Week Three

At 3 weeks of age, a kitten will have blue eyes. Their tiny ears will begin to look like a kitten's and point at the tips. As well, their vision and hearing will be slowly improving. The first teeth will start to pop out at this age. The little teeth in front of the mouth, called the incisors, will begin to emerge through the gums. Kittens will slowly begin withdrawing their claws.

Three-week-old kittens still need a heat source. However, they will be much more energetic and may wander off when not sleeping. Their temperature will be around 99-100 °F, weighing about 12.3-15.9 ounces or 350-450 grams. The environment should be about 75°F at this time.

Behavior: At this age, kitties will be strolling about their environment and may even start experimenting with the litterbox. They might become interested in cat toys, though they cannot yet chase moving things. They will still sleep often and might begin some little self-grooming habits. Throughout this week, their coordination will be much improved.

Kitten care: Three-week-old kittens should always be with their mom. Provide a shallow litter box with a non-clumping clutter. If the mama cat is ill-disposed, kittens should be bottle-fed with d kitten formula every 4 to 5 hours by an experienced caretaker.

Week Four

four weeks old kitten

At 4 weeks of age, a kitten will have clearer vision and hearing. The kitten's teeth will continue to develop. The long teeth alongside the incisors, called the canine teeth, will start to push through beneath the gums. Claws will be retractable at this point.

Continue giving external heat sources for 4-week-old kittens, although they will likely only use it when they sleep. Kittens this age are about 99-101 °F and weigh about 15.9 ounces-1.2 extra pounds or 450-550 grams. The kitty's surroundings must remain cozy and never chillier than 70-75°F.

Behavior: Four-week-old kittens will be confidently exploring as they develop more coordination. At this stage, they will walk, run, and even start to play. With their developed senses, they will be significantly more receptive, making constant eye contact and reacting to environmental stimuli. Their grooming abilities might still be limited, however improving. They will be using a litter box at this stage.

Kitten Care: Four-week-old kittens should always be with their mama cat. Four-week-old kittens can be introduced to toys and will already be using the litter box. Orphans of this age should be bottle-fed every five hours, even through the night.

Week Five

At 5 weeks, a kitten's teeth will keep growing. You will also notice premolars start to come out. The eyes will still be blue, but the ears will be pointed already. The claws will be retractable.

At this stage, kittens will be about 100-101 degrees F and weigh about 1.2-1.4 extra pounds or 550-650 grams. At this age, a home heating source is no longer required as long as the environment is comfortable with a temperature level of 70-75.

Behavior: Five-week-old kitties will be running and playing with confidence. They will start to learn social abilities with human beings and other pets. Grooming abilities will be improved. As well, you will see improved litter box usage at this age.

Kitten Care: A healthy kitten at around five weeks may begin weaning. If in the process of weaning, food and fluids are needed aplenty. Kittens need ample "slurry" or wet food, along with accessibility to their mother's milk or a bottle. Always give supplemental feeding and ensure that the kitten keeps a healthy weight throughout weaning. Have a shallow litter box available to them at all times.

Week Six

six weeks old kitten

At 6 weeks, a kitten's teeth will start to reach the last of their early development, and the molars will begin to emerge. The eyes will still be blue, but their vision and hearing will fully develop.

Their body temperature at this stage is around 100-101°F. The weight will be about 1.4-1.7 pounds or 650-750 grams. An external heat source is no longer needed at this age as long as the area is around 70-75°F.

Behavior: Six-week-old kitties will be confident interacting socially with peers, play-fighting, and pouncing. They will be eager to explore and will be curious. Grooming abilities are also highly-improved at this point. Six-week-old kittens are coordinated enough to jump off furniture and land on their feet.

Kitten Care: Kittens need to receive sufficient wet kitten food if weaning. Give access to water, food, and a shallow litter box. At 6 weeks of age, kittens must get their first FVRCP vaccine to shield them against viruses.

Week Seven

All baby teeth will have fully emerged at 7 weeks old. Male kittens' testicles will start to go down at around 7 weeks. At this age, the kitten's blue eye color will change as the adult eye color develops.

The typical temperature is about 100-101 °F and weighs about 1.7-1.9 extra pounds or 750-850 grams. At this age, the heating source is no longer called for so long as the temperature keeps at 70-75°F.

Behavior: Seven-week-old kitties will experience a spike in energy. 

Sleep time will be reduced, and the time for play will be longer. At this age, kittens can run, climb cat trees, and confidently jump on furniture.

Kitten Care: Kittens must receive sufficient wet food and may have kitten kibble and other solid foods as a supplement. Give accessibility to water, food, and a litter box at all times.

Week Eight

eight weeks old kitten

At 8 weeks of age, a kitten's eyes will be the adult color of amber, green, brown, or blue. Their temperature will be around 100-101°F, weighing about 1.9-2.1 pounds or 850-950 grams. External heating is no longer needed at this age as long as the environment is comfortable at 70-75°F.

Behavior: Eight-week-old kittens will be energetic as well as independent. Their coordination and agility will be almost fully developed.

Kitten Care: Kittens need access to a litter box and dry kitten food or kitty kibble three to four times daily. At this stage, they can get the majority of their calories from dry food if they wish. If two weeks have passed since their recent FVRCP injection, kittens may get a booster at this time. It is also good to run a fecal test to look for inner parasites. A dewormer can be administered if the kitty has not been dewormed. At this age, if they weigh 2 pounds and are healthy, they might be spayed/neutered, microchipped, and adopted.

How to Bathe a Kitten

  • Make the water a suitable warm temperature. Have a little sink or a container all set with some warm water. If the kitten is dirty, you can put a small amount of Dawn or baby shampoo in the water.
  • Have towels ready to immediately dry the kitten off and prevent it from being cold. You can also warm the towels in the clothes dryer ahead of time.
  • Delicately hold the kitten by the scruff and hold its body with your other hand. This might help to manage the cat better and keep it comfortable.
  • Offer the kitten a quick but extensive bath to get dirt and feces off them. For example, if the butt is filthy, only submerge the butt, not the whole kitten.
  • Rinse the kitty off with warm water and promptly wrap it in a towel.
  • Scrub vigorously to get the kitty dry. If the first towel is too wet, transfer it to a tidy, completely dry towel.
  • Keep the kitten with you; do not put the kitten down until it's entirely dry. If needed, wrap a heating pad around the towel while the kitten is drying.

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