If you’ve helped rescue a few kittens or found a stray litter that you want to support, it’s a good idea to find out how old the kittens are. This can help you work out what specific care they need.
It’s worth noting that stray kittens should never be separated from their mother or removed from their nest before you establish if the mother is coming back. Before you do anything, contact your local animal rescue organization for advice.
If you’re looking for a quick summary of key milestones of kitten growth, we’ve included a checklist at the bottom of the article!
Newborn kittens will still have their umbilical cords attached. Their eyes will be closed and their ears folded over. Their paw pads and nose leather will often be pink at this stage, before they darken. Newborn kittens can’t yet see or hear, so they rely on their sense of smell. They’ll also search for the warmth and comfort of their mother cat or a similar heat source.
Newborn kittens can’t yet regulate their own body temperature, and it’s vital that they’re kept warm with a constant heat source. Their body temperature will gradually increase from a newborn temperature of around 95-97 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The optimal temperature of their environment will be 85-90 degrees.
By day 1, a kitten’s umbilical cord should be dried out, and at around 5 days of age, this will fall off naturally. Don’t be tempted to remove it yourself; just wait for nature to do its job!
At this age, kittens have no gag reflex, so take great care if you’re bottle-feeding orphan kittens. They will need feeding every 2 hours and need help to poo.
1 week old
At this age, kittens will still have their eyes closed, but their ears will start to unfold. Their eyes will slowly open from days 8-12. Don’t try to speed along this process; some kitten’s eyes will open faster than their littermates, but they’ll all get there eventually! Kittens will all have blue eyes.
They can already purr and make kitten distress calls to attract the attention of their mother cat or you, as the case may be.
By now, kittens should have doubled their weight at birth. They still can’t regulate their own body temperature, so they are in danger of becoming too cold if their environment isn’t kept warm enough. Week-old kittens will spend 90% of their time snoozing and the other 10% eating!
If you’re bottle-feeding orphan kittens, feedings can now be spread out to once every 3 hours. They will still need help being encouraged to poo.
2 weeks old
By now, a kitten’s eyes are fully open, but their vision is still improving. Their ears will start to unfold more but are still somewhat rounded. These little cuties will start moving around but will be unsteady as they work out how to coordinate those paws.
At this age, kittens will start to interact with each other in addition to sleeping and eating. They may start kneading with their front paws, although they can’t yet retract their claws.
Their environment needs to be kept at a steady 80 degrees. You can deworm kittens at this age, using a wormer product designed for kittens.
Bottle-fed kittens can now be fed every 3-4 hours. They will still need help pooing.
3 weeks old
At this age, a kitten’s incisors will start to come through their gums. Their ears are now fully unfolded and pointed.
By now, most kittens will be confidently walking around, albeit being a little wobbly at times! They will also be starting to explore things outside of their bed, including the litter box!
Kittens at this age still need a heat source, but the ambient temperature can be dropped to 75 degrees.
By this age, it’s possible for an experienced handler to tell if kittens are male or female.
Bottle-fed kittens will now need to be fed every 4-5 hours. They’ll start making the transition from needing help to go to the bathroom to using the litter box on their own.
4 weeks old
By now, a kitten’s canine teeth will start to erupt. They will be steadier on their feet, as well as experimenting with running and playing. Their coordination will be gradually improving.
They will be spending more time playing, running, and interacting with each other — until they fall asleep from sheer exhaustion, that is! Now is a good time to interact with your kittens, to help build their confidence and become happy around people.
Kittens will now be able to regulate their body temperature to a certain degree, but you should still provide a source of heat and keep the ambient temperature at around 70-75 degrees.
Bottle-fed kittens will need bottle feeding every 5 hours, but they should now be able to use the litter box independently.
5 weeks old
A kitten’s premolars will be starting to come through, and this is an indication that they can start being introduced to wet kitten food alongside their mother’s milk or kitten milk replacement powder. While kittens are being weaned, keep a close eye on their weight to make sure they’re still gradually gaining a healthy amount.
Bottle-fed kittens can now be fed every 5-6 hours. By this age, all kittens should have food and water freely available at all times.
6 weeks old
At 6 weeks old, all of a kitten’s milk teeth should now be present. Kittens this age can continue being weaned onto wet kitten food, and by the end of this week, they should be almost entirely eating wet food rather than their mother’s milk or bottle formula. Food and water should be available at all times.
Kittens will now be grooming themselves and each other! You can start to introduce them to a few new experiences, including exploring other cat-safe areas of the house, meeting other pets and people in controlled environments, and trimming their claws.
At this age, you can book an appointment for your kittens to receive their FVRCP vaccine. This is a combination vaccine designed to protect against feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia.
7 weeks old
By 7 weeks old, most kittens will be eating solely wet food, offered freely throughout the day. Their eyes may change color from blue, as their adult eye color starts to emerge.
8 weeks old
Once a kitten is 8 weeks old, they’re ready to move to their new forever homes!
Kittens over 2 pounds in weight can also be booked for their spaying and neutering procedures.
By this stage, kittens will start forming strong bonds with their human caretakers, seeking you out for reassurance, cuddles, and playtime.
Here are the key milestones for each week of a kitten’s life.
Featured Image: Jaroslaw Kurek, Shutterstock