Kittens are born blind and deaf, but that helpless ball of fur quickly grows into a cool cat. While physical growth varies among breeds, all kittens go through spurts and developmental stages and grow quickly in the first year.
Kittens only weigh about 4 ounces when they’re born. During the first week they stay close to mom and concentrate on eating and sleeping, with very little movement aside from scooting toward her body heat. They gain about ½ ounce each day, doubling their weight by the end of the first week. Eyes begin to open by the end of this week and are usually fully open by the end of the second week. They begin to orient toward sound, although their ears are still floppy and flat.
Four to Six Weeks
Mom will be weaning the kittens during this time, as they are growing sharp little baby teeth. They can begin to eat solid kitten food, fueling another growth spurt. Active and clumsy, they engage in stalking and pouncing play with littermates, learning hunting skills and other cat-like behavior. They will be eating a lot to fuel all this activity, and the little rascals will be all over the place, so kitten-proof what you can! At the end of this period, their eyes will take on their permanent color.
Four to Six Months
Kittens gain about a pound a month during this time, depending on specific breed. You will likely see your kitty alternately lengthen and then bulk up. Your miniature tiger loses his baby teeth during this phase, and by 6 months he will have all his adult teeth. Keep him on three meals a day through 3 months, but you can switch to twice a day by 4 or 5 months – too much food at this point will cause him to gain excess weight.
While he still has some physical growing to do, your kitty’s adolescence is marked by a spurt of teenage behavior that can challenge even the most patient human. If Tiger isn’t spayed or neutered by about 6 months, males will spray and females will exhibit extremely annoying behavior as they go into heat – just a couple of reasons spaying and neutering is so important. Territorial marking by scratching might also increase, and that lanky acrobat will stalk and pounce on you to get in his prey practice. He might also get antsy around dawn, so be sure not to encourage his early morning antics. Remember that your rambunctious and willful teenager will eventually grow up!
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.