Whether you’re thinking of adopting a kitten or buying one from a pet store there are a number of aspects you’ll need to consider. If you’ve made your mind up and decided to welcome a new furry friend into your home, this article should help you begin to learn some useful and important facts about these popular and unique pets.
A kitten, also known as a kitty or kitty cat, is a highly social juvenile cat that enjoys human companionship. After being born, kittens are totally dependent on their mother for survival so it is essential that they have a chance to stay within their litter until at least 8 weeks of age. Majority of cat breeders and/or animal shelters won’t give away a kitty before it is 12 weeks old and many jurisdiction deem it illegal to house kittens under two months old.
Newborn cats don’t open their eyes until they are about 7-10 days old so it is easy to understand how their mother’s presence is vital for their survival, not only for nutrition but also for safety once they come into the world. For the first 3-4 weeks, kittens are not even able to urinate or defecate without being stimulated by the queen. These tiny cats are so vulnerable that they can’t regulate their own body temperature which becomes once again their mother’s duty at birth.
As with any pet, owning a young cat can be a rewarding and exciting addition to your life however it can be a challenging responsibility, especially when we are talking about a young cat. The following are only some of the interesting information to consider if you’ve decided to adopt or purchase a young cat.
- The average litter size for a queen can vary between 3 to 5 newborn however this number varies greatly depending on the size and age of the mother cat. The largest litter of kittens ever recorded counted 19 kitties which is an extremely large number of mouths to be fed!
- At about two weeks, kitty cats will begin to develop and explore the world outside the nest as they open their eyes and start to develop their hearing.
- Young cats have a powerful sense of smell and they'll use it to begin their exploration of the world they live in. Following an interesting scent will often get your kitty cat into trouble as it will try to reach even the most uncommon places.
- A well known trait in kittens is their flexibility and ability to fit in even the narrowest space. Monitor your pet and try to make your house kitten-proof to prevent any accident or injury.
- After a further three to four weeks, a kitten will start to lose its baby-teeth and grow adult teeth so that the weaning process can begin. Up until this point, your kitten would have only fed on the mother’s milk which is extremely important as it transfers antibodies that will prevent the young cat from contracting infectious diseases.
- Young kittens must feed on their mother’s milk every 2-3 hours!
- The milk produced by a queen is called colostrum and it is the medium through which newborn kittens receive all of the protection from common infections. If a kitten doesn’t ingest its mother’s milk within the first 6 hours the immune system will be seriously compromised for its entire life.
- Domestic kittens require a diet that is higher in protein than an adult cat so it's important that they eat kitten-specific food until about 12 months old.
- A kitten is born with a set of 26 teeth but, once it replaces it with adult ones it will have a total of 30.
- Young cats can sleep up to 18 hours per day so don’t be surprised if that’s how they spend their time when you’re in the house. In fact, all of the hormones necessary for a kitten's growth are only release during sleep.
- All newborn cats have blue eyes until around 3 months: even the cat with the darkest eyes colour would have had blue eyes as a cub.
- Just like humans, young cats will quickly learn to use their paws and will consistently use either the left or right one. Pay attention to your new furry friend and you'll notice how it will tend to use the same side to play, gain your attention or grab some food off the kitchen counter.
- If you purchase or adopt a kitten under 3 months of age you'll need to vaccinate it against the most common diseases. Best to take your new fur baby to the vet for a full checkup as soon as it comes home with you.
- The vast majority of cat owners that don't intend to breed a litter will decide to neuter their pet as soon as possible. The surgery can be performed as early as 3-4 months of age so before your cat enters puberty and begins to display certain sexually related behaviours such as aggression, marking territory or yowling.
- Having a neutered kitten tends to make your pet friendlier and calmer however it may also cause it to gain a little weight.
Not all newborn cats are so lucky to be with their mother during the most important stages of their life. There are a number of reasons why a queen may be separated from its offspring: the mother could have given birth on the street and died of illness or in a car accident, someone may have not realised the queen was expecting and decided to get rid of the kittens by leaving them somewhere else, etc.
Although completely vulnerable and alone, orphaned kittens still need someone to look after them and “replace” the role of the missing mother. As we know, a kitten that is separated from the mother before 8 weeks has lower chances of survival.
If you find yourself dealing with young kittens without a mother it is essential to contact an experienced vet as soon as possible in order to get some useful advice and the help that could save their life!
Cat milk replacement is produced by pet companies as regular cow milk doesn’t contain all of the necessary nutrients required by young kittens to grow healthy without support from their mother.
Generally, a kitten that was separated from its mother at an early age will be underweight and may develop health issues that will require antibiotics as an adult.
Pet owners that will be raising orphaned cats will need to be extremely vigilant and careful in handling these little kitties.
Although cats that are brought up without a mother and among humans will usually grow up to be much more affectionate and social towards their owner and people in general, they will also be subject to mood swings and sometime aggressive behaviour.
So if you’re one of the cat owners that has helped saving an orphaned cat it is important that you seek veterinary attention and establish a good relationship with the vet who will be able to assist you as your kitten grows into, hopefully a healthy and happy cat.
Author: Marino Tilatti
Member of PetsForAll Editorial Stuff
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