Newborn Kittens: What You Need to Know

Updated on February 26, 2018
urgurl_bri profile image

Brandi has been a content writer for the past six years. After owning several cats, she has become knowledgeable about their care.

My friend's cat, Lynx, and her 3 kittens.
My friend's cat, Lynx, and her 3 kittens. | Source

Your cat just had kittens. What now? The answer to that depends on how well the cat knows and trusts you. If it's your cat that you've had for a long period of time, she probably won't mind if you touch her kittens. If it's a stray, or cat you've only had for a short while, she might not like it if you come near her babies. Take it slowly, and make sure she is okay with it before you touch them. Either way, they really should not be handled that much at all until they are about 2 weeks old. If you do handle them, be sure to either wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly before and after.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the kitten I had.  I named him Tux.This is the kitten my sister had.  She named him Binx after the cat on the movie Hocus Pocus.This is the kitten my friend had.  We named her Twix.
This is the kitten I had.  I named him Tux.
This is the kitten I had. I named him Tux. | Source
This is the kitten my sister had.  She named him Binx after the cat on the movie Hocus Pocus.
This is the kitten my sister had. She named him Binx after the cat on the movie Hocus Pocus. | Source
This is the kitten my friend had.  We named her Twix.
This is the kitten my friend had. We named her Twix. | Source

Kittens are born with their eyes closed. They will open eventually, but not for a week or two. (Between 7 to 14 days approximately) Never try to open a kitten's eyes. They will open on their own. If you do try this, it can cause damage to their eyes and even blindness. If, however, the eyes seem swollen, you may try to take a damp washcloth (with warm water) and very gently wipe their eyes so it may be easier for them to open. Don't try this though until after the 14 days are up. If that doesn't help, they need to be taken to a vet so the vet can open them and check for infection.


Newborn Kittens: The 1st 6 Weeks

~The first 6 weeks are the most important in a cat's life. During this time they are developing, and what they do, and you do, in this period will determine their personality.~

The kittens drinking from their mother.  They were just a couple days old.
The kittens drinking from their mother. They were just a couple days old. | Source

(0-1 Week Old)

♥During the first week, all kittens do is eat, sleep, and have their mother help them go to the bathroom. They will typically weigh around 3-4 ounces and are smaller than the palm of your hand.

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The kittens at 1 week old. (technically 1 week and 1 day)Tux (on the left) and Binx (on the right) at 13 days old.
The kittens at 1 week old. (technically 1 week and 1 day)
The kittens at 1 week old. (technically 1 week and 1 day) | Source
Tux (on the left) and Binx (on the right) at 13 days old.
Tux (on the left) and Binx (on the right) at 13 days old. | Source

(1-2 Weeks Old)

♥During the second week, the kitten's eyes should be opening. They can open sooner, even at 6 or 7 days, but it's usually closer to 10-14 days. Just like children, all kittens will be born with blue eyes. This won't change for a few weeks. Their vision will be blurry at first so try to keep them away from bright lights.

~My kitten, Tux, started opening his eyes at 9 days. He started with both eyes half open. At 11 days he had 1 eye fully open and 1 eye 3/4 of the way open. By 12 days both eyes were open. My sister's kitten, Binx, started opening his eyes at 10 days. He started with one eye 1/4 of the way open and the other just barely a slit in the corner. At 11 days he had 1 eye 1/2 open and the other eye 1/4 of the way open. By 12 days both eyes were open. The other kitten, Twix, didn't start opening her eyes until 13 days old. She started with one eye 1/3 of the way open and 1 eye 1/4 of the way open. By 14 days she had 1 eye all the way open and 1 eye 1/2 of the way open. At 15 days both of her eyes were open. Twix was the first born but was the last to open her eyes. It all just depends and they do it in their own time. By 2 weeks they will probably be open, but if they're not, give them until about 3 weeks before worrying and contacting your vet.~


The kittens at 2 weeks old.
The kittens at 2 weeks old. | Source

(2-3 Weeks Old)

♥During the third week, kitten's ear canals will be open and they may get startled by loud sounds. Their sense of smell should be fully developed by now. Also, kittens have their digestive system developing so they may now start to go to the bathroom on their own. Teeth may also start to come in.

