Cats are the second most popular pats in America and most owners will begin caring for them when they are kittens. Here, our Oceanside vets give you some information about newborn kittens, including when they will first open their eyes as well as other tips about their early development.
If you are unfamiliar with young kittens, it may surprise you to learn about how different they are from their adult counterparts. Their eyes are sealed shut and their ears are generally folded against their heads. They arent' able to stand and are basically helpless. However, with the proper love and care from their mother or their caretaker, they will be able to grow up healthy and happy.
When do kittens start to see?
Kittens develop at different rates depending on a few different factors. However, most newborns will start opening their eyes between the ages of 2 and 16 days. This vision will slowly improve over time, although their two eyes may not both open at the same time or at the same rate. By the age of 2 weeks, both of a kitten's eyes are usually dilated and by 3 weeks old, most kittens are able to focus with both eyes.
All newborn kittens have blue eyes, but the color of their irises will change as they age, usually settling into their true color by the time they are 8 weeks old.
Caring for your newborn kitten's eyes
Try to keep very young kitten away from bright lights that could potentially hurt or damage their developing eyes. If your kitten doesn't have a mother or isn't being cared for properly by their mother, it will be up to you to help make sure that a newborn kitten is 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!
Issues to watch for & how to treat them
Newborn kittens can develop a crust on their eyes that prevents 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.
Other newborn kitten care tips
Just like newborn human babies, newborn kittens spend lots of time sleeping, waking occasionally to be cared for and feed. Kittens are able to sense warmth and use their sense of smell to move toward their mother's belly. They 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!
Warmth is important for newborn kittens
Newborn kittens aren't able to regulate their body temperature, which is part of the reason that they usually pile on near their mother. If your newborn kitten doesn't have a mother or littermates to help regulate their body temperature, you will have to help them stay warm by using something like a heating disk in the crate or heating pad below a pillow.
It's important that you make sure that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and providing a comfortable place in your kitten's cage/crate that does not have a heating item so they can go there if they get too warm.
You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold they will catch hypothermia, for this reason, their area should be kept at 85ºF or 29ºC.
Newborn kittens need proper nutrition
Of course, when caring for a newborn kitten without a mother you will need to feed them and provide them with proper nutrition. You will have to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours. Every kitten is different, your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them and how frequently you should be feeding your kitten. In order for kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. And, in order for your kitty to digest food properly they will have to be kept warm.
Preventive Care for Your Kitten
No matter how old your kitten is, it's important that you bring them to their first veterinary appointment when it's appropriate. Your vet will be able to evaluate the health of your kitten as well as inform you of any dietary needs they might have. This will also provide you with the chance to ask any questions you may have in regard to the health and well-being of your new family member.
Ensuring your kitten gets routine preventive care is vital, including wellness exams, routine vaccinations, and parasite prevention.
Regular wellness exams give your vet the opportunity to assess the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.
You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of their vaccinations and parasite prevention care on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.
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.