Watching a litter of kittens paddle around the nest is truly heartwarming. Newborns can't see right away, so they'll make all kinds of high-pitch squeaks and mews to communicate. After several weeks, your cuddly little balls of fur will be able to see everything and stir up quite a commotion.
You'll notice your teeny bundles of fur don't have their eyes open when they're born. Their eyes remain sealed shut for several days. As early as the second day after birth you may notice their shiny eyeballs peering through as their eyelids start to widen. However, it may take as long as 16 days after delivery for their eyes to fully open, according to the Feline Advisory Bureau. Every kitten in the litter is different. One of them may open up his eyes rather quickly, while another may have her eyes shut for a couple weeks. Some kittens have one eye that stays closed longer than the other eye. This is all normal as their vision starts to develop.
Usually by about three weeks after birth vision fully sets in and they'll start to rely more on eyesight to get around, rather than listening and smelling for mom. By week four, you'll notice these pint-size kitties start playing and interacting with one another -- batting, pawing and swatting. Even though they can see at this point, they're quite clumsy since paw-eye coordination doesn't set in until around seven weeks. At this point, your lovable kittens will be able to spot a fuzzy ball across the room, run and pounce on it.
Kittens are not very coordinated and have a high risk of accidental eye injuries from swatting at each others' faces. If baby Mittens takes a claw to the eye while her and Max are rolling around, she'll possibly wind up with permanent scarring and vision problems. Watch for signs of irritation. Excessive watering, crusty discharge or bright red eyelids are warning signals that something might be wrong. She may also paw at her face or shake her head constantly. Separate the injured feline from her litter mates -- in case it is something contagious -- and wipe her eye clean with a cotton ball. Have her checked out by the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Generally if a kitten's eyes are still closed, he's too young to be handled. Touching mama kitty's infants too early can upset her because they'll smell different. She'll wind up moving her babies to a new location where she feels her family is safe. While socializing kittens with humans is an important part of development, refrain from touching them until the second week after birth, suggests the ASPCA. Even though it's difficult to resist this urge to nuzzle their noses, this gives the new mother plenty of time to bond with her offspring, without worrying about an outside threat.
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.