The kittens at 3 weeks old. They're sitting up, walking around, and play-fighting with each other now. :)
The kittens at 3 weeks old. They're sitting up, walking around, and play-fighting with each other now. :) | Source

(3-4 Weeks Old)

♥During the fourth week, kittens will be starting to stand and walk. They will also be more interactive with their brothers and sisters.

The kittens at 4 weeks old.  They are now a month old and getting so big.  They walk and try to run around. They even drink out of their mom's water dish sometimes.
The kittens at 4 weeks old. They are now a month old and getting so big. They walk and try to run around. They even drink out of their mom's water dish sometimes. | Source

(4-5 Weeks Old)

♥During the fifth week, kittens should be socializing with humans. They are now more independent and getting out on their own. During this time, 2 important things can happen. First, you can introduce them to a canned kitten food. This food should have a primary meat source as the first ingredient, like chicken. Second, the kittens can also start to learn to use the litter box. They will need a small shallow box (you could even try the lid off of a shoe box) and only an inch or so of litter. You should line this with a plastic liner so it doesn't leak through. Kittens will try to taste everything, so you should try to use a natural kind of litter instead of clumping clay. You can buy a special litter from a pet store or make your own. Simply shred up some newspaper or even use some sand or soil from outside.

The kittens at 5 weeks old.
The kittens at 5 weeks old. | Source

(5-6 Weeks Old)

♥During the sixth week, kittens can run and play now and should be socializing with humans if you want them to be a friendly house cat. At this time you should teach your kitten that hands are not for biting so they learn not to play too rough or try to bite when you are simply holding or petting them. You can try to use a plastic straw for this lesson. Drag it across the floor and let the kitten pounce on the straw and bite it, but not on your hand. Chewing on the straw is also good for teething.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The kittens at 6 weeks old.  They are eating and drinking mostly on their own, but still sometimes drink from their mother.  They love to run around and play.The kittens at 7 weeks old.  They love to play and run around.  The kittens are almost completely weaned from their mother and almost always use the litter box.The kittens at 8 weeks old.  They get into everything now. lol.The kittens at 9 weeks old.  They were playing on the chair my son tipped over. lol.
The kittens at 6 weeks old.  They are eating and drinking mostly on their own, but still sometimes drink from their mother.  They love to run around and play.
The kittens at 6 weeks old. They are eating and drinking mostly on their own, but still sometimes drink from their mother. They love to run around and play. | Source
The kittens at 7 weeks old.  They love to play and run around.  The kittens are almost completely weaned from their mother and almost always use the litter box.
The kittens at 7 weeks old. They love to play and run around. The kittens are almost completely weaned from their mother and almost always use the litter box. | Source
The kittens at 8 weeks old.  They get into everything now. lol.
The kittens at 8 weeks old. They get into everything now. lol. | Source
The kittens at 9 weeks old.  They were playing on the chair my son tipped over. lol.
The kittens at 9 weeks old. They were playing on the chair my son tipped over. lol. | Source

♥Between the 7th and 10th week kittens could go to new homes, but they are still learning from their mother. They would be okay, but it's still best to wait until after 10 weeks. People who are cat breeders don't usually give their kittens to new homes until they are 12 weeks. If you do give them away before 7 weeks though, they will be more likely to develop behavioral problems. They really need as much time as possible to learn from their mother to develop good social skills with other pets and humans. They could become "fraidy cats" or even become mean. Also, it depends on the maturity of the cat. If they are litter-trained, eating only cat food (and completely weaned from their mother) and can walk around and play well with their brothers and sisters and you, they will probably be ready. But this won't be before 8 weeks for sure. Others may need a little more time, until 9 or 10 weeks. If you absolutely can't keep them and have to give them up, then 6 or 7 weeks isn't the worst you can do, but definitely not before.

