Kitten Growth Chart — Six-Week-Old Kittens

Sue at six weeks pauses in the midst of playing for a photo

A six-week-old kitten can do everything a cat does, but is still a baby. At this age the kittens are very playful. They play with their toys, with their mum, with each other, and with us non-stop, it seems! When they’re totally pooped, they sleep for a couple of hours then wake up and start again!

Playing with Mum at six weeks old -- Libby finally stops mothering them long enough to play with them a bit.

Playing with Mum at six weeks old — Libby finally stops mothering them long enough to play with them a bit.

Sue and Reed are little explorers

Sue and Reed are little explorers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At six weeks, a baby cat should be weaning off its mother’s milk and eating solid food regularly. A lot of people think it’s a good idea to rehome kittens at this age, but actually kittens should stay with their mum until they’re eight to nine weeks old. Their mum still has so much to teach them, about cleaning themselves, behaving properly (in cat terms), and love. Sometimes kittens who are removed from their family at a young age grow up with behaviour problems, such as pooping outside the box or playing too roughly.

Ben is so tired from all that playing he falls asleep anywhere!

Ben is so tired from all that playing he falls asleep anywhere!

Lance finds the kittens fascinating. The kittens think Lance might be fun to play with.

Lance finds the kittens fascinating. The kittens think Lance might be fun to play with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have a baby kitten of this age that you received from a friend, you should ask if your kitten can stay with his mum for a couple more weeks at least. If that’s not possible, you’ll have to be very attentive to make sure your kitten is eating, drinking, and pooping properly, and you’ll have to be very patient to take on the job of the mother and teach the kitten some of the finer arts of catting.

Libby stops play time to start bath time. "Mom! You're messing up my mane!"

Libby stops play time to start bath time. “Mom! You’re messing up my mane!”

Sue at six weeks pauses in the midst of playing for a photo

Sue at six weeks pauses in the midst of playing for a photo

Kitten Growth Chart — Four-Week-Old Kittens

Four-week-old kittens have fully developed senses of sight, smell, and hearing, but they are still very uncoordinated. Their teeth are starting to come in, so when you play with your four-week-old kittens, make sure you don’t play nibbling-on-the-human games, or they might become a habit (and poke tiny holes in your person!)

By the time our kittens reach four weeks, they are doing everything an adult cat does:

Good morning! Is it time for a kitteny day of doing stuff?

Good morning! Is it time for a kitteny day of doing stuff?

At four weeks old, Ben is learning the art of drinking water out of a bowl

At four weeks old, Ben demonstrates his newly discovered skill of drinking water out of a bowl.

Four-week-old kittens eating kitten kibble out of a saucer while their mom supervises. Don't be fooled: Libby tried her hardest to get at that delicious kitten kibble!

Four-week-old kittens can eat kitten kibble out of a saucer under the supervision of their mom. Don’t be fooled: Libby tried her hardest to get at that delicious kitten kibble!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kittens this age are excited to nom kitten kibble, but they still need their mommy’s milk to grow and thrive. If you are hand-rearing kittens, keep bottle feeding them for a couple more weeks to supplement the kitten kibble. Don’t give kittens adult cat food, cow milk or other dairy products, or bread or other carbohydrate-rich foods. Kittens can eat tinned food, but kitten kibble is probably best.

The kittens escaped from kitten play land while we were at work, and we searched everywhere for them. We were convinced they had been stolen until we found them safe and sound hiding behind the bed.

The kittens escaped from kitten play land while we were at work, and we searched everywhere for them. We were convinced they had been stolen until we found them safe and sound hiding behind the bed.

This is how the kittens escaped from kitten play land: clawed their way onto the bed, and then down via the laundry hamper. Johnny stops for a rest.

This is how the kittens escaped from kitten play land: clawed their way onto the bed, and then down via the laundry hamper. Johnny stops for a rest.

At three and a half weeks old, Sue is the first kitten to do a poopie in the litter.

At three and a half weeks old, Sue is the first kitten to do a poopie in the litter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your kittens are starting to explore the house, you need to kitten-proof: make sure cables and cords are wrapped up and out of reach. Put plants on high shelves. Make sure garbage cans have tops that close. Kittens love to climb, so if your decorations might be dangers, you should consider putting them away until you have re-homed the kittens (or they stop scaling your shelving units like little fluffy mountaineers!)

