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Newborn Kittens: When Do Kittens Open Their Eyes?

Newborn Kittens: When Do Kittens Open Their Eyes?

If you're considering adding a new kitten to your family or if you have a pregnant cat, you may have some questions. Our vets in Marina del Rey are here to discuss when newborn kittens typically open their eyes and provide tips on how to care for them.

If you're not familiar with very young kittens, it may shock you to find out how different they look from their adult counterparts! Their eyes are sealed tightly shut, and their ears are usually folded against their heads. They can't stand and are more or less helpless - but with proper love and care from their mother or caretakers, they can grow up happy and healthy.

When a Newborn Kitten Will Open Their Eyes

Newborn kittens may start to open their eyes when they are anywhere between 2 to 16 days old. However, various factors can affect their development rate. While their vision improves gradually during this time, it is possible that both eyes may not open at the same rate. By the time they reach 2 weeks of age, it's common for both eyes to be dilated. At 3 weeks old, many kittens can focus with both eyes. Initially, all kittens are born with blue eyes, but their eye color will change over time and usually settle on the true color at around 8 weeks old.

Taking Care of Your Kitten's Eyes

It's important to protect young kittens from bright lights that could harm their eyes. If you're caring for a kitten without a mother or whose mother isn't doing a good job, make sure to keep them clean and healthy. You can use a warm, damp washcloth to clean their faces, but don't try to force their eyes open before they're ready. It's best to be patient and let them open naturally.

Problems to Watch for & How to Manage Them

It is quite common for newborn kittens to have a crusty buildup around their eyes, which can make it difficult for them to open their eyes. This issue may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, which makes it essential to maintain a clean and hygienic environment for your kittens. Keeping their bedding and shared areas clean can prevent infections from spreading or recurring among littermates. In case of the crusty buildup, you can try cleaning your kittens' eyes gently using a cotton ball that has been dampened with warm, clean water.

Avoid soap entirely! If your kittens' eyes show no improvement or become worse, call your vet immediately to ensure they get the care they need.

Newborn Kitten Care Tips

Similar to newborn human babies, newborn kittens spend a lot of their time sleeping, waking occasionally to be fed and cared for. Kittens can sense warmth and use their sense of smell to move toward their mother's belly and are dependent on a source of milk and warmth to aid them in their development.

As newborn kittens, they tend to sleep for about 22 hours a day. However, as they grow older, they require less sleep. Your kitten's mobility will start to improve around the time they start getting their teeth, usually at two weeks old. By four weeks of age, they are skilled enough to walk, jump and play more steadily. This is also when they start becoming more curious and adventurous, and their capacity for mischief increases. They may also practice climbing a lot during this time.

Newborn Kittens Need to Stay Warm

When kittens are born, they are not able to regulate their own body temperature. This is why they often huddle together with their mother or littermates. However, if you have a newborn kitten without a mother or littermates, you will need to take extra measures to help them stay warm. One way to do this is by placing a heating disk or a heating pad on low heat underneath a blanket in their crate.

You should also make a little nest out of blankets for the kitten to lay in for comfort. You must make sure that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and providing 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 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold, they will catch hypothermia; for this reason, their area should be kept at 85ºF or 29ºC.

Newborn Kitten Require Proper Nutrition

If you are caring for a newborn kitten that doesn't have a mother, you will have to feed them and make sure they get the proper nutrition they require. You will need to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours. Since each kitten is different, your veterinarian will be able to tell you which formula is the best to use, as well as how much to feed your kitten and how frequently they need to be fed.

For kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk, and always make sure you are feeding them the same formula. And, for your kitty to digest food properly, they will have to be kept warm.

Kitten Preventive Care

Regardless of your kitten's age, it is crucial to take them for their first veterinary check-up at the recommended time. During this appointment, your veterinarian will evaluate your kitten's health and provide you with information regarding their dietary requirements. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to address any concerns or queries you may have regarding the care of your new furry family member.

It's essential to make sure your kitten receives routine preventive care, including routine vaccinations, wellness exams, and parasite prevention.

Regular wellness exams allow your vet to evaluate your kitten's overall health and well-being, including their dietary needs. Your vet will also be able to diagnose any diseases early in their most treatable stages before they become more serious and expensive 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 pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

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Shane Veterinary Medical Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Marina del Rey companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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