Few things are cuter or sweeter than a purring, cuddly kitten. However, caring for a kitten requires extra patience, teaching, and attention, especially during their first year of life. Our Just Cats Clinic team wants to ensure you have all the information you need to care for your cuddly kitten, so they grow into a strong, healthy cat. 

Kitten growth stages

All kittens are born blind and deaf, and they have blue eyes. Ideally, they should remain with their mothers until 5 weeks of age or until after they are weaned to kitten food. Kittens develop and grow quickly, and by 6 months of age they are no longer considered a kitten. At this point, they are in their junior, or teenage life stage, and by age 3 they are considered adults. Other kitten growth milestones include:

  • 2 Weeks — Their eyes and ears are open, but their vision is poor.
  • 3 Weeks — Their teeth are beginning to show, and a litter box with non-clumping litter can be introduced. 
  • 5 Weeks — They are able to regulate their body temperature without an additional heat source. Kitten food can be introduced, and litter box training should be finished.  
  • 6 Weeks — Their vision and hearing are fully developed, and they need access to kitten food and water at all times. Your kitten is playful and curious, as well, and this is the time to schedule their first veterinary visit. 
  • 7 Weeks — Their eye color is beginning to change, and all of their baby teeth are present. Male kittens will have descended testicles. 
  • 8 Weeks — They have their adult cat eye color and are an independent and energetic fluff ball. At this point, your kitten should be eating dry and wet kitten food three to four times a day. 

Kitten vaccinations

During the first few days of their life, your kitten will receive protective antibodies from their mother, but this protection slowly disappears as their own immune system takes over. This means your kitten could be at risk for many diseases and illnesses, especially in the weeks after being weaned. Regular preventive care examinations and vaccinations are the safest and most cost effective way to ensure your kitten is protected. Your veterinarian will recommend a vaccination series and schedule based on your kitten’s lifestyle needs and risk. Beginning at 6 weeks of age, your kitten will receive a series of core vaccinations to protect them from several diseases, including:

  • Feline panleukopenia 
  • Feline herpes virus
  • Feline leukemia virus
  • Feline calicivirus 
  • Rabies virus  

Non-core vaccinations, including those to protect against Chlamydia and Bordetella, may also be recommended. Although you may be reluctant to have your kitten vaccinated because they will be living indoors, consider that while outdoor cats have a higher risk of disease exposure, indoor cats may encounter risks from:

  • Visiting the groomer
  • Staying in a boarding facility
  • Traveling
  • Interacting with other kittens or cats
  • Sneaking outside
  • Coming into contact with a person who has been exposed to other cats

Kitten proofing your home

Like human children, your kitten wants to bite, chew, eat, scratch, handle, and explore anything and everything new. Although your house may seem clear of kitten dangers, you should examine it from a cat’s eye view. Kitten proofing your home should include:

  • Keeping strings, hair ties, rubber bands, craft supplies, small toys, and erasers out of paw’s reach
  • Placing electrical cords and wires out of reach, or taping down those that can’t be moved to a safe location
  • Keeping all lids closed, especially toilet bowls
  • Securing cabinets with a childproof lock
  • Locking window screens
  • Purchasing cat-proof window screens and blinds
  • Placing cat trees in various locations to discourage furniture destruction
  • Checking the ASPCA poison plant list before bringing plants or flowers inside

Additionally, keep important phone numbers, including numbers for ASPCA Animal Poison Control, the closest veterinary emergency clinic, and our Just Cats Clinic, in an easy-to-access place so you are prepared for any emergency. 

Kitten play and enrichment

Kittens are energetic, and it’s vital to ensure they are mentally and physically enriched through all their life stages. You can do this by providing a variety of age- and size-appropriate toys to prevent boredom or destruction of household items. Cats are also naturally territorial, so ensure they have a safe space where they can retreat or rest, such as a cardboard box with a blanket, a crate, or a cat perch. Additionally, encourage your kitten’s natural behaviors, such as hunting and stalking, with interactive toys, such as toy mice, feather wands, or food puzzles. 

Call our Just Cats Clinic office if you have any questions about your new kitten, or to schedule their first preventive care examination.