Guide/How-to|

At two weeks old, kittens become more aware of their surroundings, and they begin to interact with each other. Their ears will start to unfold. They will also knead, though they cannot yet retract their claws.

Characteristics

Weight: 280-310 grams/9.8-10.9 ounces
Teeth: Incisors start to show
Eyes: Fully open and blue
Ears: Starting to unfold

 

Behavior

Kittens are becoming more aware of their surroundings and will start to interact more with each other, but they’ll still spend most of their time asleep. They’ll start to play, develop fine motor skills, and take unsteady first steps.

Their sense of smell is developing, and they will hiss at unfamiliar scents or sounds. They’ll also knead with their paws, though they can’t retract their claws yet.

Care

Neonatal—newborn to four-week-old—kittens require round-the-clock care.

Feeding:

Use specific kitten bottles to feed them kitten formula. Make sure you never feed them “Cat Milk,” which is designed for adult cats, or cow’s or goat’s milk, which could give the kittens life-threatening diarrhea.  Stick to kitten formula, such as kitten milk replacer (KMR), which can be purchased at most pet supply stores. Use specific kitten bottles to feed them kitten formula. Feed kittens on their stomachs—not their backs like human babies—and tilt the bottle. After they’re done eating, you’ll need to burp them. Put them on your shoulder or on their stomachs and pat them gently until they burp. For more information on what to feed kittens, visit Caring for Neonatal Kittens.

Feeding frequency:

Kittens older than 10 days can eat every three to four hours. At about 18 days old, they can start to eat every five to six hours.

Dehydration:

Dehydration is one of the biggest killers of kittens, along with chilling. Some signs of dehydration include limpness, unresponsiveness, sunken eyes, and lethargy. You can also check by pulling up the skin at the scruff when the kitten is in a standing position. If it does not return to resting position quickly, the kitten is dehydrated.

Bedding (keep neonatal kittens warm):

Neonatal kittens can’t control their own body temperature until they are at least three weeks old and get cold easily, which can be life-threatening. From the moment you find them, keep the kittens warm and watch out for signs of chilling (i.e., listlessness and cool to the touch) and hold off on bottle feeding until the kittens have completely warmed up. If you have nothing else on hand, use your own body heat to warm up a cold kitten, and rub her gently to aid circulation. Keep kittens warm by building a soft nest, like a box with a blanket and Snuggle Safe, a rice sock, or a water bottle. Make sure that kittens have room to move away from the heat if they want.

Cleaning:

Clean kittens using a warm, damp washcloth after they’re done eating. A kitten can chill if wet, so never submerge kittens in water. If a kitten needs to be cleaned up, wash only certain parts of her body with a washcloth. Be sure to always fully dry kittens with a hair dryer (on low) and towel.

Bathroom habits:

Kittens younger than four weeks old must be stimulated to go to the bathroom after each feeding. A mother cat uses her tongue to do this, but you can use a warm and damp cotton ball, tissue, or washcloth to gently rub the kitten’s anal area. Completely solid feces usually will not form while kittens are drinking formula. If you notice the kittens are having trouble urinating or defecating, consult a veterinarian.

A healthy kitten will urinate almost every time you stimulate them and have a bowel movement once or twice a day.

For more on caring for kittens younger than four weeks old, including health concerns, go to Caring for Neonatal Kittens.

Socialization

Handle the kittens early and often to encourage their social development. This helps them connect positive experiences with people, which will help when they are adopted into new homes. Once kittens are about three to four weeks old, they will start to play and playing will become an important part of socialization. For more about socializing kittens, go to alleycat.org/Socialization.