When kittens are born, they are completely dependent on their mothers. They don’t have any vision or hearing until between two and five weeks. At one month old, kittens learn to walk, run, jump and play by observing their mother and interacting with their litter mates. By the time kittens reach three to four weeks, they can begin eating kitten food. Look for commercial dry foods made for kittens that use the words “complete and balanced nutrition” and a statement that the food has been tested. You will need to take dried food and soak it in lukewarm water so that kittens can eat it. Place the softened food in a flat pan so that the kitten can access it. And don’t be surprised if your kitten walks through the pan of food at first. It has to learn what food is! Also be sure to keep the water fresh for your kitten to encourage it to drink. Give your kitten a variety of foods to taste now to prevent finicky eating later on. Most importantly, make sure you begin your regular routines right away by placing the food and water dishes in their regular location.
Cats learn how to be cats by watching their mothers during their first eight weeks of life. They learn how to use a litterbox, which foods are safe to eat and what to watch out for. They also learn important skills by interacting with litter mates. Because kittens are so open to growth and forming their personalities between two and eight weeks of age, you want to give them as many sensory experiences at this time as you can. Leave a radio or TV on in the background to teach kittens about sounds. Lay out a variety of materials and fabrics on an area of the floor to help them develop a keener sense of touch. Put a small box in their living area and let kittens go exploring. Start handling the kittens as early as possible and, once they know you, increase the number of people who handle them so they get accustomed to being touched and picked up by lots of people. Start the grooming process by brushing your kitten’s coat and searching for fleas. The more you expose kittens to a variety of tastes, sounds, smells, textures and people now, the more flexibly they will deal with the world throughout their lives.
At eight weeks, a mother cat begins to tire of her kittens and the weaning process takes place. Be sure that all the litter mates remain together for another two to three weeks after weaning. This is an important time in your kitten’s social and interactive development. They practice important skills, like how and when to use their claws and teeth. They also build natural instincts that will make it easier for your kitten to live with other cats later on. By 12 weeks, your kitten can operate independently, but will continue to learn, grow and explore. Be sure to put away any smalls items that a kitten might accidentally choke on, such as rubber bands and paper clips. Also be sure to tie up food waste and dump it right away or keep it in the refrigerator. Kittens will pursue appealing scents relentlessly until they get what they are after.