 

 

Playing and having a kitteny time in kitty play land

Playing and having a kitteny time in kitty play land

Four weeks old and big enough to watch TV with the humans.

Four weeks old and big enough to watch TV with the humans.

Johnny at four weeks leaves the kitten play room to visit with Lance, whom she is still nervous of, though Lance seems to have taken no notice of the kitten

Though she’s big enough to hang out with the humans, she’s still quite nervous of Lance.  Lance, however, seems to have taken no notice of the kitten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pooped out after a long day of kittening

Annnd… pooped out after a long day of kittening!

Although the kittens are exploring all the nuances of catting, they still need their mommy! She teaches them how to cat professionally.

For the next several weeks, you should spend as much time with your kittens as possible, and invite lots of people over to play with them. This is the age to socialize your kittens so they will grow up to be friendly pets. If you have other animals living in your house, they can be introduced to the kittens now. Also, tiny children and the elderly.

Kitten Growth Chart — Three Weeks Old

The kittens cuddling with Libby
Three-week-old Sue

Three-week-old Sue

At three weeks old, Libby’s kittens are learning how to walk, and their senses are developed enough that they are keen to explore.

Sue is able to walk and explore at three weeks. She is the first one to leave the box.

Sue is able to walk and explore at three weeks. She is the first one to leave the box.

We moved their box into the kitten play area so they could explore and play safely. We gave them a soft floor and lots of toys, and built a wall around the play area to keep them safe.

Johnny looking pensive at three weeks

Johnny looking pensive at three weeks

At three weeks, kittens are already four times their birth weight! From looking at these guys, it seems like the bulk of that growth is fluff.

The kittens cuddling with Libby

The kittens cuddling with Libby

We put a kitten-sized litter box in the play area, too. Sue is the first one to try out the new pooping situation. Now Libby doesn’t have to take care of their toileting any more.

 

Libby is giving Johnny a bath, but all Johnny really wants to do is explorer

Libby is giving Johnny a bath, but all Johnny really wants to do is explorer

I am showing off my little mustachioed kitten, Reed, at three weeks

I am showing off my little mustachioed kitten, Reed, at three weeks

Kitten Growth Chart — Two-Week-Old Kittens

I thought they recognized me, but they all hissed at me!
When I went into the kittens' room on their two-week birthday, they all looked at me for the first time

When I went into the kittens’ room on their two-week birthday, they all looked at me for the first time

I thought they recognized me, but they all hissed at me!

I thought they recognized me, but they all hissed at me!

At two weeks, kittens’ eyes are fully open, but they have not got their adult pigment yet so will still appear blue or gray, and their vision is still not clear. They are also still sensitive to light, so no matter how cute your little fluffy-puffs are, please don’t use flash photography or shine bright lights towards them!

Their sense of hearing is still weak, but their sense of smell is starting to develop.

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Two-week-old kittens are more aware of their surroundings and are starting to interact with each other and with you. The more adventurous members of your litter might be trying to climb out of the box to go exploring. Mother cat won’t let them, as they’re still too little, so you can help her out by making sure the doorway is high enough that they can’t climb out.

Two-week-old kittens should be six to eight ounces and have fat tummies and clean faces. If you think your kittens are not growing well, or don’t seem healthy, take the whole family to the vet.  You might need to supplement Mum’s milk with some kitten formula via a kitten baby bottle.

Sue is the most intrepid at two weeks and keeps climbing over Mount Mum's Tummy.

Sue is the most intrepid at two weeks and keeps climbing over Mount Mum’s Tummy.

Kitten Growth Chart — One-Week-Old Kittens

Libby is so happy when we come into her room, she rolls onto her back so we can scritch her tummy. Poor kittens get rolled all over the place!
Ben was already establishing herself as the most cuddly and protested at being taken away from her mummy for the photo.

Ben was already establishing herself as the most cuddly and protested at being taken away from her mummy for the photo.

Johnny was the first to open her eyes.

Johnny was the first to open her eyes.

Sue was very alert already

Sue was very alert already

Reed's little mustache is starting to be more pronounced

Reed’s little mustache is starting to be more pronounced

In the first week, our kittens’ eyes started to open. Johnny was first; her left eye started to open when she was three days old. By one week they all had their eyes at least part way open.

