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Kitten Stages of Development – Kitten Development – 1st to 20th week – Important things you should know

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Newborn kittens may be born fully furred but they aren’t done growing once they leave their mother’s womb. The first week of a kitten’s life is full of major changes and growth. If you have a litter of kittens it’s a good idea to know what to watch for as well as know what you can do to help your kitten get off to a good start in life.

You might be interested in : Kitten feeding schedule

Physical Development of a Newborn Kitten

When a kitten is born it should fit in the palm of your hand. It will look just like a miniature version of an adult cat with its fur, four legs, two ears, and all its other body parts, but not everything works like an adult cat just yet.

The normal, healthy birth weight of a kitten is about 3.5 ounces which is just a little bit more than a deck of playing cards weighs. By the end of the first week, a kitten typically doubles its body weight putting it at about 7 ounces so these are good weights to record in order to monitor a kitten’s growth. If a kitten isn’t gaining enough weight it may mean there is something wrong that needs to be addressed.

After two or three days a kitten’s umbilical cord will dry up and fall off but its eyes and ears will remain closed for a little while yet. At this point, the kitten is dependent entirely upon its mother (or foster human) for warmth, food, and hygiene. It will crawl around on its belly, cry if it is hungry, sleep, and urinate and defecate when its mother stimulates it by licking it.

Behavior Changes of Newborn Kittens

You probably won’t notice much of a difference between a newborn kitten and a one-week-old kitten but it will start to be more active as the week goes on. Kittens won’t be playing with littermates just yet and the only social interaction between each other will be battling for a nipple to nurse from.

Kitten development Video

Health and Care of a Newborn Kitten

Since a newborn kitten is completely dependent upon its mother for the first few weeks of life, you’ll need to play the role of mom if your kitten is an orphan or has been neglected by its mother. If the mother is taking care of the kittens then there is little you need to do but some things you should still look for.

  • Kittens are unable to regulate their body temperatures when they’re only a few days old so blankets, a heat lamp, heating pad, and other elements may be necessary to ensure a kitten stays warm. If a kitten gets too cold it can be detrimental to its health.
  • Watch the kittens for a lack of weight gain or weight loss. These things could indicate the kitten is not eating enough or there is something else wrong.
  • Look for bubbles or liquid coming out of the noses. This could indicate aspiration or a hole in the roof of the mouth.
  • Watch for bloated bellies. This may mean that a kitten isn’t urinating or defecating and might need some assistance from you.
  • Make sure the mother cat is licking the kittens to stimulate them to urinate and defecate regularly.
  • Routinely check the color of the tongue and gums of the kittens to ensure that they are bright pink.
  • Make sure each kitten is moving around to sleep and nurse. A normal kitten crawls on its belly to find a nipple.
  • Check the mother’s nipples to make sure milk is being produced to feed the kittens. A gentle squeeze of the nipple should result in some milk oozing out.
  • Watch the mother cat to make sure she is giving the kittens ample time to regularly nurse or the kittens will need to be bottle-fed. Some mother cats do not nurse their kittens.

Food and Nutrition for a Newborn Kitten

Newborn kittens do not have any teeth and get all of their food and nutrition from cat milk. The first few days after giving birth, the mother cat will produce a very special kind of milk for the kittens called colostrum. This milk contains special ingredients called maternal antibodies which help protect the kittens from illnesses until their own immune systems are working. It is very important that kittens start nursing shortly after birth to ensure these antibodies are consumed from the colostrum.

If a kitten is orphaned and needs to be bottle-fed, a special cat milk replacement formula should be used to provide proper nutrition. A homemade kitten formula can be used temporarily. A newborn kitten should consume about seven teaspoons in a day and will eat small amounts every two hours.

Training Newborn Kittens

At this young of an age there is no effective training that you can do with a kitten. Litter box training will come naturally for a kitten but should not begin until the mother cat is not needed to stimulate it to urinate and defecate.

Caring for the Mother Cat

If the mother cat is present, it is just as important to ensure it stays healthy as it is to monitor the kittens. Kittens need their mother to feed them, clean them, stimulate them, and keep them warm.

