Kitten growth and development


Cats are the 2nd most desirable pets after dogs. And why not? After all, they require less maintenance than dogs. Their independent personality, elegance and poise, cleanliness, and light display of affection make them desirable pets.

Cats are obligatory carnivores and achieve their nutritional requirements by consuming the meat of other animals and have higher protein requirements than other animals. However, for the 1st6-7 weeks after birth, they feed on cat mothers’ milk following which, they are weaned. It is a known fact that kittens if weaned early, develop inappropriate suckling behavior and lag behind in learning social skills like sending signals to fellow animals in the group. In order for kittens to best develop socialization skills, they should stay with their littermates for at least 12 weeks. 

During the first seven weeks, kittens who are handled for 15 to 40 minutes a day are more likely to grow larger brains. They learn more effectively and are more playful and curious. If they are not learned in the first eight weeks, skills can be lost permanently. 

The developmental stages of a kitten can be divided into different parts as mentioned below:

Neonatal stage

  • Extends from 0-2 weeks. Since their eyelids are closed during this time, they respond to sound and live very close to their mother. Kittens spend most of their time suckling on mothers’ milk and sleeping.
  • By the end of this stage, eyelids have opened. Separation at this stage from the mother can lead to poor learning skills and hostile behaviour towards other cats and humans. 

Socialization stage

  • This stage extends from 2-7 weeks.
  • Since the kittens can see clearly, their behaviour starts to change, and competition for rank and territory starts by 3rd week after birth. They observe their mother and learn from them.
  • By 4th week, their olfactory and hearing senses are fully developed, so they frequently focus on audible sounds and smell their mother and littermates to identify them. They can walk quite well and teeth start to erupt.
  • 5th week marks the complete development of vision, they can clearly identify objects even at distance. They can balance and run precisely, navigate the obstacles in their way and follow their mother over long distances. Start to groom themselves and others.
  • In the 6th and 7th weeks, their sleeping pattern becomes like an adult’s.

Period of high activity

  • This period extends from 6 to 14 weeks.
  • Their ability to move and interact with others improves through social and object play. Observation, preferably from their mother, is how they learn.
  • In social play, belly-ups, hugs, ambushes, and licking are common. Scooping, tossing, pawing, mouthing, and holding are all forms of object play. Tail chasing, pouncing, leaping, and dancing are examples of social/object play.

Ranking period

Extends from 3-6 months. Impacted by their "litter" the most (playmates now include companions of other species). They start to appreciate and use hierarchy (dominant and subordinate) among family members, including people.


  • Extends from 6-18 months.
  • There is a greater exploration into dominance or power, including testing people.
  • This stage marks sexual development and the changes that follow, like affection towards the opposite sex, hormonal changes, etc.
What kittens learn and how they are treated in their early life can have a long-lasting effect on their lives as adults therefore it’s important on the part of pet parents to provide them with the best care and management.


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