To figure out the age of a young kitten, look for certain physical features and capabilities that can be clues. In some cases, you may be able to do no more than approximate age. Neonatal animals have special needs; if the queen is not around, you'll need to step in.
A Few Days Old
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A kitten is born with her eyes closed shut and her ears folded on the sides of her head. If a kitten still has an umbilical cord, she's probably been in the world only for a only one to three days. Kittens less than 5 days old cannot stand up or move around; their moms have to carry them by the scruff to move them from place to place.They will usually weigh less than 5 ounces. The first 24 hours of nursing are critical, as the mother is passing on important nutrients that will strengthen the kittens' immune system. If the mother is unavailable, seek professional help, as the kitten will need very specific care.
A Week to 10 Days
When kittens are about 6 or 7 days old, they begin to crawl around a little on their own. The ears will have begun to stand up, but hearing is not yet developed. The kitten's eyes will be open a little by day 7 and fully open between days 10 and 15 . By day 10, the kitten will weigh between 4.5 to 10 ounces. Motor skills are not impressive; kittens will be wobbly when attempting to use their legs.
Two to Four Weeks
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If you see the kitten walking about pretty well but not playing or running, chances are she has reached the 2-week mark. Her teeth will start coming in around week 3. She will respond to sound as her hearing is almost fully developed. By the time she reaches week 4, she will be roughhousing with her littermates. She will have her front teeth, and her molars will begin to break through. She will weigh between 9.5 and 10.5 ounces.
Six to Eight Weeks
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If your kitten's eyes are changing from blue to whatever color her genes dictate, she's reached week 6. By week 6,she will also be chasing imaginary critters, eating wet food and grooming herself. If she's healthy, she will weigh about a pound. At about 8 weeks, the age at which a kitten can be separated from her mother and adopted, her ears will have just about moved from the sides of the head to their permanent position on top of the head. She'll weigh about 2 pounds at 8 weeks of age.
Eight Weeks and Beyond
Kittens will continue to mature for up to two years. During this time, it becomes increasingly more difficult to determine one's age. Looking at a weight schedule, you can estimate a cat's age, but since cats are individuals and genetics plays a part in growth, some may put on weight and grow taller faster than others. Once the cat is between 1 and 2 years, and beyond, veterinary professionals often look at the cat's teeth to determine age. All things being equal, as the cat ages, his teeth yellow and begin to build up plaque and tarter.
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.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.