Your Kitten: 1 to 7 Weeks Old
Mental and Physical Development: Before You Got Your Kitten
Kittens go through a number of critical physical changes during their first weeks of life, and for this reason, they should not leave their mother before they are eight weeks old. From a tiny little kitten that is unable to see, hear, or walk, to a bouncing ball of energy and mayhem, a kitten grows at a rapid physical rate between the ages of one to seven weeks old.
By the end of the first week, most kittens have begun to open their eyes, and they've usually doubled in weight. At the end of two weeks, a kitten's eyes are fully open, the ears begin to open, and the wobbly kitten starts to experiment with crawling. Week three is when the kitten starts to stand, walk, and eat solid food, and this is also when the kitten's teeth begin to erupt. Between weeks three and seven, kittens continue to grow, learn how to jump and play, and become fully weaned.
Health and Veterinary Care: Nursing and Weaning
It is important to give kittens the time they need in order to become properly weaned. For at least the first five weeks of life, kittens need the balanced nutrition in their mother's milk. Between the ages of one and seven weeks old, kittens will progress naturally through the nursing and weaning process. By the end of the seventh week of age, kittens are usually fully weaned.
When kittens are born, they usually nurse every few hours -- and when they are not nursing, they're sleeping. Some kittens may nurse more than others, and kittens within a litter may nurse at different times. Kittens will continually nurse until they are approximately three weeks of age; at this time, their teeth begin to erupt, and they are ready to begin eating small amounts of moist kitten food. At first, kittens should be offered soft kitten food, or dry kitten food that has been soaked in water. Food should be placed in a shallow pan for easier access. Once the kittens notice their mother eating the food, they will try to eat it, too.
While kittens will begin to eat food at three weeks of age, they are usually not completely weaned until they are at least seven weeks old. During these weeks, kittens will begin to eat more solid food and gradually reduce the amount of time they spend nursing. The mother assists with the weaning process as well, as she reduces the time the kittens nurse due to their growing teeth and increasingly rowdy behavior.
Training: Socialization Within a Litter
When kittens are first born, they cannot see or hear -- but they have an exceptionally strong sense of touch and smell. These first two senses help kittens to begin the socialization process, as they learn how to recognize the touch and smell of their mother, of their siblings and even of people at this very young age. As the kittens continue to grow into playful balls of fluff, their understanding of socialization grows as well. The kittens' mother teaches them the boundaries of proper behavior by correcting them with growls, hisses or even a bop on the head.
Siblings that play with one another learn boundaries as well; overzealous play can often lead to hisses and light bites. Once a few lessons on proper behavior are learned, kittens continue their socialization through grooming, recognizing voices, and learning how to interact and play with people.