Cats rank among the most prevalent choices for family pets, and numerous families opt to raise their new kittens from infancy. In this feature, our vets at Brodheadsville discuss the care of newborn kittens and provide insights into when to anticipate their eyes opening.

Caring for and raising kittens presents a thrilling adventure. You'll observe that they haven't opened their eyes yet, and their ears might be tightly closed to their heads. They won't be able to stand or walk, appearing more or less helpless. However, with their mother or caretakers' nurturing love and care, they are certain to develop into healthy and happy cats.

When Can You Expect Your Kitten to Open Their Eyes?

Kittens develop at varying rates, influenced by several factors. Typically, newborns start to open their eyes between 2 and 16 days of age. Their vision gradually enhances during this period, although both eyes may not open fully simultaneously. Around the age of 2 weeks, both eyes are generally dilated, and by 3 weeks old, many kittens can focus with both eyes. Initially, all newborn kittens have blue eyes, with the eye color usually stabilizing to its true shade around 8 weeks of age.

How to properly care for the eyes of your newborn kitten

Keep bright lights away from young kittens, as they could harm or damage their developing eyes. If the kitten lacks a mother or is not receiving proper care, take responsibility for ensuring the cleanliness and health of the newborn kittens. Use a warm, damp washcloth to keep their faces clean, and, above all, avoid attempting to force a kitten's eyes open before they naturally open on their own. Exercise patience, as it is crucial in this process! 

When you should be concerned about your newborn kitten's eyes

Newborn kittens may develop a crust on their eyes, hindering their ability to open them. This common issue can result from bacterial or viral infections. It underscores the importance of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in your kittens' bedding and shared areas to prevent infections from recurring or spreading to littermates. If your kittens' eyes develop a matted crust, gently clean them with a cotton ball dampened in warm, clean water—avoiding soap altogether. If there is no improvement or the condition worsens, promptly contact your vet to ensure proper care for your kittens.

How to Care For Your Newborn Kitten

Like human infants, newborn kittens spend much of their time sleeping, awakening only for occasional feeding and care. They use their sense of smell to locate their mother's belly, relying on warmth and a milk source for their development.

Newborn kittens sleep approximately 22 hours daily, with older and adult cats needing less sleep. Around the time their teeth emerge, at about two weeks old, your kitten's mobility will begin to improve. They can crawl, walk, jump, and play more confidently by four weeks. This stage also marks an increase in their capacity for mischief, fueled by curiosity and a sense of adventure, often leading them to practice climbing.

Raising a Kitten

Kittens are adorable and lovable household pets. However, they have very specific needs that must be addressed. These needs are different for every stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed, it can impact their overall health and longevity. Here, we discuss how to care for your new furry friend during their kitten years.

0-4 Weeks Old

A newborn kitten, aged 0-4 weeks, actively learns essential skills such as meowing, walking, and regulating body temperature. If the kitten has a mother, she assumes most responsibilities, including feeding. Your role involves ensuring the mother's health and maintaining a warm, secure environment. Cover the floor of their crate or area with a blanket, and provide a cozy bed.

In the absence of a mother, prioritize a vet visit for the newborn kitten. The veterinarian will assess the kitten's health and provide precise instructions on caring for your diminutive companion.

5-11 Weeks Old

Around 5 to 10 weeks of age, the kitten you're caring for should gradually transition from bottle feeding or maternal feeding to being fed high-protein meals about 3 to 4 times a day. Initiate this transition by pouring the formula into a food bowl and potentially incorporating a small amount of softened hard food or canned soft food to facilitate the process. The kittens will become more adventurous as their motor skills improve during this stage. It's essential to closely monitor them to ensure they don't get into any trouble.

Supervision and hands-on playtime are crucial for your kitten between the ages of 2 and 4 months.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Did your cat have kittens, or are you caring for a newborn kitten without a mother? Call our vets in Brodheadsville to schedule an examination.