During your cat’s lifetime, you’ll see them go through plenty of changes in behaviour, physique and dietary requirements. The first few months of a kitten’s life are crucial, as they're learning about the world around them and growing into a healthy adult cat. Understanding these stages means you can do your best to give them what they need and provide them with the best possible start.
Your kitten in the first week
As soon as it’s born, your kitten will start to suckle – in the first three days of life each kitten will develop a preference for which teat they feed from, and will stick with this throughout the time they're being fed by their mother. Suckling in the early days is very important as it’s how kittens ingest colostrum, a substance which helps develop their immunity.
At five days old, they will open their eyes, and after around a week their umbilical cord drops off. They will start to gain between 10g to 30g of weight each day, so it's important to weigh them daily and monitor their mother’s behaviour in case she prevents them from feeding.
Two weeks into a kitten’s life
Your litter of kittens will have made their first attempts to stand by this point, but they'll also be sleeping for 90% of their time as their bodies are rapidly growing. Their first milk teeth will be coming through – 26 of them – and these won’t be replaced by adult teeth until they are around five to seven months old.
A kitten at four weeks old
By now, your kitten will be actively playing and walking around, and starting to socialise with their brothers and sisters. They’ll begin to show an interest in their mother’s solid food, so you can start to transition them from a milk-only diet to one which is more appropriate. This should be done gradually, with a rehydrated kibble – either in hot water or milk – so it’s easy for them to chew and digest.
Eight weeks of your kitten’s life
After two months, the litter should stop feeding from their mother and be starting to be completely independent with their food. You can move them onto a nutritionally-appropriate, energy-dense food that’s the right texture and size for them, making sure to do this step-by-step so you don’t overwhelm their digestion. You should also talk to your vet about vaccinations at this point.
Your kitten at 12 weeks
All of your kittens will now be growing very quickly. Although their energy requirements have dropped, they still need three times as much energy as an adult cat to help them begin their most intense weight-gain period at four to five months, where they will be growing by 100g a week. Their sleeping patterns will be more like an adult cat – between 13 to 16 hours each day – and their behaviour will be fully socialised so they can play with the rest of the litter and you.
Between 12 to 15 months into their life, your kitten will become an adult cat and reach their full size. By being aware of these different early stages and what they need, you can make sure they reach adulthood healthily and happily.