Also, around between 8-10 weeks you can start your kitten on hard KITTEN food. Regular hard cat food shouldn't be given until they are near their adult weight, which is typically around 9 months.

♥By 6 months, your kitten is now basically a "teenager." They will now be showing signs of sexual behavior. So around 6 months, you should really have your cat spayed or neutered. If you don't, that's fine, just be aware that female cats can get pregnant easily, even while they are still nursing, and male cats will spray (which is not a pleasant smell to have in your home.) The only main side effect of this will be that your pet may gain weight due to the fact that they are no longer roaming around looking for other cats to mate with and may become "lazy." However, this can be easily managed by a healthy diet. Having your cat spayed or neutered will be for the good of society as many shelters are full already due to an over-population of cats. There are not near enough homes for the number of kittens cats can have.

Other than that, your kittens should grow into happy, healthy adult cats as long as you give them lots of love and attention!

Do You Have Experience Caring for Kittens Like Me?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Brandi Swieter

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      • profile image

        Jish 

        7 days ago

        Not all children are born with blue eyes. Both my kids eye were brown

      • profile image

        Tracie 

        2 months ago

        How old should they be to put them outside

      • profile image

        Brandi Swieter 

        3 months ago

        Meziluna,

        the kittens should not be introduced to the other cats until at least a couple of weeks have gone by. It's best to take a towel, blanket, or even piece of clothing and let the kitten lay on it or rub it on its fur. Introduce that to the other cats first to provide them with their smell. Once you're ready to bring them around the other cats, do so by putting them in a carrier and allowing the others to come and see them/smell them. It's really best to take it slow and allow them to become familiar with each other before just putting them all together at once. It helps avoid aggressive behavior.

      • profile image

        Meziluna 

        3 months ago

        I raised 4 kittens from the time they were 2 days old. For first time kitten rescuers, KMR should be given as a replacement- never cows milk. Goats milk will suffice until KMR can be found. I taught these girls (all 4 of them ) to do everything a mother cat would except hunt but that cane naturally while playing with their toys. In this litter were twin calicos, that bonded, so I kept them. They are now 2 years old and Hope, who was the runt, just gave birth to 4 kittens of her own. I had Sophia, her sister spayed and every time I made an appt. to have Hope done, she would go into heat. I do rescue from time to time but have always had females until Jack came along. I would keep them separated during Hope’s heat but accidents happen, hence the four 9 day old kittens. I worried because the only real mother Hope had was me. She had them in my front closet and I was able to transfer them after a few days to a bigger bin with blankets and a heating pad. I have other adult cats that were rescues as well and have them in different rooms. However, this can’t go on forever- I have a “kitten playpen”, I just want to know when I should move them. Their eyes and ears are still closed. I welcome all suggestions. Also Jack, their father has been neutered and Hope has an appointment when they fully wean.

      • urgurl_bri profile imageAUTHOR

        Brandi Swieter 

        9 months ago from Holland, MI

        He could either be biting it to teach it or sometimes adult cats will kill off a kitten that is too weak or sick that they know won't survive anyways.

      • profile image

        Yareli 

        9 months ago

        Hey is it a good idea to leave the father with the kitten because when I do he starts biting it sometimes

      • profile image

        Monalisa paul 

        13 months ago

        Hi, a kitten was found on out terrace without her mother.. 4days old it was. Now I am taking care of it. But problem is I don't know whether feeding milk is proper or not. Also it mews a lot. Can't understand if there is any problem. If u can help with its feeding chart and how to take care of it. Thanks

      • profile image

        Cute cat 

        15 months ago

        Thanks it is the first time ever having kittens so this did help

      • urgurl_bri profile imageAUTHOR

        Brandi Swieter 

        20 months ago from Holland, MI

        Sorry, I just found this comment now. Do you still have the kitten? The only real recommendation is to just work with the kitten the best you can. There is no mother cat showing it and teaching it the things it needs to know, so that is up to you to show her how to do certain things. You'll have to keep introducing her to the litter box to get her comfortable with it and she should catch on eventually. It will just take time.