But when kittens’ eyes first open, they are very sensitive to light. At this stage, it is important that you make sure there are no bright lights directed at the kittens’ faces. Also, the kittens still can’t see very well and rely on their sense of smell still to find their mummy and their favourite nipple at lunch time.

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The colour for all newborn eyes is gray or blue, because the melanin that gives them colour pigment hasn’t developed yet. You will find out what colour your kittens’ eyes are when they are six to eight weeks old.

During the first week, the kittens’ umbilical cords will begin to fall off. Remember not to pull them off as a kitten can easily get an umbilical hernia, which will require surgery to repair when she is older.

The mother is probably licking the babies a lot. She does this to keep them clean, of course, and to stimulate their digestive systems. The dedicated mother cat actually stimulates urination and defecation and eats what comes out. And your mom complained about changing your diaper! If you are hand-raising a kitten, you need to wipe him with a soft, absorbent towel every few hours to help him pee and poo.

The mother cat also cuddles the kittens and keeps them warm all day and all night. She probably only leaves the box to get food and water and to visit the litter. She will appreciate a lot of attention from you. If you are hand-rearing a kitten, you should keep her with you at all times, preferably holding her in your hands. There is no substitute for a mother’s love!

Be careful when handling your baby kittens, because their little claws are very sharp and they are not able to retract them yet. Also, make sure they are not getting their claws caught in their bedding. Some kinds of fabric are like velcro to kitten claws!

One-week-old kittens are double their birth weight. It’s incredible how fast they grow! By now they probably have fat little tummies, too.

Join us next week for an update on two-week-old kittens!

Libby is so happy when we come into her room, she rolls onto her back so we can scritch her tummy. Poor kittens get rolled all over the place!

Libby is so happy when we come into her room, she rolls onto her back so we can scritch her tummy. Poor kittens get rolled all over the place!

Kitten Growth Chart – Newborn Kittens

Here are Libby's newborn babies, cuddling together for warmth in the birthing box as Libby gets something to eat.

So now you have a tiny litter of perfect little miniature cats. Well, maybe not perfect yet.

At birth, the kittens’ eyes are sealed closed because they have not finished developing yet, and the ears are also sealed on the inside. The kitten relies on its sense of smell to find one of its mother’s teats and get suckling.

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This is Reed on her first day out.

This is Reed on her first day out.

Each kitten will recognize its own smell on the first teat it uses, and so each of the kittens in a litter will end up with its own teat. Mother cats have eight teats. Sometimes if the litter is not very big, the unused teats will “dry up” or stop producing milk. If the litter is too big (more than eight babies), the runt might not get to feed very frequently as it will not have a teat of its own.

Cats don’t seem to be able to count, which if you’re a newborn kitten can be a pro or a con.

Pro: Quite often, a new mother cat will adopt kittens from another litter. If two cats give birth at roughly the same time and one mum has too many while the other does not have enough (in terms of kitten to teat ratio), you can transfer the ‘extras’ from the overloaded mum to the other mum. She probably won’t even notice an extra kitten or two. Baker and Lance’s friend Scribbles tells us of a case where a new mother cat rejected her entire litter (Baker supports her in this decision, saying kittens are noisy, smelly, and little attention stealers, and he doesn’t believe in them). According to Scribbles, another mother cat in the house had enough love to go around and ended up raising both litters herself.

Con: Usually within a week of giving birth, a mother cat’s instincts tell her it’s time to move the babies. The birthing area can be quite smelly and in the wild the smell will give away the litter’s location to predators. So a move seems like a good idea to most cats. However, since she can’t count, a mama cat is quite likely to leave one of her little ones behind in the move. If you happen to come home one day and find one poor solitary kitten crying by himself in the birthing box, quite likely this is what happened. If the mother cat hears him crying, she’ll go back for him, but if she’s moved to an entirely different location, as in the case of a feral stray cat who birthed three kittens in an abandoned car in our neighgbour’s yard and then subsequently moved two of them to under our porch, you can help out by relocating the forgotten kitten yourself. If you’re dealing with a stray, there is a possibility she will reject a kitten who smells like human, so wear clean gloves to do the move, and try to placate the mum with a nice offering of tuna or tinned cat food.

