After nine long weeks, your furry companion finally goes into labor. Her litter of kittens is completely dependent on her for everything. Newborn kittens can't see right away, but they do have other ways to let mama kitty know when they're hungry or need comfort.
Kittens are born with their eyes sealed completely shut, meaning they can't see a thing. Their eyes are closed as a natural protective barrier in the womb, as well as to prevent any eye damage during delivery. Don't worry, your new furry friends will open their eyes on their own after several days.
Since newborn kittens have no sight right off the bat, they use other methods to communicate with their mom and litter mates. For example, high pitched cries alert mama cat that her babies are hungry. They may also make "mew" sounds if they get stuck under other kittens or if they crawl too far away from her. While nursing, infant kittens can't meow with their mouths full, so they'll often purr to signal to their mom that they are happy and safe.
When Eyes Open
Kittens in the same litter each open their eyes at different times, and sometimes one kitten's eyes open on separate days. Their tiny eyes will open anywhere from two to 16 days after birth, but days seven to 10 are most common, explains the Feline Advisory Bureau. At 3 to 4 weeks of age, kittens start to use their vision to get them back to mom, rather than relying solely on sound and smell. Vision continues to improve for several weeks after their eyes open, so don't be discouraged if it seems like some of the pint-sized felines can't see well in the beginning.
When To Worry
Conduct home inspections of each fragile kitten once their eyes start opening up. Eyes should be bright, white and clear, not red or pink. Watch for discharge, excessive eye watering or crusty pieces forming around the eye area. These are signals that your newborn kitten may have an eye infection or was possibly scratched in the eye. Wipe away any eye gunk with a clean cotton ball and use fresh cotton for each eye to prevent spreading infection. If you suspect that one kitty may be infected, separate him from the litter and notify your veterinarian of abnormal eye discharge or color immediately. He can prescribe special eye drops to help your fuzzy pal recover quickly.
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.