      • urgurl_bri profile imageAUTHOR

        Brandi Swieter 

        20 months ago from Holland, MI

        It depends on the cat. It's not usually recommended to touch kittens from a stray because you never know how the mom will react. But if she is fine with you touching them and it hasn't been a problem for her, then it should be ok to continue to do so moderately.

      • profile image

        Danny 

        20 months ago

        Excellent advice just what I was looking for just what I needed. Thank You

      • profile image

        Cynthia 

        23 months ago

        Ok so i found a small kitten a couple of days ago. I am not sure how old she is but i estimate maybe about 3 to 4 weeks old. She wasn't walking properly the first 2 days, she didn't have full strenght on her back legs and her teeth were very very small, but she did have her fangs. I named her chilli, she was in a box next to the garbage. My question is she was abonded what can i do to help her not be a problem cat. I don't want her to have behavioral problems because she was separated from the her mom and litter at such a young age. For the the first 2 days i fed her milk and helped her with her necessities because she was unable but now she can do it on her own. My other question is i have tried for her to use the litter box after feeding but she runs from it so i dont know how she will use it

      • profile image

        Tanu Aubeeluck 

        2 years ago

        thanks for your information my cat is 1 and it is the first time she is pregnant

      • profile image

        Vanessa 

        2 years ago

        All ur advice was helpful -

      • profile image

        Shelia 

        2 years ago

        Hello my cat had kittens about five six weeks ago they are all doing wonderfully running playing using litter box eating on their own and Mom has quit feeding them so I have decided to try to rehome them because I cannot keep him any longer due to my landlord do you think they will be ok

      • profile image

        New kittens 

        2 years ago

        Thx this helped a lot but is it true that if your cat is a stray you can touch it cuz I was touching mine and she didn't do anything

      • Nilanjan Ghosh profile image

        NILANJAN GHOSH 

        3 years ago from KOLKATA (CALCUTTA),INDIA

        I love cats...a wonderful hub! :)

      • profile image

        heylamina 

        5 years ago

        i got kittes 6 days ago and i have touched them i have also my cat in 1-2 years now and she is soo happy when i come and i can touch them but last year in vinter they died it was soo sad i think they was sick and my cat wont give them milk and they was only 1 week old and i saw like an insect i one of the kitties head? i don't know what is was and they died to my birthday and thanks for the information ;)

      • profile image

        Livy10122 

        5 years ago

        Great information for my four new kittys!! :)

      • profile image

        Shaz 

        5 years ago

        Hi I have just got a kitten she is only five weeks old however she is separated from her mother. At the moment she is constantly biting on clothes and bedsheets I don't know what to do, especially as she is not seeming to eat at the moment any advice???

      • profile image

        elizabeth909 

        5 years ago

        hey!! my cat -Sheila had her litter only a week ago... they still squack! when will they start miaauwing?? thanks for the info ;)*

      • profile image

        LauraMc2012 

        5 years ago

        Brilliant post, thanks. My cat, Bella, had her first litter last night, 6 beautiful black kittens. Lots of good info to help me.

      • profile image

        Jennifer 

        5 years ago

        Thank you for posting this! My cat was pregnant and we didn't even know and now she has three kittens, Don't think we will be giving them away though! Is it true long haired and short hairs are completely different on timing of opening eyes?

      • urgurl_bri profile imageAUTHOR

        Brandi Swieter 

        5 years ago from Holland, MI

        Thanks for commenting guys. Rachel, it's completely normal for kittens to shake like that. When they walk they shake and stumble around for a few weeks until they get used to it. And when they get picked up they can shake too. It's nothing to worry about. Once the kittens are about 2 or so months old that should be done with and they'll be walking around more and playing. And all kittens do things on their own time. So it's completely fine if one is a little slower at things than others, or just different in general.

      • profile image

        Rachel 

        5 years ago

        I am fostering a mom and her four kittens through the ASPCA. The kittens are four weeks old and doing pretty well on walking and beginning to socialize with me and my husband. My concern is that the one is walking okay, but not as well as the others. And whenever I pick him up, he starts to shake. He was shaking when he first started walking, which I was told is due to the fact that he isn't used to carrying all of that weight. I'm assuming he shakes when I pick him up because I am new to him and he may be startled. I guess I'm just asking if it's normal for the one to be stumbling a little more than the others and a little more shy around people.

