Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy



or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.


10 Interesting Facts About Newborn Kittens

10 Interesting Facts About Newborn Kittens

 

By Aly Semigran

 

From the moment they are born, kittens have a unique set of needs to grow and thrive into healthy, socialized cats. Here are 10 interesting, must-know facts about newborn kittens from our vet experts.

They Weigh 3 to 4 Ounces at Birth

 

Kittens gain weight at a rate of about 4 ounces per week, which means they should weigh around 1 pound by the time they reach 4 weeks of age, says Dr. Aimee Simpson, the medical director of the VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia. “Kittens should continue to gain about a pound a month until the age of 6 months,” she says. 

They Receive Immune-Boosting Colostrum

 

In the first 24 to 48 hours after birth, kittens receive colostrum from the queen (mother cat), which contains potentially life-saving antibodies to disease, Simpson describes. “Without colostrum, kittens will not develop a healthy immune system and will be susceptible to infection. If neonates cannot nurse from the mother, we can give them subcutaneous (under the skin) injections of serum from a healthy vaccinated adult cat to boost immunity.” The umbilical cord will usually drop off by about day three or more, she adds.

They Cannot Thermoregulate

 

Kittens require a heat source for the first two to four weeks, such as a heating pad for pets, Simpson says. The ideal ambient temperature for newborn kittens is 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 55 to 65 percent humidity, she says. “It's important to provide them with room to crawl away from the heat source to prevent overheating and thermal burns.”

They're Born Blind and Deaf

 

Kittens are born with their eyes and ear canals closed, Simpson describes. Their eyes will open in about seven to 14 days, and their ear canals will open between 10 and 14 days old. All kittens are born with blue eyes, she adds. Their true iris color will be evident by 8 weeks of age. 

They Need to Eat Every Two to Three Hours

 

If you are bottle-feeding kittens, they should be placed with their stomachs down—not on their backs—to simulate a natural nursing position and decrease risk of aspiration, Simpson says. Kittens start to eat solid food at 3 to 4 weeks old. 

 

Kittens who are not getting enough food could have low blood sugar, which can be life threatening, warns Dr. Renee Rucinsky, a board certified feline specialist at the Mid Atlantic Cat Hospital in Queenstown, Maryland. Hypoglycemia is a major concern with kittens, particularly it they have been orphaned, she says.

They Can't Go to the Bathroom on Their Own

 

Kittens must be stimulated to go to the bathroom, Simpson says. In nature, this is done by the queen cat licking her kitten’s rear end. If the queen is not present, you can gently stimulate this area with a warm, moist cotton ball.  

Their Baby Teeth Start to Emerge Around 3 Weeks

 

According to Simpson, kittens will begin to erupt their deciduous (baby) teeth at 3 weeks of age. At 14 weeks old, they will begin to lose their deciduous teeth, beginning with their central incisors. By about 6 months of age, kittens will have all their adult teeth.  

They Start Playing at 4 Weeks

 

Kittens should be able to stand by 10 days of age and walk by 21 days, Simpson says. Around 4 weeks old, they begin to display the fun, crazy kitten behavior we know and love so well, Rucinsky adds. Kittens typically learn appropriate behavior between 4 and 7 weeks of age. “For instance, if a kitten is playing too rough with their siblings, they are going to get that instant feedback,” Rucinsky says.  

They Are Susceptible to Flea Anemia

 

Fleas can cause life-threatening anemia in young kittens, Simpson warns. “Since most flea medications are not safe for cats less than 8 weeks old, we recommend bathing kittens with fleas using a gentle dishwashing soap.”

They're Fully Weaned Around 8 Weeks Old

 

Mom cats do a good job of weaning their kittens off them. As Rucinsky puts it, “They’ll politely suggest that the kittens move on.” However, it’s important that during the pivotal first eight weeks of a kitten’s life, she stays with her mom and her siblings to hone in on her socializing. “If you take a kitten away too early, they miss out on a lot of important social skills,” Rucinsky stresses. 

1 of 11