Life of a Kitten

Kittens come into the world about 63-67 days after a queen is bred. Ask any breeder-  most births seem to happen at night, when  things are peaceful. Generally, queens are able to birth the kittens without help, and the breeder is present only to assist if necessary.  

Each kitten is born in its own sack with its own placenta. The queen will break the sack, and lick the kitten to stimulate the kitten to breath. The queen will give each kitten a bath, and the kitten will be dry and fluffy in no time. A kitten’s first instinct is to nurse, and is quick to nuzzle around until it finds the right spot. Kittens will weigh between 2.5-3.5 ounces (85 grams) at birth.   

In my experience, the average litter is 4 kittens, although I have had litters from 1-6 kittens. Typically, births range from 4-6 hours in length.                 

The first 10 days of a kitten’s life is critical:  the baby must be warm, well-fed and well-cared for by its mother in order for it to thrive. Young kittens (birth to 3 weeks) have a hard time regulating their body temperature, so it is important to keep them warm. The first 2-3 weeks, the kittens nurse and sleep in a continuous cycle. The queen is very dedicated to her babies, and will hardly ever leave them except for food, water or to use the litter box. Additionally, the queen is very proud of her accomplishment, and likes nothing more than to be complimented on her beautiful babies.

At 5-10 days old, the kitten’s eyes will start to open, although they can’t really focus clearly yet. They will start to lift their heads up, and slowly move around the bed by pulling themselves. We call this “the swimming stage,” as they learn they have “arms and legs.” One day the most amazing thing happens: the kittens sit up! Suddenly they look like 3 dimensional kittens, as they are no longer spending all of their time horizontal.  

Life takes off from here. At 3-4 weeks, the kittens will begin to stand on all four legs, although they often fall because they are so wobbly. They will start to take steps, but are not ready to run.   

In the 4-6 week time frame, we will introduce real food (Royal Canin Baby Cat) and water to a kitten. Prior to this introduction, the kitten received all nourishment from its mommy. The exact age at which feeding starts is often determined by the size of the litter, kitten weight gain, the condition of the queen and “eating readiness”. Typically, larger litters will start eating real food sooner.

As they age and grow, it is harder for the queen to produce enough milk for larger litters. When the food is introduced, so is the litter box. With kittens, we use Feline Pine, a pine pellet litter. Clumping litter is NEVER used in the nursery as kittens can ingest the litter which clogs up their digestive system, and they will die.

At the 4-6 week time period when the nursery is constantly a mess: the kittens are learning about eating food, and using the litter box. They have spilled water, dirtied their cat bed and have walked through their food. Every morning and evening is a major clean-up job. Miraculously this is a SHORT phase in their growth process

At 6 to 8 weeks, the kittens really come into their own. They start to run and jump, and find toys have a purpose. Watching them discover their world is hilarious, and more fun than watching television! As quickly as their fun starts, it is soon nap time again. Kittens still need lots of sleep to accommodate their growing bodies!

And now, it’s time for school! Mommy has a huge job of socializing her kittens: there are instructions on bathing themselves, playing with certain toys, learning to use a scratching post, and interacting with the rest of the fur family. She is also responsible for teaching her brood how to go up and down stairs, as well as where to hide from the vacuum cleaner! And yes, cats DO talk to each other! A typical cat has 24 vocalizations, and the sounds are different between cat and human companion, and cat to cat. One of the most interesting things to listen for is mommy talking to her babies in the middle of the night!

Jazzlynn babies - just born

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