      • urgurl_bri profile imageAUTHOR

        Brandi Swieter 

        5 years ago from Holland, MI

        Honestly Jazzmin.. I did the same thing when I was your age. My dad does not like cats at all, and my friend's cat had kittens and when they were old enough I took one home and snuck her into my room. My dad DID find out though, and I had to give her away. :( I really would recommend telling your parents. How are you going to get the money to pay for litter and food? I luckily had my friend helping me since she had cats, she would give me some of her stuff. They can't have milk when they are bigger because they are lactose intolerant. There are a lot of human foods that can harm them, even tuna. The only things that are really okay are chicken and beef that are cooked, but not salted. But they really do just need cat food and water. So you have to be able to provide that for them. And you have to be on top of cleaning the litter box because if it gets full they will go wherever else they can! Especially if you don't want your parents knowing, you don't want your room smelling like cat pee or worse. So be sure to clean their litter every day or every other day and replace the litter every week. Good luck. Hope if you get caught then you won't get your kitten taken away like I did.

      • profile image

        Jazzmin 

        5 years ago

        hey i have a baby kitten shes playing but no longer with her family im only 15 n im mature but i know it was silly of me to do this but im keeping her n my parents don't no my mom hates pets n no matter wat i don't wanna give it up

      • urgurl_bri profile imageAUTHOR

        Brandi Swieter 

        5 years ago from Holland, MI

        Dani... the kittens were in a box in my closet. The closet was completely cleared out so the mom and the kittens could be in there with their box, food dish, and litter box, with space to come out and lay. And yes, they are old enough to come out! At 4 and 5 weeks they should start to be pet and socialized with humans. They need to get used to someone holding them and petting them and taught not to bite. They should walk around and come out on their own when they're ready, as long as they have the space to do so.

      • profile image

        Amanda 

        5 years ago

        I am a big cat lover so I really enjoyed readig all this

      • profile image

        Dani Haas 

        6 years ago

        Where did you keep the kittens? I have been keeping the kittens in my dads closet and put a piece of plywood so they could not get out but they still escape their five weeks old do you think there old enough to run around the house and explore?

      • urgurl_bri profile imageAUTHOR

        Brandi Swieter 

        6 years ago from Holland, MI

        Eric... I'm glad this hub has helped you. Like I said near the end of the hub, 6 or 7 weeks isn't the worst you can do, so that's not so bad, but it really is preferable to wait a few more weeks. Have fun with the cute little kittens. :)

      • Eric Calderwood profile image

        Eric Calderwood 

        6 years ago from USA

        Great informational Hub! We have had four previous litters of kittens and have been giving them away at about 6 or 7 weeks. We have a new litter which is only 3 days old. Now that I know that we have been giving them away too soon, we will wait longer to give the new kittens away.

      • urgurl_bri profile imageAUTHOR

        Brandi Swieter 

        6 years ago from Holland, MI

        Because that's what all the research I found suggested. These were not my cats, they were my friend's, and I hadn't been around them much before. Even my friend though, was wearing gloves. Because it is possible that the mom won't like you holding them and reject them if she smells humans on them. So it's recommended for at least the first week or two to use gloves when holding them, so that is what we did. And yeah, maybe if the mom is really comfortable with you and she sees you touching them and is ok, then you don't have to worry about it. But I'd rather be safe than sorry.

      • profile image

        Jnj8487 

        6 years ago

        Why are you holding them babies like they have a disease. No need for gloves my gosh!!!!!

      • urgurl_bri profile imageAUTHOR

        Brandi Swieter 

        6 years ago from Holland, MI

        Thanks for commenting. Glad you liked it. :)

      • DearBandit profile image

        DearBandit 

        6 years ago

        Thank you for writing this hub, very useful! Vote up~!

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