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Kittenhood

Ginger

There is a timetable for kitten development. When kittens are born they are totally dependant on their mother's support.

Under normal circumstances a kitten should never be taken from its mother until they are at least 8 weeks old. It is strongly recommended that the kitten is allowed to remain with its mother for 10 weeks to permit natural training to take place, and after the kitten has had its inoculations (ready for the outside world) and the inoculation period is over, generally 2/3 weeks from the first inoculation.

In the first two days kittens receive the vital Colostrum from their mother. Colostrum is the first secretion of the mammary glands immediately after birth, lasting for a few days and consisting of serum, white blood cells, and antibodies. This gives the kittens their initial immunity. The mother will then give the kittens the normal rich milk. She feeds the kittens completely for the first two weeks.

Kittens tend to have a preference for a particular teat, they will stay with their choice until they are weaned. When kittens feed they can take as long as eight hours in one feeding session. If a kitten has strayed from the litter or is hungry a tiny squeak from the kitten to the mother will alert the mother to the kittens needs. If a strange scent or stranger appears near them a kitten will give a defensive hiss, this will also alert their mother that there is a possible threat.

After two weeks the eyes will be open, but still cloudy. The defensive hiss will be gone. The ears are still small in proportion to the round face.

Three to four weeks old is when the kittens will start to explore their world. They discover how to walk in a shaky way. As they explore kittens will enter into the activity of play. This is a time to interact with the kittens to get them used to being handled by humans.

Between four and five weeks kittens are getting more robust. They are able to climb up your clothes in a cumbersome fashion. Their vision is now good and the cloudiness has gone from their eyes. Hearing is now good and will continue to improve as they grow. At this age they are gaining a lot of knowledge about their world from their mother who they trust implicitly.

At five to seven weeks the mother will start to change her behaviour towards the kittens, she will stop licking the kittens rear-end to stimulate elimination. This is a time to introduce the kittens to the litter-tray. Kittens will be very playful, jumping up and down, batting their litter mates and general chasing and pouncing.

Seven weeks is when the kittens are usually weaned and eating solids, suckling will end. The kittens are now more confident and co-ordinated. This is a time the mother will teach the kittens a great deal.

Eight weeks, the kittens are starting to react more like adults towards a threatening situation and play will begin to change. At nine weeks the kittens play will become more aggressive towards each other and squabbles between kittens can erupt. This is just a dress rehearsal for the real world of adulthood. At ten weeks it is time for the kittens to have their inoculations in readiness for the outside world - do not give your kittens access to the outside until the inoculation period is over. By fourteen weeks the aggressiveness will have disappeared as adulthood and independence starts for the juvenile cats.

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