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Newborn Kittens: When do kittens open their eyes?

Kittens are an adorable addition to your family but require special care when they are newborns. Here, our Westfield vets answer questions like 'When do baby kittens open their eyes and start walking?' and offer tips on how to care for your newborn kitten.

When do newborn kittens open their eyes?

If you haven't spent much time around kittens, you may not realize how different they can be compared to an adult cat. They have tightly sealed eyes and typically folded ears. They cannot stand on their own and are essentially helpless. However, they are bound to develop into healthy and joyful cats with the right love and care from their mother or caretakers.

Baby kittens develop at varying rates, depending on several factors. However, most newborns typically open their eyes within the first two weeks of life. Their vision gradually improves during this period, although both eyes may not fully open simultaneously. Their eyes are open at around two weeks old, but their pupils will not dilate or contract. Instead, your kitten may squint to block the light. When they reach three weeks old, many kittens can focus with both eyes without squinting. All newborn kittens initially have blue eyes, with their eye color typically settling on the permanent hue at about eight weeks old.

Protecting Your Newborn Kitten's Eyes

Keep very young kittens away from bright lights. These can harm or damage their developing eyes. If the kitten lacks a mother's care or is not being well-cared for by its mother, it falls upon you to guarantee the cleanliness and health of the newborn kittens. Use a warm, damp washcloth to clean their faces gently. Above all, refrain from forcing a kitten's eyes open. Remember, patience is crucial. Otherwise, your cat risks injury or developing infections like conjunctivitis (pink eye).

Caring for Your New Kitten's Eyes

Newborn kittens can develop a crust on their eyes that prevents them from opening. This is a common problem that a bacterial or viral infection can cause. You should ensure that your kitten's bedding and shared areas are clean and hygienic to stop infections from recurring or spreading to littermates. If their eyes develop this matted crust, gently clean their eyes with a cotton ball dampened with warm, clean water. Avoid soap entirely! If there is no improvement, or the symptoms worsen, reach out to our vets or your nearest emergency veterinary clinic immediately to ensure they receive care.

How to Care for a Newborn Kitten

Newborn kittens primarily sleep and wake up intermittently for feeding and care. They rely on their ability to sense warmth and their sense of smell to find their mother's belly. Their development hinges on a steady supply of milk and warmth.

You've asked, 'When do kittens open their eyes?' But what about when they stand up and start walking? Newborn kittens sleep approximately 22 hours daily, and their need for sleep diminishes as they grow older. Around the same time their teeth start coming in, typically at about two weeks of age, their mobility begins to improve. They can walk, jump, and play more proficiently at four weeks old. This stage also marks an uptick in their mischievous behavior, driven by their curiosity and adventurous nature. You'll likely notice that your new kitten has discovered climbing during this time.

Keeping Your Newborn Kitten Warm

Newborn kittens can't regulate their body heat, which is part of the reason that they usually pile up near or on their mother. If your newborn kitten doesn't have a mother or littermates to keep their body temperature up, you must keep them warm using a heating disk in the crate or a heating pad on low heat underneath a blanket in their enclosure. It would be best to make a little nest out of blankets for the kittens to lay in for comfort. You must provide a comfortable place in your kitten's cage/crate that does not have a heating item so they can go there if they get too warm.

You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about six weeks old. If kittens get too cold, they will catch hypothermia. For this reason, their area should be kept at 85ºF.

Ensuring Your New Kitten is Well-Fed

Of course, when caring for a newborn kitten without a mother, you must feed them and provide them with proper nutrition. You must bottle feed your kitten a special formula every two to four hours. Every kitten is different, and your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them, and how frequently you should feed your kitten. For kittens to thrive, they should gain approximately half an ounce daily or four ounces weekly. Never give your kitten cow milk – always ensure you feed them the same formula. And, for your kitty to digest food properly, it will have to be kept warm.

Preventive Care for Kittens in Westfield

You should bring your new kitten to their first veterinary appointment when they are about eight weeks old. Your veterinarian will evaluate your kitten's health and inform you of their dietary needs. This also allows you to ask any questions regarding the care of your new family member. Your kitten will need to return for regular wellness exams that will allow for an assessment of their overall health and well-being. Your vet will use these visits to detect diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.

You must also ensure your kitten gets all their vaccinations and parasite prevention care on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are six to eight weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are five to six months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.

Our vets at Westfield Animal Hospital love meeting new furry friends and giving them a great start to a long and healthy life. Schedule an appointment for your new furry friend right away.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have a newborn kitten that will need their first checkup? Contact Westfield Animal Hospital today to schedule an examination today.

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Looking for a vet in Westfield? Our vets at Westfield Animal Hospital are now accepting new patients! Our friendly and welcoming vets love providing cats, dogs, and exotic pets with high-quality veterinary care. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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