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Norwich Bulletin - 7/4/2006

The Making Of A Kitten

Seeing that it is now the middle of kitten season, and many of you are bringing home the newest little feline friend to your household, I thought it a good time to go over the stages of kitten development. A well socialized kitten is a plus for any household, and the main way you get that is by having a well socialized cat mother.

Kittens tend to take on a lot of their motherís personality, be it friendly and calm, or fearful of humans. Besides not taking your kitten away from its mother too early, you also want to make sure that kitten has been petted, kissed and played with. Kittens who spend their short lives in a cage, are generally not socialized.

While kittens are generally eating solid food between six and seven weeks of age, it is important to keep the kitty family together for longer than that. Kittens continue to nurse and receive warmth and security from their moms until the mom decides its long enough and chases them out of the nest.

Kittens who are removed too early, tend to have some insecurities that can include nursing on blankets, clothes, etc. They also donít learn how to play with their siblings, clean themselves or learn how to completely be a cat.

It is best to keep a kitten with its mom until it is about twelve weeks of age, and the following is a quick breakdown of what happens in the developmental stages of a kittens life.

When kittens are first born, for the first two weeks, they concentrate on survival; i.e. eating, becoming aware of sound, and finding their order in the litter. This is the time the weakest may be shoved out of the nest and it is up to the human caretaker to make sure everyone gets a chance to nurse. This is also the time eyes open and the kittens first become aware of their world.

Between two and four weeks there are great changes in a kittenís life. They can focus their eyes and see their mom and their little chipmunk ears develop into kitten ears. They develop their sense of smell, get teeth and start interacting with their siblings.

There is nothing cuter than a four week old kitten trying to play with a littermate. At five weeks old, most kittens begin to eat. They step in their mushy good and by watching their mom, they figure out how to eat solid foods. As soon as a week later, they start to groom themselves and each other, run, stalk and pounce and they discover the joys of furry mice toys. They begin to grow socially as a cat and as a potential companion to humans.

The scariest time is seven to ten weeks old because that is when kittens lose the natural immunities they had with their mother. They are eating all kinds of solid food and they receive their first immunizations. This is the time they come down with upper respiratory infections and parasites. No matter how good a home the kitten comes from, parasites and colds happen with babies.

They need to be watched and it is important to keep them together at this time. They are also learning better coordination. They chase their tails, pounce, leap and do the kitten dance around things that they are unsure of. They are a bundle of energy from now until they are about fourteen weeks of age. Somewhere between twelve and fourteen weeks is the perfect time for them to go to their new homes and continue their development.

Between three and six months, kittens develop their social status and find their place in their new homes. As they continue to grow into cats it is important to remember that in mind and body, they continue to be kittens through the first two years of their lives.

So donít be upset when an organization or breeder tells you they wonít let their kittens go to a home before they are twelve weeks old. That is the responsible thing to do and you will still have a long period of kittenhood to enjoy.

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