Early Kitten Development

A newborn kitten should stay with their siblings and mother for at least the 12th week of life – but what happens during this time, we have compiled a brief overview of the first eight weeks of a kitten’s life.

1st week of the kitten’s life

After about nine weeks of pregnancy, the cat will give birth to an average of two to five young kittens. The kittens weigh around 100g at birth and are born with closed eyelids. They also cannot correctly hear and mainly rely on the sense of smell in search of their meals.

During the first week of life, kittens cannot discrete urine and feces (for this they need the help of their mother to massage their tummy with her tongue) or regulate their body temperature. If the kittens are born at temperatures of less than 27 ° C and are not kept warm by their mother, they have the risk of death very quickly. Therefore, the warmth of the mother and the nest environment is essential for kittens at this time.


2nd week of the kitten’s life

Many kittens open their eyes in the second week but, some may not open their eyes until the third week. Once their eyes are open, they discover their siblings, mother and the immediate environment of the cat’s nest. They are still dependent on the nutrients of the mother’s milk and the warmth of their mother.

To stimulate the flow of milk from their mother, the kitties purr and gently massage the teats alternately with the front paw and sucking. The so-called “kneading” can also be observed in adult cats when they enjoy petting.

From the second week, it is recommended to pet the kitten and talk to them softly, so they start to get used to human contact.


3rd week of the kitten’s life

From the third week on, most kittens can stand upright on their legs for a few moments and explore the nest. Here, they have the first active contact with their mother and siblings. They partly start looking around and are interested in their environment and learning the cat’s language. However, they still spend most of their time (about 90%) sleeping.

Note: Since the small kittens can be susceptible to worms from their mother’s milk, the mother and her offspring are advised to be treated with a de-worming preparation recommended by a veterinarian at this stage.


4th week of the kitten’s life

In the fourth week, the kittens can start eating their first small quantities of soft cat food as well as liquid. In addition to their mother’s milk, the senses are developed more by now, and the kittens begin to explore their surroundings in short distances and to inspect everything curiously.

Since the little ones can’t jump on their own, a litter box with a low entrance (for the kitten to get in) should be placed close to the basket. By imitation, the kittens slowly learn to use litter boxes from their mother.


5th week of the kitten’s life

In the fifth week, the little ones start to clean themselves and play with their siblings. In this curious phase, they are particularly eager to take on new impressions, which is why they can gradually become accustomed to all everyday sounds and situations.

At this stage the kittens are feeding on milk less and less, the kittens get almost a third of their nutrient requirements via soft kitten food by this point.


6th week of the kitten’s life

Since the kittens are in the first major socialization phase from this week onwards, they should be given as many social interactions as possible during this time in a safe way. Among other things, they should be accustomed to open their mouths and so that they can be taken to the vet’s for examinations. Even a small (supervised) contact with other animals and people can be tried at this time.


7th week of the kitten’s life

In week seven, the third worming treatment must be carried out; this is to ensure the kitten is worm-free in the coming weeks when the first vaccination is due. As the little ones are now becoming more active and playful, they should have more space available to play at this point. The increased movement helps train coordination, supports the muscle formation, how to hunt and helps ensure that the kittens are healthy.


8th week of the kitten’s life

After the eighth week of life, the kittens are usually completely weaned. During this time there is still a lot to be learned from their mother as well as additional immunizations will be provided in the communing weeks. Since there is still much to learn from their mother, the kittens should stay with their mother until at least their 12th week of life.


Major development stages in the following months


  • At the age of three months, the kittens learn to climb, begin to claw their surroundings (preferably on a scratching tree) and jump full of energy through the home. Nerve bonds and the musculature develops. This makes the movements more and more precise.


  • In the fifth month, the kittens finally lose their milk teeth and begin to make their territory recognizable.


  • Cats are sexually mature on average between the sixth and eighth months of life, but the physical development will not be completed until several months later. With sexual maturity, physical differences between kittens and cats become apparent.


  • Cats are usually bigger than kittens, and get a stronger neck and thicker “cat cheeks.” If the animals are not neutered, there are a few differences in behavior. Cats that are not nurtured are more territorial and sometimes mark their territory in the house with urine. They tend to stray sometimes for days to weeks. Outdoor cats should always be neutered to prevent unplanned offspring.


  • At about one and a half years, many cats are less playful than a kitten, although there are considerable race-related and individual differences.