There's nothing quite as precious as a newborn kitten—the high-pitched cries, clumsiness and sense of curiosity. For their first few days of life, their eyelids are stuck shut. Don't worry, this is normal. After several days their tiny eyes will slowly start to open up by themselves.
Kittens have their tiny eyes stuck shut as a protective measure. Sealed eyelids protect the growing eyes in the womb, as well as out in the real world. When their eyes are closed, they are less likely to incur injuries from their litter mates—who mean well, but don't really know how their teeth and claws work yet. It also lowers the risk of foreign bacteria getting into the delicate eye socket during birth and causing infection.
Every kitten is different. Sometimes their eyes open up quickly, other times it takes a while, and occasionally one eye opens up sooner than the other eye. Your fluffy little brood will have open eyes somewhere between two and 16 days after birth. Most commonly, kittens' eyes pop open between the seventh and tenth days, according to the Feline Advisory Bureau.
During the first couple of weeks of life, newborn kittens use their sense of smell and listen for meows from their mother and litter mates to guide them. After their eyes open, vision starts to develop. These tiny little felines will start relying more on their eyesight to guide them around.
As much as you'll want to pick up and kiss the newborn babies, you'll have to resist the urge. During their first week of life, helpless little kittens need to stay with their mothers. Handling kittens when they are too young might upset the mama kitty. She may wind up moving her litter to a new location if she feels uncomfortable with you handling her offspring. Wait to touch the newborn kittens until after the initial seven-day period, suggests the ASPCA. However, if you suspect an eye injury or something abnormal, you may have to pick them up sooner.
Causes for Concern
Whether your little fuzzballs have their eyes sealed shut or their eyes are just starting to open, you'll need to watch for eye problems. Kittens should not have crusty discharge form around the eye area. Hard particles can scratch and damage the eye. Once the eyes open up, they should be clear, the eyeballs should be white and the pupils should be similar in size, explains the ASPCA. If you notice any redness, thick discharge or pawing at the face, you may need to take the tiny feline to the vet as a safety measure.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.