  • Kitten food should be fed to the mother cat while it is pregnant and it should be continued until the kittens are no longer nursing. This will help provide extra nutrients to the kittens through the mother’s milk after they are born.
  • The mother cat should be properly vaccinated prior to becoming pregnant so that it can pass on the maternal antibodies to its kittens.
  • Make sure the mother cat is able to rest and nurse in a quiet, stress-free room. It is extremely taxing on a body to nurse and care for kittens so extra stress should be avoided.

Kitten Stages of Development

Newborn Kitten

When kittens are first born they are completely helpless—their eyes are closed, their ears are folded, and they can’t stand, keep themselves warm or eat on their own. They rely on mom for everything!

Learn more about newborn kittens in our Kitten Guide


Darling as a newborn!

The First Week

When kittens are first born, they are helpless—they cannot see, hear, keep themselves warm, or eliminate waste on their own. They fit in the palm of your hand and weigh 3-5 ounces. Kittens like Darling, and his siblings, are completely dependent on their mother (or you!) for protection, warmth, and nutrition. Even so, these kittens can purr and make distress calls. They spend 90 percent of their time sleeping and the other 10 percent eating.

Want to learn more about kittens and how to care about them in the first week?

Visit our Kitten Guide.KittenProgression-Darling-week1

At the end of the first week, Darling is starting to become more aware of his surroundings.

One Day Old Kitten

At one day old, the kittens cannot stand. Their eyes are closed and their ears are folded. Kittens this young require round-the-clock care and bottle feeding every two hours.Denby is just a day old.

Denby is just a day old.

Three Days Old Kitten

Notice that the kittens’ ears are just beginning to unfold, though their eyes remain closed. Their sense of smell, hearing, and taste are slowly starting to develop.Tweed is only three days old. His ears are starting to unfold.

Tweed is only three days old.

Six Days Old Kitten

After almost a week, the kittens begin to wiggle around on their own a little bit and their eyes start to open.Cordory at six days old. His eyes are starting to open

Cordory at six days old.

One Week Old Kitten

One week in this world, Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are becoming more aware of their surroundings. Their eyes are almost completely open, though their eyesight is still unfocused. They have doubled their birth weight to around eight ounces. At about seven days old, a kitten’s ears will unfold.Wembley is one week old!

Wembley is one week old!

The Second Week

During their second week, Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley continue to grow by leaps and bounds. By the end of the week, their ears will be almost completely uncurled and they will begin to crawl. They still depend completely on a caregiver—either mom or you—for food and waste elimination.

Want to learn more about kittens and how to care about them in the second week?

Visit our Kitten Guide.KittenProgression-Darling-week2

Look at those blue peepers! Darling’s eyes are fully open, and he is taking his first wobbly steps.

Eight Days Old Kitten

The kittens snuggle together for warmth and comfort and rarely venture far from mom, their nest, or each other.Eight days old! All the kittens pile together

Eight days old! All the kittens pile together.

Nine Days Old Kitten

The kitten’s eyes are all blue—and they will stay that way for the first couple of weeks. Their true eye color may not become completely apparent until they are two months oldCorduroy on day nine. Look at those blue eyes!

Corduroy on day nine.Look at those blue eyes!

Twelve Days Old Kitten

The kittens are becoming more comfortable venturing away from mom, though they are wobbly on their feet.Wembley is twelve days old and starting to move around.

Wembley is twelve days old and starting to move around.

Two Weeks Old Kitten

Now that Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are more aware of their surroundings, they are beginning to interact with each other, but still need mom. Their sense of smell is developing, and they will hiss at unfamiliar scents or sounds—though the tiny sounds that come out are most likely not as ferocious as they think! They are also kneading, though they cannot yet retract their claws.Denby at two weeks

Denby at two weeks.

The Third Week

By the third week, you can tell if the kittens are boys or girls. (Darling, Denby, Corduroy, and Tweed are all boys; Wembley is the only girl). Their teeth are coming in and their walking is becoming more confident. You can start providing a litter box and wet food.

At the end of his third week, Darling’s now playing with his siblings and getting more mobile.

Want to learn more about kittens and how to care about them in the third week?

Visit our Kitten Guide.