Here's a close-up of the four babies suckling. It's their first meal!

Here’s a close-up of the four babies suckling. It’s their first meal!

When your kittens are newborns, they are unable to regulate their own body heat and need to huddle together for warmth. After the mum has settled down from the delivery and is comfortable leaving the box for food or water, you can change the bedding so the babies don’t have to lie in their own… shall we say… well, you get the picture. If you have a very small litter, you might want to provide them with a heat lamp, too.

Here are Libby's newborn babies, cuddling together for warmth in the birthing box as Libby gets something to eat.

Here are Libby’s newborn babies, cuddling together for warmth in the birthing box as Libby gets something to eat.

If your mother cat knows you, you can start handling the newborn kittens immediately, but only for a few moments at a time. They are very weak at this stage so be sure to support them fully when you pick them up, and keep them warm in your hands.

The mother will take care of all the newborn kittens’ needs: feeding, toileting, cleaning, and loving, so as the human in the family, you do not need to do anything yet. Just keep an eye on things and if your mother cat or any of the kittens seem uncomfortable in any way, or if one or more kittens do not suckle, take the whole family to the vet. Especially check your mother cat’s vaginal area for chronic bleeding, discharge, or bad smell. If any of these symptoms are present, take her to the vet.

 

Kitten Growth Chart — Labour and Delivery Day

Here Libby proudly shows off her newborn kittens. There are four of them. The fourth one is playing Spot the Kitty. Can you find her?

Kitty Delivery

As your kitty is getting close to her delivery day, she is sharing her excitement with you by being extra affectionate. Lots of lap-sitting, purring, and following you around. She might also get more vocal. Just go with it. She will need your love and reassurance, and she is not going to shout obscenities at you like your mother probably did at your dad, so this delivery is something to look forward to.

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Here Libby proudly shows off her newborn kittens. There are four of them. The fourth one is playing Spot the Kitty. Can you find her?

Here Libby proudly shows off her newborn kittens. There are four of them. The fourth one is playing Spot the Kitty. Can you find her?

Make sure she has a comfortable place to deliver her kittens. If you build a kittening box for her, you should cut a doorway that is low enough for her to get in and out easily but not low enough for kittens to climb out. About three inches from the floor is a good kittening-box door height. The delivery process is messy, so make sure you line the bed with old t-shirts or towels that you don’t mind throwing away. Wash them with natural detergent first to get any scents out of them, and don’t use any fabric softener or dryer sheets. Your cat won’t want to deliver her babies in a nest that smells of perfume or other animals, and a strong scent can also confuse the new kittens and prevent them from finding their mother’s nommy nipples.

As you get close to delivery day, take your pregnant cat to the vet. The vet will make sure that the pregnancy is progressing nicely and give you some advice for the delivery. If your cat has any health problems, tell your vet so she can advise you how best to proceed.

Most vet-grade pet food companies will produce a “mother and kitten” cat food. This is the best for your mommy cat’s health and the health of the growing kittens, and you should start to feed it to her about half-way through her pregnancy.

If you work full time or go to school, you might not be present for delivery day. I checked Libby every day when I got home from work and sat with her all day Saturday when she was supposed to be getting close to her delivery day, but nothing. Then on Sunday morning I checked on her to find her in her kittening box with a litter of four clean, fluffy kittens having their breakfast.

Libby was lucky, but not all cats have the natural instincts for giving birth or caring for their new kittens, especially if it is their first time. Also, some cats might develop medical problems or complications. Keep a close eye on your kitty as you get close to her delivery day, and if you notice any vaginal discharge or signs of illness, take her back to the vet.

Here's a close-up of the four babies suckling. It's their first meal!

Here’s a close-up of the four babies suckling. It’s their first meal!

Labour

You will notice your cat is going into labour when she:

  • Starts pacing around the house
  • Pants, meows or purrs more loudly than usual
  • Licks herself a lot more than usual, especially in the vaginal area
  • Stops eating
  • Hides
  • Vomits

Labour can last for up to 24 hours. If it seems to be going on for too long, or if your kitty starts to bleed before giving birth, take her to the vet.

Preparing for Delivery

If you are present for your kitty’s big day, there are a few things you should be ready to help with.

