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Newborn Kittens: What You Need to Know

Brandi has been a content writer for the past 10 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.

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 a 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.

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 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 their eyes and check for infection.


Newborn Kittens: The First Six 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.

The First Week

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.

The Second Week

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.

The Third Week

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. :)

The Fourth Week

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.

The Fifth Week

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.

The Sixth Week

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.

Weeks 7-10

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. Cat breeders don't usually give their kittens to new homes until they are 12 weeks old. If you do give them away before 7 weeks are up, they will be more likely to develop behavioral problems. They really need as much time as possible to learn from mama cat and develop good social skills with other pets and humans. They could become "fraidy cats" or even become mean. It also 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. This isn't usually possible before 8 weeks are up. 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.

Six Months In

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!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Brandi Goodman

Comments

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on August 18, 2020:

She definitely could have just been showing off her baby to you. She probably trusts you.

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on August 18, 2020:

By six weeks old she would definitely not be waddling and stumbling as much. I would take her to a vet for sure and find out exactly how old she is. Sorry for the late reply. Hope you can help your little kitten.

Paige on August 12, 2020:

My outdoor cat just had kittens and I sat beside her box to see them and she picked one up and laid it in my lap then laid her head beside it I honestly don't know what she wanted except maybe to show me her baby

theendersheep on August 06, 2020:

We just brought home a female kitten. The lady said that she was six weeks old, but it’s obvious that she’s not even close to being six weeks old. My son picked her up, because I’m high risk so I’m not supposed to leave the house. When he picked her up he thought she was too young based on her size, but he already had her and left by the time I found out. She’s eating only from a bottle, bright lights still hurt her eyes, and noise still hurts her ears. She’s not eating any type of food other than the bottle. She panics when I leave her(I’ve been adopted as mama). She still waddles and stumbles more than walks. She’s still not able to use the bathroom. Also, her eyes are still blue. I think she’s probably two to three weeks. What do you think? She’s not eating as much as she should so I’m going to start pushing food on her today. I just brought her home yesterday, so please don’t think we’ve had her long. I will take her to the vet, but it’ll have to be in a week. I am not allowed to drive anymore, so I have to wait till my son can take off. I appreciate any advice, and so will my children and little Neko.

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on August 06, 2020:

It all depends. They should be alright, especially if the mom cat is there to keep them in line. But I would just keep a close eye on things.

tyrese on August 03, 2020:

my cat has 3 kittens and is gonna have more will the other kittens be kind to them

AnimalLover on July 17, 2020:

My neighbors have two boys seven and four And they can be a bit destructive at times and one of there cats just had a litter of 3 a couple month Ago and the cat is having more so I want to teach them to be more social while the kittens are still young this gave me a lot of great tips! Thank you

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on June 25, 2020:

Sorry I missed your comment. Yes it's possible. Just like children, all cats are going to go through phases at their own pace. Some may be faster than others.

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on June 25, 2020:

Yes they will still grow and be perfectly healthy in most cases.

Lily on May 31, 2020:

if you grab a kitten when there eyes are closed do they grow.?????

Morgan Carraway on April 29, 2020:

This makes me feel like I'm losing my mind, i have 7 kittens that are only 9 days old. They opened their eyes wide open at 4 days old. At 6 days old they started to walk more than creep crawl and i just witnessed one of the kittens try to climb into the low shallow cat litter box. Am i really going crazy or is this v truly possible for this to happen?

Bella on October 13, 2019:

I got a foster kitten at 4 weeks and she was doing great very excited for the new world she is around 9 weeks old now and my cat that is nutered got pregnant and had kittens last night so it has been a fun couple of days

Kaitlyn Steers on August 03, 2019:

I have to foster an abandoned newborn kitten. At 3 days she started hearing my voice, at 6 days she started opening her eyes, and now at 12 days she is responding to me and coming to my voice. She started trying to walk around 4-5 days. I think she is an advanced Kitten.

Jane McNeil on March 24, 2019:

I took in a stray cat. She ate like a horse. After a couple of weeks she starting gaining weight. I was pleased. But she continued to gain weight, only for the light bulb to go on, and for me to realise she was pregnant. She has now given birth to three adorable kittens who are three weeks old. I’m planning to keep one plus mummy, and the other two already have homes together

Barbara on February 28, 2019:

Your kitten can get pregnant at 4 months. So please do not wait till 6 months to fix your kitten. 3.5 month or 3lbs is safe to fix your kitten. Please fix your kitten before she has a litter. There are more cats than homes for cats!

Jish on July 13, 2018:

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

Tracie on May 21, 2018:

How old should they be to put them outside

Brandi Swieter on April 11, 2018:

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.

Meziluna on April 07, 2018:

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.

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on October 24, 2017:

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.

Yareli on October 18, 2017:

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

Monalisa paul on June 26, 2017:

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

Cute cat on April 10, 2017:

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

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on November 16, 2016:

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.

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on November 16, 2016:

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.

Danny on November 03, 2016:

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

Cynthia on August 01, 2016:

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

Tanu Aubeeluck on July 07, 2016:

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

Vanessa on July 05, 2016:

All ur advice was helpful -

Shelia on April 27, 2016:

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

New kittens on April 19, 2016:

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 from KOLKATA (CALCUTTA),INDIA on August 15, 2014:

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

heylamina on May 10, 2013:

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 ;)

Livy10122 on December 19, 2012:

Great information for my four new kittys!! :)

Shaz on December 08, 2012:

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???

elizabeth909 on October 28, 2012:

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

LauraMc2012 on September 25, 2012:

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

Jennifer on September 22, 2012:

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?

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on September 19, 2012:

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.

Rachel on September 18, 2012:

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.

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on August 17, 2012:

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.

Jazzmin on August 15, 2012:

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

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on July 29, 2012:

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.

Amanda on July 25, 2012:

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

Dani Haas on July 15, 2012:

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?

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on May 18, 2012:

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 from USA on April 29, 2012:

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.

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on April 20, 2012:

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.

Jnj8487 on April 19, 2012:

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

Brandi Goodman (author) from Holland, MI on March 19, 2012:

Thanks for commenting. Glad you liked it. :)

DearBandit on March 19, 2012:

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