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Newborn Kittens: When Do Baby Kittens Open Their Eyes?

Cats are the second most popular pets in the US, and most pet parents start caring for them as kittens. Today, our Knightdale vets give you some information about when newborn kittens open their eyes and other tips about their early development.

If you've never seen a very young kitten before, you might be surprised by how different they are from their adult counterparts! Their eyes are typically tightly closed, and their ears are folded against their heads. They can't stand and are mostly helpless, but with the right love and care from their mother or caregivers, they'll grow up healthy and happy.

When do kittens start to see?

Kittens grow at different rates depending on various factors, but the majority of newborns open their eyes between the ages of 2 and 16 days. During this time, their vision gradually improves, though the two eyes may not open simultaneously. By the age of two weeks, both eyes are typically dilated, and by three weeks, many kittens can focus with both eyes. All newborn kittens have blue eyes, which change color as the kitten grows, usually settling on the true color around 8 weeks of age.

Caring for Your Newborn Kitten's Eyes

Keep very young kittens away from bright lights, as the lights can harm or even destroy a kitten’s developing eyes. If the kitten does not have a mother or is not well cared for by one, it is your responsibility to keep the newborn kitten clean and healthy. Keep their faces clean with a warm, damp washcloth, and never force a kitten's eyes to open before they are naturally ready. Patience is essential!

Issues to Watch for & How to Treat Them

Newborn kittens' eyes may develop a crust that prevents them from opening. This is a common problem caused by a bacterial or viral infection; keeping your kittens' bedding and shared areas clean and sanitary will help prevent infections from recurring or spreading to littermates. If your kitten's eyes have developed a matted crust, gently clean them with a cotton ball dampened with warm, clean water. Avoid soap at any cost! If your kittens' eyes do not improve, or worsen, contact your veterinarian right away to ensure they receive treatment.

Other Newborn Kitten Care Tips

Much like newborn human babies, newborn kittens spend much of their time sleeping, waking occasionally to be fed and cared for. Kittens are able to sense warmth and use their sense of smell to move towards their mother's belly and are dependent on a source of milk and warmth to aid them in their development.

Newborn kittens sleep about 22 hours per day, while older kittens sleep less. Your kitten's mobility will improve around the time their teeth emerge; by two weeks, they will be crawling, and by four weeks, they will be able to walk, jump, and play more frequently. This is also the time when they are more likely to cause trouble because they are curious and adventurous, and they are frequently eager to climb!

Warmth is Important for Newborn Kittens 

Because newborn kittens are unable to regulate their body temperature, they tend to congregate around or on their mother. If your newborn kitten does not have a mother or littermate to keep their body temperature up, you will need to do more to keep them warm, such as placing a heating disk in the crate or a heating pad on low heat beneath a blanket in their enclosure. Create a small nest of blankets for the kitten to sleep in. It is critical that you use your hands to check the temperature of the heating pad and provide a comfortable place in your kitten's cage/crate where they can go if they become too warm.

You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold they will catch hypothermia, for this reason, their area should be kept at 85ºF or 29ºC.

Newborn Kittens Need Proper Nutrition

Of course, feeding and providing proper nutrition are essential when caring for a newborn kitten. Every 2-4 hours, bottle feed your kitten with a special kitten formula. Because each kitten is unique, your veterinarian can advise you on the best formula to use, how much to feed them, and how frequently they should be fed. To grow properly, kittens need to gain approximately 12 ounces (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) per week. Never feed cow milk to your kitten. To properly digest food, your cat must be kept warm.

When do newborn kittens start walking?

Kittens typically start walking between 2 and 3 weeks of age. They may be a bit wobbly at first, but will quickly gain strength and coordination. 

Preventive Care for Your Kitten

No matter how old your kitten is, it's important to take them for their first veterinary appointment when appropriate. Your veterinarian will evaluate the health of your kitten as well as inform you of their dietary needs. This also provides you with the opportunity to ask any questions you may have in regards to the care of your new family member.

Ensuring your kitten gets routine preventive care is vital, including wellness exams, routine vaccinations, and parasite prevention.

Regular wellness exams give your vet the opportunity to assess the overall health and well-being of your kitten including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.

You also need to make sure your kitten gets all of its vaccinations and parasite prevention care on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have newborn kittens in your household? Call our experienced vets at Smithfield Road Veterinary Hospital to book an examination for your tiny bundles of joy!

New Patients Are Welcome

Smithfield Road Veterinary Hospital, PLLC is currently accepting new patients! Our experienced and kind vets are passionate about the health of Knightdale pets. Contact us today to book your furry friend's first appointment.

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