Leonardo da Vinci said, ‘The smallest feline is a masterpiece” and who could disagree? Facades of the toughest men become softer simply by putting them in the presence of a litter of kittens. From the moment kittens are born, their lives become a circus of adorable antics as they grow, learn and explore the world around them. We can’t seem to get enough of these precious little ones!
Kittens are Helpless at Birth
Newborn babies need special care and a mother’s love to grow. (Credit to Flickr user Kami Jo)
Mother cats give birth after a gestation period of about 65 days. Some mammals, such as foals, can run within mere hours of birth, but kittens are entirely dependent on their mother for weeks and undergo incredible sensory and phsyical growth during this time. Kittens are born both deaf and blind, and won’t open their eyes until 1-2 weeks of age and even then their vision will be blurry. It will take another two months before they fully develop the incredible eyesight adult cats are known for.
Also, newborn kittens are unable to regulate their body heat so snuggling for warmth is crucial in the first few weeks. The time that mothers and babies spend cuddling and nursing is an important form of bonding and beyond adorable! Orphaned kittens require additional external heat, such as a heating pad.
Tabbies, Calicos and Tuxedos, Oh My!
There are hundreds of feline color combinations, but did you know that kittens within the same litter can all be different? Cat genetics is a crazy thing. Mixed-coat litters- such as a calico, tabby, and tuxedo- are not all that uncommon, and to make matters more confusing, one litter can potentially have two different fathers! Because of the role of genetics, only 1 in every 3,000 calico cats are male and those rare few carry an extra sex chromosome, XXY, and are infertile. Orange tabby cats, on the other hand, are more likely to be male.
Unique as a snowflake! All cat noseprints are one of a kind. (Credit to Flikr user Minxlj)
Blue Eyes and A Button Nose
If kittens can be born with so many different coat patterns, why are they all born with the same blue eyes? Because, similar to humans, the pigment melanin takes a while to be deposited into the iris. Cat noses, however, are entirely unique from the moment they are born. In fact, no two cats’ nosesprints are alike- just like fingerprints. This kind of makes eskimo kissing your cat even more precious, doesn’t it?
What to Expect: Your Kitten’s First Year
While many people think of kittens as being itty bitty, ‘kitten
‘ refers to juvenile cats who are under a year old. Cats don’t reach adulthood until about a year, so the first year is a crucial time for learning cat ettiquete and honing their skills: social behaviors, cleaning and bathing, physical feats like jumping and hunting. The first few months of a kitten’s life is highly social and the peak time for interaction with other kittens, which is why adopting young kittens in pairs is beneficial to their social and behavioral well-being.
‘Teenage’ kittens like Beck here are still learning through play! Kittens don’t reach adulthood until at least a year of age. (Photo Credit: Pet Adoption Network)
In the the latter part of a kitten’s first year, they tend to focus on personal growth and solitary behavioral skills, though being around other cats remains a highly positive influence for many. Playfulness and curiosity doesn’t disappear once cats are ‘adults’- it lingers for years in many adult cats, often throughout their whole lives.
Kittens, Kittens, Everywhere!
While cats are not ‘adults’ until after a year old, they become sexually mature at a much younger age. Typically, felines reach sexual maturity at about six months of age but it can happen even younger, at just four months! Once they reach puberty, both male and female cats being to exhibit a slew of unfavorable behaviors
and are able to reproduce. They will even mate with their own siblings if given the chance, so getting your cats fixed as young as possible is ideal and safer for them in the long run
Remember, all homeless pets are born because their parent was not spayed or neutered, and even newborn kittens are not exempt from being euthanized at shelters. Some people feel that allowing their cat to have ‘just one litter
‘ before being spayed is okay, so they can get to ‘experience’ the process. However, even if you find good homes for every kitten your cat gives birth to, that means another one in a shelter won’t. If you’re dying to see newborn kittens first hand, contact a local rescue and ask about fostering a pregnant or nursing mom
. You’ll get everything you’re longing for, without increasing the number of pets that don’t make it out of shelters alive.
Too Cute to Handle
Come on, you know you want to foster a litter of kittens
, right? But do you know if you’re ready? Watch this video, and if you can handle the cute, you’re ready. Behold, the power of kittens at play!