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Kitten development: When does a kitten become a cat?

July 6, 2018

Kittens have an incredibly rapid period of growth and development in their first few weeks of life.  They are born with their eyes and ears closed. They cannot walk, so they crawl on their tummies and rely on their developing sense of smell to find mum and feed from her.


By 2 weeks of age, the kitten’s eyes have opened.

By 3 weeks of age, the kitten’s ear canal has fully opened.

By 4 weeks of age, needle-sharp baby teeth are erupting through the gums and the kitten can go to the toilet on its own. Before this, they rely on the mum to stimulate them to excrete their waste. 

By 4 weeks of age, the kittens are also starting to explore their surroundings a little wider away from mum and beginning to interact properly with their littermates.  They also begin to show an interest in mum’s food and can now start to be weaned onto kitten food.

Between 8-12 weeks of age, kittens are old enough to have their vaccinations and leave mum to go to their new home.

By 4 months old, the baby teeth start to fall out as they are replaced by adult teeth. The kitten will have a full set of adult teeth by about 7 months old.

At 5-6 months the kitten is old enough to be spayed or neutered.

Kittens can start to look like adult cats by 6 months of age but they need nutritional support for optimum health and development during their growth phase which lasts 12 months. We recommend that a kitten be fed specially tailored complete and balanced kitten food until they are 12 months of age.

12 months of age is when they are considered to be an adult cat and can be fed adult cat food.

Kitten care: Things to do to before you get your kitten.

  • Register with a vet
  • Buy a cat carrier
  • Buy a bed, food and water bowls (buy shallow ones, cats don’t like deep dishes), litter tray, cat toys, brushes / combs.
  • Buy kitten food
  • Buy a break-safe collar and have an identity disc made with your cat’s address details on it

Prepare your home:
  • Secure any trailing wires
  • Ensure all toxic plants, human foods, medicines, cleaning chemicals are out of the kitten’s reach
  • Create a scratching post or an area that it is ok for the kitten to fulfil its natural instinct to scratch
  • Set aside a private area for the kitten to feel safe using a litter tray
  • Place food and water bowls in separate locations, since cats don’t naturally like to eat and drink from the same area
  • Create an area where your kitten can have peace and quiet and feel safe, such as a cardboard box on its side. To a cat, this is a safe haven to retreat to.
  • Litter tray: In the wild, big cats are careful about keeping clean so they don’t eat and go to the toilet in the same place. Kittens are no different, please keep the litter tray well away from the places where the cat eats and drinks.

When you bring your kitten home:

  • Book an appointment with the vet:
  • For a health check-up
  • To complete vaccination courses
  • For flea and worming treatments
  • Microchipping is advisable so that you can be reunited if your cat gets lost

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