Are you thinking about introducing a new kitten into your home or eagerly anticipating the arrival of a litter of kittens from your pregnant cat? If so, you may have questions about caring for these adorable little creatures. In this post, our Gilbert vets explore when newborn kittens will open their eyes and provide guidance on how to care for them.
If you haven't experienced the joy of being around very young kittens, you might be surprised to find out how different they look compared to their adult counterparts. Their eyes stay tightly sealed shut at this stage, and their ears frequently fold against their heads. They cannot stand and rely entirely on the loving care of their mother or caregivers. Nevertheless, these tiny creatures can thrive and grow into happy, healthy cats with the right attention and nurturing.
When a Newborn Kitten Will Open Their Eyes
As kittens develop, various factors influence their growth rate. Most newborns typically open their eyes between 2 and 16 days old, with their vision gradually improving. It's important to note that their two eyes may not open simultaneously. Around two weeks of age, both eyes usually dilate, and by three weeks old, most kittens can focus with both eyes. Although all newborn kittens initially have blue eyes, their eye color will change as they grow older, usually settling on the true color at about 8 weeks old.
Taking Care of Your Kitten's Eyes
When caring for very young kittens, safeguard their delicate eyes from potentially harmful bright lights. If the mother is absent or not providing adequate care, prioritize keeping the newborn kittens clean and healthy. To maintain their hygiene, use a warm, damp washcloth to clean their faces gently. Avoid forcefully opening the kittens' eyes; let their lids open naturally at their own pace. While it requires time and patience, allowing the natural process to unfold is essential for promoting their healthy growth and development.
Problems to Watch for & How to Manage Them
Newborn kittens commonly develop crusted shut eyes, a condition that hinders their ability to open them. A bacterial or viral infection often causes this problem. To prevent the infection from recurring or spreading among littermates, it is crucial to maintain proper hygiene in their bedding and shared areas. To alleviate the crusting, gently clean the affected area with a cotton ball soaked in warm, clean water, avoiding soap as it can worsen the issue. If the condition persists or worsens, seek immediate veterinary attention to ensure the kittens receive the appropriate care.
Newborn Kitten Care Tips
Newborn kittens, akin to human babies, spend significant time asleep, waking up intermittently for feeding and care. They navigate towards their mother's belly for warmth and nourishment, relying heavily on their sense of smell while their small bodies still develop. In this stage, kittens can sleep up to 22 hours a day, but their sleep requirements decrease as they mature.
Around two weeks, their teeth begin to emerge, enhancing their mobility. They can crawl, walk, jump, and play more confidently by four weeks. This increased mobility corresponds with a growing sense of curiosity and adventure, expanding their capacity for mischief, such as honing their climbing skills.
Newborn Kittens need to Stay Warm
Newborn kittens need help maintaining their body temperature, emphasizing the importance of staying close to their mother. Separation from the mother or littermates can pose a challenge in keeping the kitten warm. One effective method involves placing a heating disk or a heating pad on low heat beneath a cozy blanket in their crate.
It's crucial to create a comfortable and warm nest for the kitten to snuggle in. To ensure the kitten's safety, check the heating pad's temperature with your hands before placing it in the crate. Additionally, designate a spot in the crate without a heating item, allowing the kitten to move there if it feels too warm.
To prevent hypothermia, continue providing a heating source until the kitten reaches about six weeks old. Maintaining a temperature of 85ºF or 29ºC in the kitten's environment will promote warmth and overall health. By offering a warm and cozy atmosphere, you contribute to the thriving of your kitten in its early life stages.
Newborn Kittens Require Proper Nutrition
If you are caring for a newborn kitten that has been separated from its mother, it is crucial to provide them with adequate nutrition and care. To ensure that your kitten receives the appropriate nourishment, it's essential to bottle-feed them with a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours. Your veterinarian will be your best source of information on which formula to use, how much to feed your kitten, and how frequently they should be provided since each kitten is unique.
In addition, it's important to monitor your kitten's weight gain, as they should be gaining around ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) per week to grow healthily. Never feed your kitten cow's milk, which can cause digestive problems. Always use the same formula, and keep your kitten warm to promote proper digestion. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your kitten's healthy development and growth.
Kitten Preventive Care
Ensuring the good health of your kitten is crucial, and the first step is to take them for their initial veterinary appointment at the recommended time, irrespective of their age. During this visit, the veterinarian will assess your kitten's health, inform you about their dietary needs, and address any questions you may have regarding the care of your new family member.
However, preventive care extends beyond the first vet visit. Regular wellness exams play a vital role in evaluating your kitten's overall health and well-being, including their dietary requirements. These exams also enable your vet to identify potential diseases early, making them more treatable and less expensive to manage.
In addition to routine vaccinations and wellness exams, it is essential to prioritize parasite prevention care to ensure the safety and health of your kitten. To ward off serious diseases or conditions, your kitten should receive their initial shots at 6 to 8 weeks old, and they should undergo spaying or neutering at 5 to 6 months old.
Routine preventive care, encompassing vaccinations, wellness exams, and parasite prevention, is indispensable for safeguarding your kitten's overall health and well-being. Hence, it is imperative to adhere to your veterinarian's advice by scheduling the first vet visit and maintaining the recommended preventive care routine.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.