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Kitten Development

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Kittens: Stages of Development (Newborn-12 weeks)

Though your cat may look nearly full-grown by the time he or she is one year old, cats are
actually still considered kittens until they are two years old.  It takes two years for a
cat to complete it's development in both mind and body. During its first two years
of life, your kitten will go through several developmental stages, but the most
important developments occur within the first twelve weeks of life.

Listed below are the early stages that your kitten will go through
to transform from a tiny, helpless ball of fluff, to a regal
and beautiful adult cat.

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Your newborn kitten will be born both blind and deaf. A newborn kitten’s eyes are sealed shut and its ears are folded.
A bit of umbilical cord will still be attached to their bellies. Your kitten will rely solely on its sense of smell
to find his or her mother and begin to nurse.

A newborn kitten is truly helpless and needs its mother to care for his or her every need. Mother cats lick their babies’
stomachs and bottoms to stimulate intestinal function, bladders, and bowels. A newborn kitten also needs its
mother for warmth, as it is very sensitive to cold, and can't yet regulate its own temperature.

A healthy newborn will want to nurse almost constantly. For the first 36 hours, a kitten will nurse or suckle nearly
around the clock. Baby kittens shouldn’t be handled too much at first (later, we make sure to do lots of
cuddling), as most kittens should be focusing on just eating, sleeping, and especially growing!

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Week One

After about four days, your kitten will have begun to develop his or her hearing, but sounds will still be muffled.
After about five days, the remains of the umbilical cord will dry up and fall off.

During the first week, a newborn kitten won't seem to nurse as much as the first few days, but their mealtimes
will be longer.  This pattern of behavior will continue as the kitten grows.  Kittens will purr when content, hiss
when they feel threatened, and squeak when they are hungry, as ways of alerting their mother to their needs.

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Week Two

Somewhere around two and a half weeks of age, kittens start to test their wobbly legs. They will begin to
crawl and attempt to stand. By the end of the second week, they will have gained their sense of
hearing, as the ear canals completely open.

Also toward the end of the second week, their eyes will begin to open. The world will still be blurry to
them, as it takes a few days for the vision to completely adjust, but he or she will start
blinking those beautiful baby blues.  Like many babies, kittens are born with blue or
bluish-gray eyes, and as they get older, their eye color will fully develop.

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 Week Three

At three weeks old, your kitten will be steadier on its feet, ranging a little further from its mother, and exploring his or her
surroundings.  Though still pretty helpless, their sense of smell begins to mature and with their slowly improving vision,
they can find their mother without completely relying on scent. During this time, their teeth start to come in.

Kittens at this age are able to learn to use the litter box, but we must watch them closely to make sure
that they don’t try to eat the litter, as it can cause severe intestinal problems.

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Week Four

Though their sight won’t be completely developed until about two months old, your one pound bundle of
joy will see well enough to negotiate small obstacles at four weeks old.

Your kitten will be gaining weight (in ounces) rapidly and beginning to tussle with his or her brothers or
sisters, trying out his or her new navigation skills. During this time, we must pay extra close attention
to the cleanliness of their play area, as they will begin to play with and bat at anything in sight!

Following their mother’s example, four-week old kittens will begin to groom themselves – starting their
habit of cleanliness early. They sometimes need a little freshen-up bath from us during this time. They
will have learned how to get in and out of their beds and also use their litter box with proficiency.


 Week Five

To us, it might seem early, but to a momma cat with several babies, five weeks old is a good time to begin the weaning
process. Between five and seven weeks, kittens can begin to take food from a shallow dish.

If you watch a five-week old kitten carefully, you might see the first signs of the stealthy predator that will soon develop:
skulking and pouncing, usually on a sibling. Again, we must watch them closely as they can become very
rambunctious with their littermates, and of course, their teeth and claws are very sharp.

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Week Six

At six weeks old, our kittens receive  their first deworming treatment. Toys, balls and mice become a part of the kitten’s daily activities. 
Scratching posts are also introduced so mom can teach them one more aspect in caring for themselves and having loads of fun learning to climb! 

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Week Seven

During week seven, we give your kitten his or her first full bath, but afterwards, we take care to make sure
they are completely dry, comfy and cozy! At seven weeks, the weaning process will have
progressed, and kittens will be nursing less often.

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Week Eight

At eight weeks old, your kitten will have gained another pound and sports a nearly full set of teeth – but boy,
are they sharp! Your kitten will definitely need lots of care and attention at this time, as at eight weeks,
he or she is fully weaned from their mother’s milk, but will still try to nurse.

During this time, social skills are developing, and it is important that kittens become accustomed to human
contact. The momma cat will be a kitten’s first teacher of socialization, but it is important for us to show
them that humans can be their friends too. During this time, your kitten will receive hugs,
kisses and hours of playtime!

At eight weeks old your kitten will also receive his or her second deworming treatment,
as a precaution against parasites.

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Week Nine

Full size kittens will weigh in at about 3 pounds at nine weeks old, (Toys and Tea Cups will weigh
between 1 and 1 ½ pounds) and will begin a period of very rapid growth.  Also around
this time, your kitten’s blue eyes will begin to change to their actual color –
unless of course, they are one of our blue eyed white or pointed kittens!

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Week Ten

Your kitten is still growing! At ten weeks old, a second bath will help him or her get into a good
grooming routine. Regular nail clippings and brushings early will ensure that your
kitten is acclimated to the process. We like to think of this as a day
at the Boutique Spa where each of our Bou Babies get the
royal treatment and come out clean, fluffy,
sweet-smelling and pampered!

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Week Eleven

As your kitten continues to grow and develop, play is an important aspect of his or her learning.
They will continue to play with their littermates, sometimes aggressively, and scuffles
are not an uncommon behavior. It is during this time when whiskers sometimes
disappear!  Along with their toys, the kittens often find it a fun sport
to chew on each other’s whiskers. Not to worry, unlike the toy
mouse tails that disappear, the whiskers will grow back!

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Week Twelve

At twelve weeks old, your kitten is certainly more than ready for travel day.
That’s the day when we pack some of their favorite toys and let them
snuggle up with a blanket with mommy’s scent inside a pet taxi for
arrival to the welcoming arms of their new family members!

They grow up so fast!

We rely on our veterinarian to make the determination as to when our kittens can go home. Between 9-12 weeks of age
(at the earliest) Our veterinarian will issue a health certificate for air travel or a health report card for local delivery.  In
addition to our veterinarian's endorsement of health, we strive to properly socialize your Bou Baby so he or she
has the needed skills for a comfortable transition from the nursery to the new experience of interacting
with his or her new family. For these reasons, all of our kittens are evaluated on an individual basis.

We send your Bou Baby home with an abundance of care, affection, and patience to help ensure that your kitten
adjusts quickly to life away from our nursery, their litter mates and their birth mommy. With understanding
and love, this transition can be made fairly easily in just a couple of weeks.

Learn more about helping your kitten with the transition from our nursery to your loving home,
with our "Bringing Your Kitten Home" article.

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