Monday, July 22, 2013

Kitten Care: How old is the orphaned kitten I found?

Extremely young kittens will be better off if they can stay with their momma or be fostered by a mother cat with a litter

At Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, we commonly get calls from people who have found a stray or orphaned kitten and are unsure of what to do. Much of orphaned kitten care depends on the age of the kitten. Being able to age a kitten definitely takes some practice, especially if the kitten is sick or injured. There are some general guidelines that you can use to help narrow it down.

0 – 3 days: At birth, kittens usually weigh between 3-4 oz. The umbilical cord is still attached and the eyes and ears are sealed shut. Kittens this age rely on their mother’s grooming to stimulate urination and defecation. If they have no mother, they will need your assistance to eliminate. They also need to eat a minimum of 6 times daily, or about every 4 hours.

7 - 10 days: The eyes begin to open. They are usually completely open by  day 10. At this age, they should weigh about 6-8 oz. At this age, they usually eat about 5 times daily.
Ears still mostly closed, eyes just beginning to open.

2 - 3 weeks: The kitten begins to stand. The center 4 deciduous incisors (the small teeth at the front) begin to come in. Between 3-4 weeks, the outer 2 incisors and the canines begin to come in. The ears start to stand up at about 3 and ½ weeks. At this age, kittens can start to orient towards sights and sounds. At this age, they should weigh 10-12 oz and will eat about 4 times daily. This age is the beginning of the most important socialization period.

4 weeks: The kitten begins playing and exploring her environment. They become steadier on their feet. Upper and lower premolars start to come in. They also start to eat on their own somewhere between 4-5 weeks of age. At this age, they can also eliminate without assistance. At one month, most kittens should weigh about 14-16oz or close to 1 pound and will eat at least 3 times daily.

5 weeks: They should be fairly confident on their feet by this age. This means that they can run around!
Blue eyed babies who are running around

6 weeks: The kittens are extremely active. Their eyes generally change from blue to blue/gray then yellow/green between 6 1/2 to 7 weeks.

8 weeks (2 months): All baby teeth should be erupted at this point. Kittens of this age are unlikely to need bottle-feeding. Two-month-old kittens should weigh about 2 pounds. After this age, socialization with humans becomes increasingly difficult, and kittens are more likely to display feral behavior as time goes on.

12-16 weeks (3 ½ to 4 months): The center four Incisors begin to erupt. At this age, most kittens are over 3 pounds and can safely be spayed or neutered. This is the ideal age at which to separate a litter of kittens and find them new homes. After this age, playtime becomes less social and more independent, and most of the rules of “cat etiquette” have been learned.
Kittens ready for new homes

16-18 weeks (4-4 ½ months): Outer Incisors erupt. Upper premolars and molars start to erupt. At 4 months, most kittens should weigh about 4 pounds.

6 months: Canines and lower premolars start to erupt. Weight is usually around 6 pounds.
28 weeks (7 months): All adult teeth should be fully erupted.

Tooth diagram and chart from the Humane Society of the United States

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