There are seven primary stages of newborn kitten development. Like any other baby you may find, newborn kittens grow up so fast that it seems that have gone from tiny new born kittens to fully grown adult cats in the blink of an eye. For the most part, they will still be considered kittens until they are about two years of age, but the first three months of life are the most critical to newborn kitten development. From their capabilities to their diet to when they are ready to be adopted, a lot happens in three short months. Below, you will find a listing of the seven main stages and the primary milestones of each.
Just born, so small and helpless, this is the kitten age that most people are confused about. They will cry a lot and are dependent on mom for everything. You can touch and pet them a bit, but in very limited amounts and never when mom is not present. If, however, there is no mom and you are acting as a surrogate cat mother, there is other information on this site that can help you care for them.
Weeks One and Two
This marks the first real milestone in newborn kitten development. During the second week, your new born kittens will finally open their eyes. Their eyes are always blue when they are born, and may change as they grow older. Still, even though their eyes are open, your kittens will still be mostly blind. They will begin learning how to differentiate between different people and animals through their sense of smell, and will learn some rudimentary self-defense. Do not be surprised if they begin hissing and acting hostile around strangers.
Weeks Three and Four
During this time, the ears open and your kittens develop their sense of hearing. They will begin learning how to walk, though their legs will still be very unsteady. Once they begin walking and exploring their immediate environment, they are ready to begin learning to use the litter box, though they should never be in it unsupervised, as they may try eating the litter. During this stage of newborn kitten development, their teeth will also start coming in.
Weeks Five and Six
This marks the point where most new kitten parents really begin enjoying having them around, as this is the point where your new kittens will begin learning how to play. They will wrestle and attack and pounce not only their brothers and sisters, but just about everything that moves. You will need to take care to ensure that they do not harm themselves, your home, or each other, but mom will be a big help in doing so. They will learn to begin grooming themselves and can begin being weaned away from their mother and trained to eat wet food, perhaps mixed with a bit of KMR, from a bowl.
Weeks Seven and Eight
By this stage of newborn kitten development, they will be almost entirely weaned away from their mother and will have become quite bold in their play and exploration. They will also need to be taken to the vet to receive their first vaccinations.
Weeks Nine, Ten, and Eleven
Your kittens will need lots of care and attention, particularly social time, as this is the point where their social skills really begin to solidify. Begin introducing them to your friends, though slowly and only one or two at a time so they learn to not be afraid of people. They will need to go to the vet for next set of vaccinations, and their eyes will be settling into their permanent color.
This is by far the most difficult stage of newborn kitten development for almost all parents. They are weaned, fully litter box trained, and are ready to be adopted into permanent homes. They are still quite a long way from being fully grown, but they have reached a point where they will do quite well in a new environment. Be strong, and find homes for them just as loving as yours. Or just keep them, if you have the room and ability to continue caring for them.