Small cats go through an impressive development. From the completely helpless kitten to the independent house cat: Experience the milestones in the first year of life here.
The first days: love, warmth, and enough milk
Newborn kittens are completely dependent on their mother’s love and affection for the first few days of life. The eyes and ears of the kittens, which weigh about 100 g, are still closed.
The most important thing during this early stage is drinking from the mother cat’s teats. Luckily the kittens can find them with their already developed sense of smell and touch. The milk contains everything that makes the little ones grow big and strong and is the best protection against diseases thanks to the antibodies it contains. The kittens often spend eight hours a day drinking and the rest of the time they sleep snuggled close to their siblings and mommy cat. They need the warmth of their family. The thin fur and the still delicate muscles would not be enough to regulate the temperature independently.
The first weeks: Hello world!
After the first few days, the kittens manage to raise their heads. After a week or two, the eyes and ears open.
Now the kittens are flooded with numerous new impressions, which sometimes encourages them to take their first clumsy steps. But they can’t stay on their feet for long. Nevertheless, they are now observing closely and are already getting to know the first behavioral patterns of their conspecifics. Now they are also beginning to communicate with their siblings and mother.
Weeks: the teeth are coming
By the time the kittens are three weeks old, they can stand up safely and walk short distances. Since the milk teeth are usually complete in the meantime, they can develop an interest in smaller amounts of solid food. This is not necessary, however, because breast milk still fully covers your need for energy and nutrients.
However, if the mother cat is an outdoor cat, it can happen that she brings prey that she has already killed to the nest for her little ones. However, most mothers don’t leave the kittens alone for that long at this point.
Weeks: change of diet
Over the next week, however, the mother cat will gradually start nursing the kittens less often and the little ones will also start eating solid food. Sometimes the change in diet causes mild digestive problems and diarrhea, which will settle down after a short time.
The little cats are always learning new movements and will now play more with their siblings and clean themselves.
5 to 6 weeks: Now it’s time to play
At the age of five weeks, the so-called “first socialization phase” begins with the kittens. This time is characterized by the fact that they are very open to their surroundings and get to know new things without any worries. They trust themselves more and more and also increase their range of motion.
The cat mother now leaves her little ones alone more often, so that they use the time to romp around with each other. Gradually her interest in cat toys is aroused. They are no less interested in other things that little ones think are great toys.
The kittens are now unstoppable and train muscles and coordination processes such as sneaking up or grabbing.
7 to 8 weeks: Separation from the cat family?
Towards the end of the second month of life, the kittens are weaned from the milk and completely switched to solid food. They would now actually be strong and independent enough to be separated from their mother. In order to stabilize the personality and give the little ones the opportunity to learn, even more, you should definitely give the kitten a few more weeks with their family. Then, together with the mother outside, you will learn more about hunting and the intricacies of cat communication.
3rd month: Independence
In the third month, the little cats will continue to experiment and explore their surroundings more and more. They climb and jump, sharpen their claws and clean themselves. Their openness to anything new begins to narrow, and they develop a natural skepticism and become more cautious in their explorations. This is also important as they are starting to have to take care of themselves.
By 12 weeks, many kittens are around 1.2kg and have developed strong muscles. Now is a good time to start looking for a new home for the little ones.
4 to 12 months: Settling into the new home
In the next month, the dentition of the clumsy dwarf changes from milk to permanent teeth. In addition, the “second socialization phase” now begins, which masters and mistresses should use to create a particularly close bond between themselves and the new family member.
At the age of six months, the young cats have learned everything important and is finally fully grown at the age of one year. Hard to believe when you think back to how helpless they were twelve months earlier.
And once your darling is eight years old, ten, or even older, we have 8 tips here: This is what you should know about old cats.