When do kittens open their eyes? This is a common question often asked by new cat parents. To have the most accurate answer, it’s vital to understand that kittens are juvenile cats that wholly depend on their mum for survival after birth. The reason for this total dependency is that those adorable kittens actually pop out of the womb blind – completely without vision. What’s more, their eyelids are expected to remain shut throughout their first week of life before it gradually begins to open, and the newborn starts getting acclimatized to its environment. If your cat has a litter, there are certain things about a newborn kitten that you should know about a kitten’s eyes and vision and this article is poised to answer all these questions and more. It includes detailed information on how old are kittens when they open their eyes, if kittens are born blind, as well as their full developmental process.
How Old are Kittens When They Open Their Eyes?
Now, at what age do kittens open their eyes? On average, the eyes of a newborn kitten are supposed to remain closed until it gets to seven days of age. However, some kittens might experience faster development while others might take longer to open their eyes. Immediately after birth, the vision of a kitten is expected to be very poor as the retina is yet to fully develop. Nevertheless, when a kitten continues growing at the appropriate rate, which is approximately 10 grams daily, certain changes are expected.
First, the eyes will start attempting to open and once the kitten’s eyes are unsealed, an additional two or three days will pass before they become fully open – this happens around the fourteenth day for most kittens. What’s more, it doesn’t matter whether the eyelids are closed or open; most newborn cats are functionally sightless for their first couple of weeks. And although there are cases where kittens briefly open their eyes after a couple of days, however, this is very rare.
When do Kittens Fully Open Their Eyes?
It is true that a kitten’s eye gets fully opened during its second week of life, but that does not mean the eye development is completed. Sight development in the feline population is a gradual process – the fluid surrounding a newborn’s lens, which was formerly opaque, will change to a clear color. Additionally, it is only in a kitten’s third week of life that it is expected to identify its mother by sight. The fifth week is when vision gets cleared up, but sight will continue developing until the 10th week when it is expected to be fully developed. Interestingly, adult cats and older kittens are equipped with remarkably precise vision and they can see clearly in low light, which is a feat quite impossible for humans and other animals.
Are Kittens Born Blind?
Kittens are not necessarily born blind, but it’s fair to say that they are not funtional. However, it is not only the kitten’s eyes that are non-functional at birth, but their ears are also equally deaf. Thus, they are completely oblivious to their environment throughout their first week of life. Now, the obvious question is, why is it so? The reason they have their eyes clamped shut at birth is that those tissues present in their eyeballs continue to bake long after they are born. It is only when it completes baking that the eyes can attempt to open. What happens at this stage is that the eyelids will form a kind of protective seal when the kitten’s external eye development will be completed.
Additionally, newborn kittens do not even need vision straight away, as their sense of smell and touch kicks in immediately after birth. So, they can easily identify their mother by sensing its body heat through mere touch and latching onto the mother’s nipple can be simply accomplished by smell. Once vision begins to clear towards their second week, the kitten’s pupils will not readily contract and dilate, which underlines the need to protect them from exposure to bright lights.
What’s more, vision will continue to get better as the cat advances in age, hence why trying to force a newborn kitten’s eyes open will only damage the delicate tissues which the closed eyelids are meant to protect. Besides, kittens are known to be hypersensitive to light at birth; thus, it is crucial that the lids remain closed to shield their eyes until the time is right. And despite the fact that their eyes are shut, they are still able to fully communicate in their own way; so, there is no need to worry.
The next obvious question is how do kittens communicate with their eyes closed? Well, this is not that straightforward to answer, but it can be compared to the way newborn babies communicate. Kittens come into the world with just a couple of senses, smell, and touch and both the mother and any other being that comes in contact with a kitten is already communicating with the kitten the moment it is touched. Even the simple act of feeding will give the kitten the reassurance it needs, to know that it is being cared for. What’s more, aiding the kitten to eliminate waste by stimulating it at the right spot is not just serving a purpose; the kitten is slowly bonding with you. You have thus become its surrogate mum, and every interaction you have with the kitten helps in communicating the message loud as well as clear.
Is a Kitten’s Eyes Delicate at Birth?
The eyes of a newborn kitten are very delicate – what this means is that they should be handled with care during their first six weeks after birth. This is because their eyes are susceptible to all kinds of infections. Recommendations are that you never attempt to touch the kitten’s eyes even when they are still closed. What’s more, a vet should be contacted in cases where you observe any bulging. Swelling, or discharge from the eyelids.