Guide/How-to|

Kitten Progression Guide

Kittens are adorable at any age, but did you know that figuring out how old a kitten is can help determine what sort of care they need? It can be tricky to tell, but our at-a-glance kitten progression guide, featuring Darling the kitten, is here to help you out.

Learn what to do when you find kittens outdoors.

Newborn

KittenProgression-Darling-newbornWhen kittens are first born they are completely helpless—their eyes are closed, their ears are folded, and they can’t stand, keep themselves warm or eat on their own. They rely on mom for everything!

One Week Old

KittenProgression-Darling-week1Darling is starting to become more aware of his surroundings! At about seven days old, a kitten’s ears will unfold and their eyes may start to open.

When kittens are first born, they are helpless—they cannot see, hear, keep themselves warm, or eliminate waste on their own. They fit in the palm of your hand and weigh 3-5 ounces. Kittens like Darling, and his siblings, are completely dependent on their mother (or you!) for protection, warmth, and nutrition. Even so, these kittens can purr and make distress calls. They spend 90 percent of their time sleeping and the other 10 percent eating.

One Day Old

At one day old, the kittens cannot stand. Their eyes are closed and their ears are folded. Kittens this young require round-the-clock care and bottle feeding every two hours.

Denby is just a day old.

Denby is just a day old.

Three Days Old

Notice that the kittens’ ears are just beginning to unfold, though their eyes remain closed. Their sense of smell, hearing, and taste are slowly starting to develop.

Tweed is only three days old. His ears are starting to unfold.

Tweed is only three days old. His ears are starting to unfold.

Six Days Old

After almost a week, the kittens begin to wiggle around on their own a little bit and their eyes start to open.

Cordory at six days old. His eyes are starting to open

Cordory at six days old. His eyes are starting to open

One Week Old

One week in this world, Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are becoming more aware of their surroundings. Their eyes are almost completely open, though their eyesight is still unfocused. They have doubled their birth weight to around eight ounces.

Wembley is one week old!

Wembley is one week old!

Two Weeks Old

KittenProgression-Darling-week2Look at those blue peepers! Darling’s eyes are fully open, and he is taking his first wobbly steps. Kittens this age start interacting more with each other, but still need mom.

During their second week, Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley continue to grow by leaps and bounds. By the end of the week, their ears will be almost completely uncurled and they will begin to crawl. They still depend completely on a caregiver—either mom or you—for food and waste elimination.

Eight Days Old

The kittens snuggle together for warmth and comfort and rarely venture far from mom, their nest, or each other.

Eight days old! All the kittens pile together

Eight days old! All the kittens pile together.

Nine Days Old

The kitten’s eyes are all blue—and they will stay that way for the first couple of weeks. Their true eye color may not become completely apparent until they are two months old.

Corduroy on day nine. Look at those blue eyes!

Corduroy on day nine. Look at those blue eyes!

Twelve Days Old

The kittens are becoming more comfortable venturing away from mom, though they are wobbly on their feet.

Wembley is twelve days old and starting to move around.

Wembley is twelve days old and starting to move around.

Two Weeks Old

Now that Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are more aware of their surroundings, they are beginning to interact with each other. Their sense of smell is developing, and they will hiss at unfamiliar scents or sounds—though the tiny sounds that come out are most likely not as ferocious as they think! They are also kneading, though they cannot yet retract their claws.

Denby at two weeks

Denby at two weeks.

Three Weeks Old

KittenProgression-Darling-week3Darling’s now playing with his siblings and getting more mobile.

By the third week, you can tell if the kittens are boys or girls. (Darling, Denby, Corduroy, and Tweed are all boys; Wembley is the only girl). Their teeth are coming in and their walking is becoming more confident. You can start providing a litter box and wet food.

Fifteen Days Old

Even at this age, the kittens still spend a substantial part of their day sleeping.

Day 15 Denby

Denby at 15 days.

Sixteen Days Old

The kittens are just beginning to play and develop their fine motor skills.

Wembley is up and about on day 16.

Wembley is up and about on day 16.

