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When do newborn kittens open their eyes?

If you've just brought home a new kitten,  you might wonder when they'll reach certain developmental milestones. Today, our Astoria vets share some facts about when newborn kittens open their eyes and other information about their early days.

Newborn Kittens

If you've never had the pleasure of raising kittens from a young age, you might be surprised to see how different they are from adult cats! A newborn kitten's eyes are tightly closed, and its ears are usually folded against its head.

Since they're not yet able to walk or even stand, kittens are more or less helpless and dependent on receiving love and care from their mother or caretakers, so they can grow into happy, healthy adults. 

When do kittens start to see?

Typing the question, "When do newborn kittens open their eyes?" into your favorite search engine is sure to bring up a lot of information (and some adorable photos of young kittens). That said, just like people, kittens develop at different rates depending on several factors. However, most newborn kittens will start to open their eyes between the ages of 2–16 days. 

During this time, their vision will gradually improve, though the two eyes may not open simultaneously. When they reach about two weeks old, both eyes are usually dilated. By three weeks of age, most kittens can focus with both eyes. All newborn kittens have blue eyes; however, their eye color changes as they grow, usually settling on the true color around the eight-week mark.

Caring For Your Newborn Kitten's Eyes 

You should try to keep young kittens away from bright lights, which can potentially hurt or damage their developing eyes. If kittens are not being well cared for by their mother or do not have a mother present, you must ensure that the newborn kittens are clean and healthy. Use a damp, clean washcloth to clean their faces. Most importantly, never force a kitten's eyes to open before they naturally do. Patience is essential.

Eye Issues to Watch For & How to Treat Them 

Newborn kittens can develop a crust on their eyes that prevents them from opening. This is a common problem that can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, which is one more reason to keep any bedding or areas your kitten shares with other kittens, cats, or pets clean and sanitary. This can keep infections from recurring or spreading among littermates.

If a kitten develops this matted crust in their eyes, try cleaning their eyes gently with a cotton ball dampened with clean, warm water. Avoid soap entirely. If a kitten's eyes don't show improvement or worsen, call your vet right away to ensure they receive proper care. 

Your Kitten's Development

Like human babies, newborn kittens spend the majority of their time sleeping (around 22 hours per day), occasionally waking to be loved and cared for. Kittens can detect warmth and use their sense of smell to move toward their mother's belly. A young kitten depends on its mother's milk and warmth to develop properly.

When do baby kittens open their eyes and start walking?

After your newborn kitten opens its eyes, it will gradually become more mobile and begin to move around at the same time that its teeth emerge. They typically crawl by the age of two weeks and begin to walk, jump, and play more regularly once they reach four weeks.

This is also when their propensity for mischief increases, since they are curious and adventurous. Beware they will often be eager to practice climbing, so be sure they have safe places to do so. As they mature into adult cats, kittens need less sleep. 

Keeping Your Kitten Warm

Because newborn kittens cannot regulate their body temperature, they usually form a pile near or on their mother. If your newborn kitten does not have littermates or a mother to keep their body temperature stable, you can help them stay warm by placing a heating disk or heating pad in their crate on low heat underneath a blanket.

Our vets also recommend building a nest out of blankets for your kitten to lay in and get comfortable. Check that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands, and allow enough room in your kitten's crate or cage so that they can get away from the heating pad if they grow too warm. 

Continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about six weeks old, because kittens will catch hypothermia if they get too cold. This is why their area should be kept at 85ºF or 29ºC. 

Providing Proper Nutrition

Of course, when caring for a newborn kitten without a mother you will need to feed them and provide them with proper nutrition. You will have to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours.

Every kitten is different. Your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them and how frequently you should be feeding your kitten.

Kittens should gain about ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) per week for healthy growth. Never feed your cat cow milk, and always use the same formula. And, for your cat to digest food properly, it must be kept warm.

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 regarding 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 allow your vet 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 their 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 people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.

Do you have newborn kittens at home? Contact Steinway Court Veterinarian today to book a first exam for your tiny bundles of fur!

New Patients Welcome

At Steinway Court Veterinarian, we are always accepting new patients. Our vets are dedicated to keeping pets healthy and happy in our Astoria clinic. Contact us today to book your first appointment.

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