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Newborn Kittens: When do Newborn Kittens Open Their Eyes?

Have you decided to bring home a new kitten, or has your cat recently had a new litter of kittens? If so, you likely have many questions about how to care for them and what to expect over the first few weeks. Here, our Hattiesburg vets discuss newborn kitten care and when they typically open their eyes.

While life with a newborn kitten can be very exciting, you might understandably be feeling nervous as a new cat parent. We're here to help ease your concerns by explaining what you can expect in the early days with your new feline friend. 

When they are newborn, you'll notice your kitten's eyes have not yet opened and their ears may still be flat against their head. They will be unable to stand or walk around, and are more or less helpless. However, with proper love and care from their mothers or caretakers, they can grow into happy, healthy cats. 

When do baby kittens open their eyes?

Though kittens develop at varying rates depending on several factors, most newborns will start opening their eyes between the ages of 2 and 16 days. Their vision slowly improves during this time. However, the two eyes may not fully open at precisely the same rate.

By the time they reach two weeks of age, both of a kitten's eyes will typically be dilated and by the three-week mark, many kittens can focus with both eyes. All newborn kittens have blue eyes, but the eye color will change as the kitten ages. The true color usually appears when kittens are around eight weeks old. 

Caring For Your New Kitten's Eyes 

You'll need to protect your new baby kitten's eyes from bright light, which can irritate their peepers. If the kitten doesn't have a mother or isn't being well-cared for by their mother, it will be up to you to make sure your newborn kitten is clean and healthy. Keep their faces clean with a warm, damp, clean washcloth. Most important of all, never try to force a kitten's yes opens before the lids open naturally on their own. Patience is key. 

Issues That Can Impact the Eyes of Newborn Kittens 

Some kittens develop a crust that covers their eyelids, which can cause them to stick together. This may prevent your kitten from being able to open their eyes. A bacterial or viral infection can cause this common problem, and is yet another reason to check that your kitten's bedding and shared areas are clean and hygenic. 

This will prevent infections from recurring or spreading to littermates. If a kitten's eyes develop this matted crust, try gently wetting a cotton ball with warm, clean water and gently cleaning their eyes. Avoid soap entirely. If your kitten's eyes worsen or don't show any improvement, contact your vet right away to ensure they receive care, as this may be a veterinary emergency

Caring For a Baby Kitten 

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

Newborn kittens sleep around 22 hours a day, with more mature kittens and adult cats requiring less sleep. Your kitten's mobility will start to improve at about the same time their teeth start coming in. So when do newborn kittens open their eyes and start walking? At around two weeks they are crawling and by four weeks they can walk, jump, and play more steadily. This is also when their capacity for mischief increases, as they are curious and adventurous – and often eager to practice climbing! 

How to Raise Your Newborn Kitten

Kittens are adorable and lovable household pets, however, they have very specific needs that have to be taken care of. These needs are different for every stage of their life, and if something goes wrong or is missed it can impact their overall health and longevity. Here we talk about how you can care for your new furry friend during their kitten years.

Newborn to 4 Weeks Old

When a kitten is 0-4 weeks old they are considered a newborn, they are still learning how to meow, walk, and even regulate their body temperature. If they have a mother, their mother will be able to do most of the work including feeding. All you would have to do is make sure the mother is in good health and that they are in a warm and safe environment. Make sure the floor of their crate/area is covered with a blanket, and they have a warm bed to lie on.

If the newborn kitten does not have a mother the first thing you should do is take them to see a vet. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the health of the kitten and provide you with detailed instructions on how to meet the needs of your tiny little friend.

5 to 11 Weeks Old

When the kitten you are caring for is around 5 to 10 weeks old they should gradually stop being bottle fed or fed by their mothers and start feeding them high protein meals about 3 to 4 times a day. You can start this by pouring the formula into a food bowl and possibly adding a bit of softened hard food or canned soft food to help ease them in the process. And because their motor skills will be improving at this stage they will start becoming adventurous and you will have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't get themselves into trouble.

From the time that your kitten is two to four months old, you can expect to spend a great deal of time giving them one-on-one attention and hands-on playtime.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.

Do you have a new kitty in your home? Bring them in for preventive care like vaccinations and a full exam as soon as possible. Contact our Hattiesburg vets to book an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

The Pet Hospital (Parkway) is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals in Hattiesburg and Petal. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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