From kitten to cat
Your kitten will grow up faster than you think, so here are a few guidelines on what lies ahead on her road from birth to maturity.
Cats can give birth throughout the year, but most do so during spring and summer. When the mother feels that the birth is on the way, usually after about 65 days, she’ll look for a calm and secluded spot to give birth to about four kittens, although the number can vary greatly.
Blind, deaf, and weighing only 70 to 100 grams, a newborn kitten is truly helpless. The mother even has to lick her as soon as she’s born to get her breathing going. She does, however, have an extraordinary sense of smell and touch which she uses to find her way to her mother’s teats. As soon as she begins to suck, she'll start kicking the teats rhythmically with her forepaws to stimulate the flow of milk. Adult cats will sometimes exhibit the same kicking behaviour when they’re lying on your lap; a sign of real affection. A kitten's mother doesn’t only give her nutrition; she also provides vital warmth. Kittens can’t regulate their own body temperature and, if the mother leaves them briefly, they'll huddle together with their siblings for warmth.
At this stage, a kitten can do little more than sleep and eat, but she'll make rapid progress, gaining about 15 grams in weight every day. Between the eighth and twelfth day, her eyes will open, a baby-blue colour like every other kitten’s at this stage, although she won't be able to see for another ten days. Her hearing will develop at the same time and her teeth will begin to grow from as early as two weeks. Within two months, her first set of 26 sharp milk teeth will have completely developed, to be replaced by an adult set of 30 at about six months old.
Standing on her own four paws
In the middle of the third week, a kitten will begin cautiously exploring her surroundings, learning by copying her mother as she climbs, opens doors or uses the litter tray. From the fourth week, her mother will let her do more on her own.
As she gets older, she'll start playing with her brothers and sisters, learning how to attack and defend, to pursue and escape, to recognise the calls and signals that warn of dangers as well as the gentler art of caressing others to get what she wants. Within five weeks, her senses will be fully developed and within six, she'll be cleaning herself.
Her energy requirements will also have increased so much that mother’s milk is no longer enough. This is the time to wean her onto solid food as well as milk. She’ll be curious to taste anything new but she needs a special diet balanced to fulfil her needs.
Whilst kittens are mischievous, don’t believe what some people tell you: it really is possible to teach your kitten to be well behaved from an early age! As with all training, however, it should be done with kindness and based on positive reinforcement, rewarding good and ignoring unwanted behaviour.