The first year of a kitten’s life is vital to her physical development, her personality development and the bond you create with her. The bond starts forming in the early months of her life which forms the base and type of relationship you will have with her. The baby kitten will go through many stages in the first year and by understanding a bit about these stages you can help her through this developmental time, begin forming a strong bond and also help curb unwanted behaviors as she grows into an adult cat.
The First Weeks
The first six weeks of a kitten’s life is a very vulnerable and critical time. During this time she needs to be with her mother and siblings so she can get the nourishment and warmth she needs to survive. Kittens have many specific needs during this time as far as nutrition, body temperature and help learning basic bodily functions. Kittens grow and develop at an incredibly fast rate during their first few weeks but unfortunately they are also quite susceptible to health problems so it is important they receive good care and remain with their mother when at all possible.
Weeks 7 – 12
Ideally kittens should remain with their mother until they are 12 weeks old. Although the mother will begin weaning them around 6 weeks it’s still good to have mom around to teach the kittens important skills. They learn a great deal from their mother and siblings about things like grooming, social skills, how to use the litter box to name a few. If they aren’t able to learn these things from their mother you will need to take on her role.
This is a fun time with a new kitten because they are becoming more active and working on developing their motor skills. They are incredibly playful and curious which can be a funny combination. But it can also be dangerous if your house isn’t kitty proofed yet. Be sure to keep anything potentially dangerous – wires, plants, open toilets, cleaners, string etc – out of reach or securely covered.
Weeks 13 – 26
The adult teeth will start to develop and they will start to lose baby teeth when they are around 4 months old. This can be a good time to start good feline dental care habits.
If you have other cats in your household the new kitten may try to challenge the dominant cat during this phase. This usually results with the dominant cat showing the new kitten who’s still the boss.
Some cats will reach sexual maturity during this time so it’s a good idea to spay or neuter your kitten between 3-6 months of age. Spaying a male cat by 6 months of age can also help prevent him from developing the bad habit of spraying in the house.
Weeks 27 – 52
By this time kittens will begin to have physical traits and behaviors that are more like those of adult cats. They will likely start to exhibit some behaviors that are similar to those seen in human adolescents. They will test their boundaries and they may start testing their dominance even with you. Don’t feel hurt if your kitten doesn’t respond as well to you during this time, remember it’s probably just her age. Continue to give her love and affection, but don’t force it on her. Just be patient during this time.
Understanding your kitten during the different phases of her first year can go a long way towards creating a strong bond and helping her become a well-adjusted adult cat. Besides that it’s just so fun to watch them grow and change during this first year and it’s a little easier to accept some of the short-term not-so-fun behaviors if you understand them better. Some of these behaviors are similar to what kids experience just in a condensed period of time.
If you’re thinking about getting a baby kitten you’ll need to know more about what to expect when bringing your new kitten home, and how to introduce her to other pets.