Fifteen Days Old Kitten

Even at this age, the kittens still spend a substantial part of their day sleeping.Day 15 Denby

Denby at 15 days.

Sixteen Days Old Kitten

The kittens are just beginning to play and develop their fine motor skills.Wembley is up and about on day 16.

Wembley is up and about on day 16.

Twenty Days Old Kitten

Kittens this age can start to eliminate waste on their own, without the help of mom or a caregiver. Now that the kittens have reached this milestone, it’s time to start litter box training.

Corduroy at 20 days

Three Weeks Old Kitten

If you are bottle feeding, you’ll notice the kittens are drinking much more at each feeding, but at fewer feedings, probably four to five times a day. At this age you can start introducing solid food—use wet food at first, and try mixing it with kitten formula. By the end of the week, their weight will have increased to close to 15 ounces. They are walking steadily, without too much wobbling.Tweed is three weeks old!

Tweed is three weeks old!

The Fourth Week

Look how much Darling has grown! At four weeks kittens are sturdy on their feet and playing with each other, toys, and people.

By now, Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley look like fluffy, miniature versions of their mother. They are showing interest in the outside world, interacting with their littermates more and also beginning to interact with people and toys. That means it’s time to begin socializing these kittens!

Want to learn more about kittens and how to care about them in the fourth week?


Twenty Two Days Old Kitten

Notice that their ears are fully extended and they are holding themselves up well. They are sturdy! Their fur is beginning to fill out and you may be able to tell who will have short, medium or long fur. These kittens all have short fur.

Wembley’s ears are up and she is steady on her feet!

Twenty Three Days Old Kitten

Who wants to play? Playing is a great way to socialize kittens and teach them fun and positive ways to interact with people.

Denby with his new favorite toy.!

Four Weeks Old Kitten

It’s been one whole month! It’s amazing how quickly these helpless kittens have grown up over a four-week period. Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are thriving babies, starting to explore the world around them and play frequently with friends and toys.At four weeks old, Corduroy is ready to explore!

At four weeks old, Corduroy is ready to explore!

The Fifth Week

Get ready for a lot of fun! Darling is now full of energy and plays exuberantly. He developing lots of personality!

This is when the fun begins. Now that the kittens’ sight is fully developed, they are engaging in vigorous and exhaustive play, running around and exploring until they quite literally fall asleep right where they are. While they are experimenting with solid food, kittens like Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are still nursing from their mother (or being bottle fed by you) a few times a day. Interacting with people is important for kittens at this age.

Want to learn more about kittens and how to care about them in the fifth week?


Thirty One Days Old Kitten

Exuberant play means tired kittens! Play—with each other and with you—is an important part of kitten socialization because it helps them bond with each other and build confidence around people.

A pile of tired kittens!

Thirty Two Days Old Kitten

The kittens are being handled by people early and often to encourage their social development. Getting love and play from humans helps them connect positive experiences with people—something that will help when they are adopted into new homes.

Denby in the hands of his caregiver!

Five Weeks Old Kitten

Showing their independence, Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are beginning to demonstrate their individual personalities: Darling is a talker; Denby is always up for adventure and a good wrestle; Corduroy is brave and confident; Tweed is sweet and loves belly rubs; and Wembley is a cuddle bug and full of silly mischief.Corduroy, brave and confident!

Corduroy, brave and confident!

The Sixth Week

Every day Darling is getting more sure of himself through socialization and play. He’s using the litter box and eating cat food – though he still visits mom for snacks and comfort.

Continuing to socialize the kittens only gets more important as they grow. This is the age when the people caring for Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley and the rest of their cat family begin teaching the kittens how to play, letting them know that human hands are not for biting or scratching.

Want to learn more about kittens and how to care about them in the sixth week?

Visit our Kitten Guide.


Thirty Seven Days Old Kitten

No longer wobbly on their feet, the kittens have found stability using their tails to help balance.

Wembley uses her tail for balance.

Forty Days Old Kitten

The kittens are stalking, hiding and pouncing, and digging—instinctual behaviors ingrained in all cats, whether they grow up indoors or outdoors.

Tweed practices his stalking and pouncing.