  1. First, as well as a box, get a few things prepared:
    • a very soft washcloth, in case you need to help her clean off her kittens
    • your vet’s number in case you need advice or have a problem during the birth
    • your cat carrier, in case you need to rush your cat to the vet
    • a kitten bottle and kitten formula, in case you need to help her feed the kittens
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly and remove any sharp jewelry, just in case you need to help.
  3. Stay nearby so you can keep an eye on proceedings and reassure your cat, but don’t hover.

Cats have contractions just as humans do. You will know a kitten is coming when the contractions are about two or three minutes apart.

You should see the amniotic sac come out; it looks like a thin, clear sac filled with fluid. The kitten will be inside. Kittens usually come out head first or rear paws first. Kittens are born one at a time with twenty to thirty minutes between each kitten. Each kitten is followed by a placenta.

Once a kitten emerges, your cat should lick the amniotic sac and fluid off the kitten’s face, which stimulates breathing. You might hear the kitten make tiny mews. Your cat will likely eat the placenta and lick the rest of the amniotic sac off the kitten as she waits for the next birth.

Problems

  1. The mother might not lick off her kitten’s face immediately, especially the first kitten. If she doesn’t lick the sac off the kitten’s nose and mouth within a few seconds of birth, the kitten will asphyxiate and die. In this case, you should gently pick up the kitten, being sure to support its head, and use the soft washcloth to gently wipe the amniotic sac off the nose and mouth. Then give the kitten back to the mother and she will likely take over.
  2. The mother might not pay attention to the first kitten after it is born, even if you clean the kitten’s nose and mouth. In this case, gently pick up the kitten again and use the soft washcloth to clean the amniotic sac and fluid off the entire kitten. This should cause the kitten to start crying, which will probably get the mother’s interest.
  3. Although your cat will probably eat the placenta, keep a placenta count. Each kitten should be followed by one placenta. If you suspect that a placenta has not come out, take your cat to the vet. It is important that she eliminate all the placentas, or she will get an infection and die. DO NOT try to pull a placenta out, and do not cut an umbilical cord with scissors.
  4. Keep an eye on your cat as she eats the placentas; if a placenta is still wrapped around a kitten, your cat might chew on the kitten by mistake. In this case, gently remove the placenta from the kitten’s body. Be very careful not to pull on the umbilical cord as any tension could cause an umbilical hernia, which will have to be surgically repaired when the kitten is older.
  5. A kitten might get “stuck” partway out, especially if the mother is getting tired (maybe five or six kittens into the delivery.) If a kitten is partially out and your cat can’t push it out for about five minutes, you can very gently pull the kitten the rest of the way out. Make sure you only pull during contractions. If the kitten doesn’t slide out with your help, take your cat to the vet immediately.
  6. If a kitten does not seem to be moving or breathing after birth, it is possibly stillborn. This is not unusual and doesn’t indicate any problems for your mother cat or the other kittens. Try reviving the kitten by briskly rubbing it with a soft, warm, damp washcloth. If you do have a stillborn, you will have to remove it and dispose of the body. Most cats will instinctually eat a stillborn kitten.
  7. If your mother cat is in hard labour – pushing and having close contractions – for an hour and no kitten has come out, take her to the vet.
This is Reed on her first day out.

This is Reed on her first day out.

Taking Care of Kittens and Mom

After a normal birth, your new kittens should start to suckle. Your cat might wait until she has delivered all the babies before she allows them to suckle. If she ignores them and doesn’t let them nurse, or if they are trying to nurse but can’t get any milk, you can feed them the kitten formula with the kitten bottle. Then take the whole family to the vet to see if the vet can solve whatever your cat’s problem is.

If your cat eats up all the placentas, she will not be hungry, but if she doesn’t eat them, you might need to feed her some nutrient-rich food, such as egg yolk or liver, to help her keep her energy up during the delivery. Offer her water between deliveries, too. During the first day keep offering her food and water in her box, because she might not want to leave the kittens.

Some people say that if you touch a kitten, the mother cat will reject it. If your mother cat is comfortable with you, this is not true. She will have no problem with you helping and encouraging her during the birth. If you are fostering a feral cat or a lioness, though, you probably shouldn’t touch the kittens.

CONGRATULATIONS! You are now a kitty-grandma.