Newborn kittens are a delight to watch. These innocent babies will mew and make high-pitch squeaks early on to alert mom as to where they are, but they can't quite hear right away. Hearing takes several days to fully kick in.
Kittens really are completely helpless after delivery. They can't walk, see or even hear right away. Mama kitty even has to lick their hind end to get their bowels to move, allowing them to go potty. Kittens are born with sealed ear canals that remain shut for about two and a half weeks, or roughly 17 days, according to Dr. Dawn Ruben, a veterinarian and professor at Johns Hopkins University. Once this barrier opens up, your cute fuzzy critters will start to hear.
Dr. Ruben explains that kittens should fully hear and start responding to sounds, as well as sights, around 25 days after birth. At this point you might notice that baby Rascal perks up his ears when you mimic his high-pitch meowing noise or turns his head when his littermates start crying. These little cues let you know that the furballs can hear everything around them.
Inspecting your kitten's ears once a week helps prevent any problems before they occur. Gently fold back his pointy ears and peer into the ear canal. It should appear light pink if it is healthy. However, if little Rascal has excessive wax buildup or ear mites, you'll notice dark patches in his ear canal. These issues may inhibit his hearing development and are uncomfortable for your feline friend. Take him to the vet if his ears appear soiled. Your vet can show you how to properly clean the ear canal and can help get rid of any pests that are living in there.
Pay attention during your infant feline's development. If he's not responding to verbal cues, he may be hearing impaired. Additionally, if he constantly shakes his head or paws at his ears, he's letting you know that his ears are uncomfortable and needs your help. Keep in mind that kittens -- like babies -- have very sensitive ear drums. Loud noises, such as a blender or vacuum, can be devastating to his ears. If you have to run the vacuum or are making a batch of pesto in the food processor, put Rascal in another room. You'll protect his hearing and avoid scaring him.
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.