Six Weeks Old Kitten

The kittens are now proficient at cleaning themselves, having learned it from birth from their mother. They are also grooming each other, reinforcing the bond between siblings. Incorporate grooming into your interactions with the kittens—especially if you have a single kitten, or you are raising a litter without the mother cat.Tweed,Wembley and Denby at six weeks old.

Tweed, Wembley, and Denby at six weeks old.

The Seventh Week

Darling is almost fully weaned and continues to play and learn.

The kittens are almost fully weaned and continue to play and learn. Being introduced to new people, places in the home, and other pets is an important part of socialization. They are pretty self-sufficient at this point, though Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley still get comfort from mom.

Want to learn more about kittens and how to care about them in the seventh week?

Visit our Kitten Guide.


45 Days Old Kitten

As part of socialization, the kittens are being introduced to different parts of the house, different objects, different pets and people, and different experiences—all to help them adjust to new situations.Corduroy, curious and looking forward to new experiences.

Corduroy, curious and looking forward to new experiences.

47 Days Old Kitten

The kittens have been introduced to scratching posts and had their claws trimmed for the first time. Training the kittens to understand these routines helps prepare them for their new homes.Wembley is comfortable with her routine.

Wembley is comfortable with her routine.

Seven Week Old Kitten

Almost fully weaned from mom, the kittens are growing up! These little kittens are hitting their stride and becoming independent.Denby is almost fully weaned and is eating regular food.

Denby is almost fully weaned and is eating regular food.

The Eighth Week

Two pounds! Darling now weighs enough to be neutered. He’s also getting more skilled and adventurous. Darling is learning so much from his mom, siblings, and human caregiver.

At this point, the kittens’ caregivers started looking for their adoptive homes. The kittens are fully weaned from their mother, but their continued development and growth together is important enough to put off adoption for another couple of weeks.

Want to learn more about kittens and how to care about them in the eigth week?

Visit our Kitten Guide.


Fifty Four Days Old Kitten

This is the height of the kittens’ eye-paw coordination and play activity, leading them to try more daring and complex feats. It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on them during this time and ensure their play area is safe for budding daredevils.Corduroy playing with his new toy!

Corduroy playing with his new toy!

Eight Weeks Old Kitten

At two months the kittens weigh about 2 pounds and can be spayed or neutered.Tweed at 8 weeks old.

Tweed at 8 weeks old.

The Ninth Week

Looking pretty grown-up, Darling! At this age kittens are behaving and using their body language like adult cats. Darling is eating all solid food, and his eyes have gone from blue to yellow.

By nine weeks, the kittens are clearly showing an attachment to their caregivers, cuddling on laps and seeking out attention.

Want to learn more about kittens and how to care about them in the ninth week?

Visit our Kitten Guide.


Fifty Seven Days Old Kitten

Their adult eye color is clear now: Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley all have yellow eyes.Corduroy's eyes are yellow!

Corduroy’s eyes are yellow!

Sixty Days Old Kitten

As they start to look more and more like adult cats, the kittens’ growth rate is finally beginning to slow. Though they will continue to develop muscle tone and stealth, they won’t be doubling their weight in a matter of days or weeks anymore.Denby is starting to look more adult.

Denby is starting to look more adult.

Sixty Two Days Old Kitten

The kittens are on more of a schedule now, sleeping and eating at regular intervals. They eat mostly solid food, and mom is close to being done with the occasional nursing that may still be going on—if you were bottle feeding, you’re probably done by now.Tweed still goes to mom for comfort, but is eating solid food on his own.

Tweed still goes to mom for comfort, but is eating solid food on his own.

Nine Weeks Old Kitten

The kittens are exhibiting all of the behaviors of adult cats, using their body language to communicate with their caregivers.Wembley looks and acts more like an adult cat at 9 weeks

Wembley looks and acts more like an adult cat at 9 weeks

The Tenth Week

Darling is fully weaned, neutered, and—because he was socialized to people—ready for his loving adoptive home. They grow up so fast!

It’s so hard to say goodbye to these adorable kittens, but Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are fully weaned, socialized, spayed or neutered, and have found loving adoptive homes.

Saying goodbye to kittens is always hard—they grow up so fast!