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Your Kitten's First Year

What to expect during this all-important year of growth and development

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Asa Bonding With Bubba and Baby Jaspurr

Asa helps Bubba and Jaspurr Bond

Franny Syufy
It is undeniable that a kitten's first year is vital to his ultimate physical development. Equally important is the human-feline bonding that will take place in the early weeks, which will set the pace, not only for your relationship with your cat, but also for his or her unique personality development. It has been mentioned before that kittens are not simply miniature cats. Their development into adult cats is a fascinating process, and each step of the way a kitten is in a unique place in life. The wise caregiver will recognize this fact and use it to understand what your kitten is experiencing, as well as what his actions are telling you.

In the wild, big cats often remain with the mother for the first full year, to learn the skills necessary for survival. With domesticated cats, this is rarely the case, but under ideal circumstances, a kitten should remain with his mother for at least 12 to 16 weeks. Although the mother will start weaning her kittens sometime between five and seven weeks, the additional time helps the kittens learn socialization skills. Let's explore the changes taking place in your kitten as he takes his journey to full growth.

The First Six Weeks

The all-important first six weeks in a cat's life will accomplish much in determining his personality and character for the rest of his life. (Yes, cats have character. Ask anyone who is owned by one.) Healthwise, this period is also extremely important to the developing kitten, as very young kittens are susceptible to a number of threats, such as fleas and URIs.

Kittens will probably never grow again at the remarkable rate they accomplish during this period, and seeing the changes in their development from week to week is an incredible experience. Whether you personally have your kitten during this period or not, this article will help you understand exactly what takes place during the first six weeks.

Seven to Twelve Weeks

Kittens start developing their social skills during this time, by observing their mother, by play with other kittens and cats, or in a one-cat family, by playing and interacting with their humans. This period of time will be immensely enjoyable, both for you and for your kitten, as he practices running, jumping, stalking and pouncing. Kittens at this age love to play games of "hide and seek" with their humans, and open paper bags (handles removed) or cardboard boxes make great accessories for interactive play. Your kitten will continue to grow rapidly during this period, and his motor skills will continue to develop as he practices chasing and catching "prey." He will also start adopting "adult" sleeping habits instead of just flopping wherever he happens to be.

Health Reminder: Your kitten will need his first set of shots by eight weeks, and the second set three or four weeks later. If an initial veterinary exam was not done at the time of his adoption (highly recommended), he should also be tested for worms. Topical flea treatment can be started safely at eight weeks.

Next > Three to Six Months and Beyond

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