Twenty Days Old

Kittens this age can start to eliminate waste on their own, without the help of mom or a caregiver. Now that the kittens have reached this milestone, it’s time to start litter box training.

Corduroy at 20 days

Corduroy at 20 days

Three Weeks Old

If you are bottle feeding, you’ll notice the kittens are drinking much more at each feeding, but at fewer feedings, probably four to five times a day. At this age you can start introducing solid food—use wet food at first, and try mixing it with kitten formula. By the end of the week, their weight will have increased to close to 15 ounces. They are walking steadily, without too much wobbling.

Tweed is three weeks old!

Tweed is three weeks old!

Four Weeks Old

KittenProgression-Darling-week4Look how much Darling has grown! At four weeks kittens are sturdy on their feet and playing with each other, toys, and people.

By now, Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley look like fluffy, miniature versions of their mother. They are showing interest in the outside world, interacting with their littermates more and also beginning to interact with people and toys. That means it’s time to begin socializing these kittens!

Twenty Two Days Old

Notice that their ears are fully extended and they are holding themselves up well. They are sturdy! Their fur is beginning to fill out and you may be able to tell who will have short, medium or long fur. These kittens all have short fur.

Wembley’s ears are up and she is steady on her feet!

Wembley’s ears are up and she is steady on her feet!

Twenty Three Days Old

Who wants to play? Playing is a great way to socialize kittens and teach them fun and positive ways to interact with people. Get tips on how to socialize kittens at alleycat.org/Socialization.

Denby with his new favorite toy.!

Denby with his new favorite toy!

Four Weeks Old

It’s been one whole month! It’s amazing how quickly these helpless kittens have grown up over a four-week period. Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembleyare thriving babies, starting to explore the world around them and play frequently with friends and toys.

At four weeks old, Corduroy is ready to explore!

At four weeks old, Corduroy is ready to explore!

Five Weeks Old

KittenProgression-Darling-week5Get ready for a lot of fun! Darling is now full of energy and plays exuberantly. Interacting with people is important for kittens at this age. Darling is developing lots of personality!

This is when the fun begins. Now that the kittens’ sight is fully developed, they are engaging in vigorous and exhaustive play, running around and exploring until they quite literally fall asleep right where they are. While they are experimenting with solid food, kittens like Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are still nursing from their mother (or being bottle fed by you) a few times a day.

Thirty One Days Old

Exuberant play means tired kittens! Play—with each other and with you—is an important part of kitten socialization because it helps them bond with each other and build confidence around people.

A pile of tired kittens!

A pile of tired kittens!

Thirty Two Days Old

The kittens are being handled by people early and often to encourage their social development. Getting love and play from humans helps them connect positive experiences with people—something that will help when they are adopted into new homes.

Denby in the hands of his caregiver!

Denby in the hands of his caregiver!

Five Weeks Old

Showing their independence, Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are beginning to demonstrate their individual personalities: Darling is a talker; Denby is always up for adventure and a good wrestle; Corduroy is brave and confident; Tweed is sweet and loves belly rubs; and Wembley is a cuddle bug and full of silly mischief.

Corduroy, brave and confident!

Corduroy, brave and confident!

Six Weeks Old

KittenProgression-Darling-week6Every day Darling is getting more sure of himself through socialization and play. He’s using the litter box and eating cat food – though he still visits mom for snacks and comfort.

Continuing to socialize the kittens only gets more important as they grow. This is the age when the people caring for Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley and the rest of their cat family begin teaching the kittens how to play, letting them know that human hands are not for biting or scratching.

Thirty Seven Days Old

No longer wobbly on their feet, the kittens have found stability using their tails to help balance.

Wembley uses her tail for balance.

Wembley uses her tail for balance.

Forty Days Old

The kittens are stalking, hiding and pouncing, and digging—instinctual behaviors ingrained in all cats, whether they grow up indoors or outdoors.

Tweed practices his stalking and pouncing.

Tweed practices his stalking and pouncing.

Six Weeks Old

The kittens are now proficient at cleaning themselves, having learned it from birth from their mother. They are also grooming each other, reinforcing the bond between siblings. Incorporate grooming into your interactions with the kittens—especially if you have a single kitten, or you are raising a litter without the mother cat.

