The first 6 months of your kitten’s life will mark several important developmental milestones. From being dependent on their mother for food and protection to becoming friendly, independent companions, kittens learn a lot in the first few months of life. As a cat owner, it is important to understand these developmental stages so that you can ensure the best care for your kitten and so that your kitten grows to be a healthy and well-socialized cat.
The neonatal period of development is generally defined as the first two weeks of life. During this time, kittens learn to orient to sounds and their eyes are not completely open until the end of the second week. At this point, litter mates begin competing for rank and territory but separating kittens from their mother can lead to poor socialization. In fact, kittens should never be removed from their mother too early as this often leads them to be aggressive and even anxiety-prone.
During the next 4 weeks or so your kitten will be in the socialization phase of development. By 4 weeks of age, their sense of smell and hearing is well developed and they’re able to see moderately well. At this point, you’ll notice that kittens interact much more with litter mates. They are walking around and they are starting to get teeth. By the end of this phase you can see the makings of an adult cat with regular sleeping patterns, refined motor skills, and more social interaction.
From weeks 7 to 14 kittens are most active and really love to play. Using toys and playing with your kitten helps them to develop coordination as well as social skills. Ideally, kittens should still be observing their mother at this point so that they can learn a range of beneficial behaviors including grooming.
Finally, the ranking stage lasts from about 3 months to 6 months of age. Kittens are greatly influenced by their litter and they start to recognize friends of other species like dogs and humans. In addition, they begin to rank dominant and submissive members of their group, including their human owners.