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
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.
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?
Cats sure do some quirky things, as any cat person knows all too well (or any YouTube viewer, for that matter). But many of these behaviors, as strange as they may seem, have perfectly rational explanations. One such behavior is when a kitty is seen trying to ‘bury’ his food by pawing at the ground around their dish. This commonly confuses cat parents who are lead to believe their cat is about to go to the bathroom, doesn’t like the food, or some other strange theory.
Don’t worry, your cat has a very good reason for what she’s doing! While it looks like the same behavior she does after going to the bathroom, it doesn’t mean she thinks the food you gave her is litter-box material! If anything, it means she likes it and wants to save it for later.
This behavior all goes back to her instincts; her wild, feline roots (because, we all know, house cats are still just lions in disguise!). Food is a precious resource in the animal kingdom. It is the difference between life or death, between predator and prey. When your kitty tries to ‘bury’ the food, she is just trying to hide the remaining food in order eliminate the smell which is likely attract to predators. Other animals might try to steal her spoils, or worse, the food could give away her location and put her life, and that of any kittens she might have, at risk.
If your cat doesn’t do this, that’s fine, too. Every cat is different and some will show different behaviors more strongly or often than others. If for some reason this behavior bothers you, try offering your cat less food more often, so there isn’t always food leftover.
Just about everyone who adopts a cat says, ‘Oh, I wish I could just take them all home!’ If only! Very few people are in a position to care for a cluster of cats, but opting for a single kitten is not usually the best idea either. If you are looking to adopt a kitten under 6 months old and you don’t already have another cat, you really should at least consider adopting a duo.
Social Growth Kitten-hood is a crucial time for development, just like infancy is for human babies. Kittens learn from their mother, their siblings, their environment, and any other cats in the household. They learn how to hunt, play, socialize, and communicate. They figure out who is in charge, what is appropriate behavior, and how to perfect their motor skills and physical abilities. In many situations, a mother is not always present, making time with their litter mates even more important. (Remember, cats are kittens, physically and mentally, throughout the first year or two of their life.)
Importance of Play Playtime is not just fun and games: there are lessons to be learned in every pounce, every stalk, every bite. One of the most important lessons is that of the inhibited bite. Wrestling and roughhousing with other cats helps kittens to learn an appropriate level of playtime aggression. If a kitten bites too hard, the other cat is not going to tolerate it. Over time, this will teach them how to gently ‘bite’ without any pressure, and also encourage them to play without their nails extended.
Single Kitten Syndrome When a kitten spends the first six months or so of his life alone, he won’t learn what is acceptable, and will often exhibit undesirable behaviors towards people and other cats. ‘Single kitten syndrome,’ though not a medically diagnosable condition, is the term for such behavior. Of course, not all single kittens will turn out this way, just as not all only-children are spoiled and bratty, but it is commonly seen and best to be avoided. It seems a little counter-intuitive, but a kitten raised alone does not learn independence. Rather, they are more likely to become overly dependent on a human, distraught during separations, and less able to deal with minor stressors. Other behaviors associated with single-kittens include chasing and biting ankles, excessive neediness, boredom, and loneliness. Those last few are often coupled with destructive behaviors because, like kids, a kitten left alone for a few hours must find a way to keep himself occupied. Here at Pet Adoption Network, we’ve heard it over and over again.
Still, someone might say, the kitten doesn’t need a playmate because I’m going to be her best friend; shower her with love and toys and lots of treats. Isn’t that good enough? Not really, because a human, no matter how much they offer, can never be a substitute for a feline companion or replicate behaviors crucial to teaching a kitten how to be a well-adjusted cat.
Cats are like potato chips ‘You can’t have just one!’ Have you heard that saying before? Apparently, it holds true! In 2012, of all the homes with cats in the United States, 55% of them were multi-cat households. So, there’s a really good chance you’ll end up with another anyway, but its easier to do it all at once. The longer a cat stays solo, the harder it is to introduce a second (it’s nearly always possible to do so, it just takes much longer.) Having a cat that is good with other cats is important in the unfortunate case that they ever need to be re-homed; it greatly increases their adoptability and makes their experience in a shelter environment less stressful.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to adopt a pair is the sheer cuteness. A kitten playing alone is pretty darn adorable, but two kittens playing and cuddling together? Infinitely more adorable; its almost too much to handle. Almost.
What about the expenses? Aside from the initial costs of adoption fees (many groups, including Pet Adoption Network, offer discounts for adopting pairs), a second cat is not much more expensive or more work than one, and they can share many of the same supplies like toys, litter boxes, and food dishes. Kittens separated from other members of their species at a very young age can develop a pathological fear of other animals. No one knows what the future holds for you and your cat. A well-rounded cat that is acclimated to other animals can only have an easier time in life- even going to the vet will be less stressful.
If you really can’t handle or have more than one cat, that’s OK. There is still someone perfect for you! There are always cats that would prefer to be your one-and-only, and while they aren’t babies, they can be as young as 6 months and full of kitten spirit. Any rescue group will help you find a cat that is a good match for your family and lifestyle, so please take their advice. That way, you know the cat will be as happy as possible, and you will be, too.
And now, I’ll leave you with some more cuddling cuteness of Thana & Tarot.