It’s kitten season–well, almost–and time for a refresher course on newborn kitten development. The timing is perfect (or purr-fect?) because this past week, I had a lovely kitty-girl visitor on my back patio.
Kitten Season Brings Roaming Cats
The tortie youngster looked about five or six months old, and respectfully backed off and padded away when she saw Karma-Kat give her the hairy eyeball through the window. She looked well fed with a healthy coat and clean eyes, but at her age–and this time of year–it’s only a matter of time before she becomes pregnant. I hope that she’s already spayed and was safely shooed back inside once she returned home.
Cat & Kitten Development
In the Northern hemisphere, intact girl kitties begin to go into heat in February, and can become pregnant as early as four or five months of age. Within about 63 days, new furry babies make their appearance so brace yourselves for a bumper crop of cute-icity.
Kittens gain two to four ounces a week from birth to five to six months of age. The kitten immune system is also fully developed by six to eight weeks of age, while the immune protection he gained from Mom begins to fade.
Kitten Development & Nonstop Kitten Play
Play and interaction with others takes over during weeks five to seven. Social play with Mom and siblings begins now, and includes running, rolling, biting, wrestling, climbing, and jumping. Mom-cat and siblings let the baby know if he bites or claws too hard and they’ll hiss at him or put an end to the game. If you want to avoid kittens chasing your feet, adopt a pair together!
Kitten Development & Ideal Adoption Age
When kittens are adopted too early, or are orphaned and hand raised, you’ll have extra challenges to bringing up baby. What’s cute in a tiny kitten becomes aggravating or even dangerous when he gets older and can tip playtime into play aggression.
Adopting a pair of kittens can be a good option, so the babies wrestle and play with each other rather than targeting your ankles. If you are the “mother figure” it’s up to you to teach Baby about the litter box, playing “nice” and eating grown-up food. Learn more about kitten adoption do’s and don’ts here.
Kitten Socialization For A Lifetime of Love
Puppies get more attention when it comes to socialization, but this is equally important in kittens. The problem is–prime kitten socialization takes place between two-to-seven weeks of age! Oh, the baby will learn after that, but his is the best time to pre-program a cat for success. When you adopt a kitten at this age, it’s up to you to expose him to a wide range of situations so he’ll be willing to accept them as he ages. That’s called “socialization” and can mean the difference between a loving pet and a scaredy cat. You can find important details in the COMPLETE KITTEN CARE book.
Good experiences with people and other pets during this time ensure they’ll be well-adjusted adult cats. It’s ideal for kittens to stay with their littermates and mother until twelve weeks of age so they learn best how to get along with other cats, and learn all the important “cat rules” of the world. But very often, shelters need the space and adopt out babies earlier–or the kitten is alone in the world anyway, and benefits from being adopted earlier.
He should learn to accept being handled and groomed by you and strangers, so the veterinarian won’t have to fight him for an examination. This is the best age to train him to accept the cat carrier and leash. That allows him to travel with you when necessary, either to the vet or groomers, or across town to visit Grandma. And if you think another pet (dog or cat), or a child might be in your future, introduce him to positive experiences at this age. That way, he’ll accept them as a normal part of his world and you’ll prevent behavior problems down the road.
How old was your cat when you adopted him? Have you ever needed to hand-raise a kitten? What do you think is the best age to adopt–and why? Please share!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!