Cats are one of the most common family pets and many families choose to raise their new cat from when it is a kitten. Today, our La Mesa vets talk about caring for a newborn kitten and when you can expect them to open their eyes.
Caring for and raising kittens is quite the adventure. You will notice that their eyes have not yet opened and their ears may still be closed against their head. They will be unable to stand or walk around, and are more or less helpless - but with proper love and care from their mother or caretakers, they're sure to grow up healthy and happy.
When Can You Expect Your Kitten to Open Their Eyes?
Kittens develop at differing rates depending on a number of factors, but most newborns will begin opening their eyes between the ages of 2-16 days. Their vision slowly improves during this time, though the two eyes may not fully open at the same rate. At about 2 weeks of age, both eyes are usually dilated and by 3 weeks old, many kittens are able to focus with both eyes. All newborn kittens have blue eyes, and the eye color will change as the kitten ages, usually settling on the true color at about 8 weeks old.
How to properly care for the eyes of your newborn kitten
Try to keep very young kittens away from bright lights that could potentially hurt or even damage their developing eyes. If the kitten doesn't have a mother or isn't being well cared for by their mother, it's up to you to ensure that 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!
When you should be concerned about your newborn kitten's eyes
Newborn kittens can develop a crust on their eyes that prevent them from opening. This is a common problem that can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection; yet another reason to ensure that your kittens' bedding and shared areas are clean and hygienic to stop infections from reoccurring or spreading to littermates. If kittens' eyes develop this matted crust, try gently cleaning their eyes with a cotton ball dampened with warm clean water. Avoid soap entirely! If your kittens' eyes show no improvement or worsen, call your vet right away to ensure that they receive care.
How to Care For Your Newborn Kitten
Much like newborn human babies, newborn kittens spend much of their time sleeping, waking occasionally to be fed and cared for. Kittens are able to 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 around 22 hours a day, with more mature kittens and adult cats requiring 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 are able to 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!
Raising a Kitten
Kittens are adorable and lovable household pets, however, they have very specific needs that have to be taken care of. These needs are different for every stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed it can impact their overall health and longevity. Here we talk about how you can care for your new furry friend during their kitten years.
0-4 Weeks Old
When a kitten is 0-4 weeks old they are considered a newborn, they are still learning how to meow, walk, and even regulate their body temperature. If they have a mother, their mother will be able to do most of the work including feeding. All you would have to do is make sure the mother is in good health and that they are in a warm and safe environment. Make sure the floor of their crate/area is covered with a blanket, and they have a warm bed to lay on.
If the newborn kitten does not have a mother the first thing you should do is take them to see a vet. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the health of the kitten and provide you with detailed instructions on how to meet the needs of your tiny little friend.
5-11 Weeks Old
When the kitten you are caring for is around 5 to 10 weeks old they should gradually stop being bottle fed or fed by their mothers and start feeding them high protein meals about 3 to 4 times a day. You can start this by pouring the formula into a food bowl and possibly adding a bit of softened hard food or canned soft food to help ease them in the process. And because their motor skills will be improving at this stage they will start becoming adventurous and you will have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble.
Your kitten will require a lot of supervision and hands-on playtime while they are between 2-4 months old.
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.