Tweed,Wembley and Denby at six weeks old.

Tweed,Wembley and Denby at six weeks old.

Seven Weeks Old

KittenProgression-Darling-week7Darling is almost fully weaned and continues to play and learn. Being introduced to new people, places in the home, and other pets is an important part of socialization.

The kittens are pretty self-sufficient at this point, though Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley still get comfort from mom.

45 Days Old

As part of socialization, the kittens are being introduced to different parts of the house, different objects, different pets and people, and different experiences—all to help them adjust to new situations.

Corduroy, curious and looking forward to new experiences.

Corduroy, curious and looking forward to new experiences.

47 Days Old

The kittens have been introduced to scratching posts and had their claws trimmed for the first time. Training the kittens to understand these routines helps prepare them for their new homes.

Wembley is comfortable with her routine.

Wembley is comfortable with her routine.

Seven Week Old

Almost fully weaned from mom, the kittens are growing up! These little kittens are hitting their stride and becoming independent.

Denby is almost fully weaned and is eating regular food.

Denby is almost fully weaned and is eating regular food.

Eight Weeks Old

KittenProgression-Darling-week8Two pounds! Darling now weighs enough to be neutered. He’s also getting more skilled and adventurous. Darling is learning so much from his mom, siblings, and human caregiver.

At this point, the kittens’ caregivers started looking for their adoptive homes. The kittens are fully weaned from their mother, but their continued development and growth together is important enough to put off adoption for another couple of weeks.

Fifty Four Days Old

This is the height of the kittens’ eye-paw coordination and play activity, leading them to try more daring and complex feats. It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on them during this time and ensure their play area is safe for budding daredevils.

Corduroy playing with his new toy!

Corduroy playing with his new toy!

Eight Weeks

At two months the kittens weigh about 2 pounds and can be spayed or neutered.

Tweed at 8 weeks old.

Tweed at 8 weeks old.

Nine Weeks Old

KittenProgression-Darling-week9Looking pretty grown-up, Darling! At this age kittens are behaving and using their body language like adult cats. Darling is eating all solid food, and his eyes have gone from blue to yellow.

By nine weeks, the kittens are clearly showing an attachment to their caregivers, cuddling on laps and seeking out attention.

Fifty Seven Days Old

Their adult eye color is clear now: Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley all have yellow eyes.

Corduroy's eyes are yellow!

Corduroy’s eyes are yellow!

Sixty Days Old

As they start to look more and more like adult cats, the kittens’ growth rate is finally beginning to slow. Though they will continue to develop muscle tone and stealth, they won’t be doubling their weight in a matter of days or weeks anymore.

Denby is starting to look more adult.

Denby is starting to look more adult.

Sixty Two Days Old

The kittens are on more of a schedule now, sleeping and eating at regular intervals. They eat mostly solid food, and mom is close to being done with the occasional nursing that may still be going on—if you were bottle feeding, you’re probably done by now.

Tweed still goes to mom for comfort, but is eating solid food on his own.

Tweed still goes to mom for comfort, but is eating solid food on his own.

Nine Weeks Old

The kittens are exhibiting all of the behaviors of adult cats, using their body language to communicate with their caregivers.

Wembley looks and acts more like an adult cat at 9 weeks

Wembley looks and acts more like an adult cat at 9 weeks

Ten Weeks Old

Darling

Darling

Darling is fully weaned, neutered, and—because he was socialized to people—ready for his loving adoptive home. They grow up so fast!

It’s so hard to say goodbye to these adorable kittens, but Darling, Denby, Corduroy, Tweed, and Wembley are fully weaned, socialized, spayed or neutered, and have found loving adoptive homes.

Saying goodbye to kittens is always hard—they grow up so fast!

Something to keep in mind: Kittens develop at their own speed based on environmental and genetic factors. Observing physical signs, such as how open their eyes are and their weight, as well as behaviors, like when kittens begin venturing from their mother or using a litter box, will help determine about how old they are.

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