Spring is finally here! Which also marks the beginning of “kitten season”. Shelters and rescues will be receiving kittens that may have been found outdoors, and there may be nothing known about their ages.
It is important to figure out as accurately as possible how old they might be. The type of food they need, whether they are old enough to eat on their own or if they need bottle feeding, whether they can eliminate on their own, what care they might need and how they might best be socialized, are all issues that can change depending on their age.
So how do you tell?
First of all – Are her eyes open?
Kittens are born with their eyes closed and their ears flat again their heads. If her eyes and ears are not open, she is probably under 10 days of age.
At this point she can’t regulate her own body temperature, so needs to be kept very warm. If she is an orphan, she will need to be bottle fed kitten formula 6 to 12 times a day, and will need to have her private parts stimulated with a cloth in order to go to the bathroom. At this age, a kitten will sleep almost all of the time that she isn’t eating.
Around day 3 the umbilical cord falls off.
Around day 7 to 10 their eyes and ears will start to open.
Secondly – Is he walking and playing?
Kittens will squirm and wiggle themselves around from birth. They will crawl from about 1 to 2 weeks. At around 2 weeks they start to hold up their heads and “stand up” on their front legs, but they don’t really start walking until 2 to 3 weeks old. At that point they are still “wobbly” and not really coordinated.
At 2-3 weeks most kittens will be around 225 to 285 grams (8 to 10 ounces). Orphans will still be bottle fed formula, but only 7 to 9 times a day. They still need to be kept warm, but will start exploring a bit and may be playing with litter mates.
If he is walking pretty well, playing and swishing his tail, he is probably at least 4 weeks old. At this point he will also be peeing and pooping on his own.
Next – How do her teeth look?
Baby teeth don’t start to come in until around 3 weeks of age, and the canine teeth (fangs) are the first to emerge.
At this age she should be walking pretty well, her ears will be standing up (fully open) and she will swivel her ears or turn her head to better hear sounds. Her eyes will be starting to focus. She should still be fed 5 to 7 times a day but may start to pee or poop without help.
At around 4 weeks, she can be offered formula from a saucer, and can be offered a bit of canned food mixed with formula. She should be around 450 grams (1 pound).
Her lower molars will emerge around this time and she will start to pounce and run around.
At around 6 to 7 weeks his eye colour will change from blue to his adult colour.
Upper molars emerge around 7 to 8 weeks, and she should be eating well from a saucer. If so, formula can be discontinued but food should still be soft.
Permanent teeth emerge at 12 to 16 weeks.
Kitten teeth are really tiny, so it can be hard to tell if they are baby teeth or permanent ones. If you are lucky, the kitten might have a few of each so that you can see the differences. In general, baby teeth are a little bit smaller and have very pointed tips, while permanent teeth are a little wider with flatter edges.
The middle incisors are the first to come in around 14 weeks, with the second and third incisors following at about 15 and 16 weeks, respectively.
And last – How much does he weigh?
At birth, most kittens are 85 to 115 grams (3 to 4 ounces)
A kitten’s weight in pounds roughly corresponds to his age in months, and he will gain weight at a relatively predictable rate until about 5 months of age.
As long as a kitten is in good body condition, you can safely guess that a 450 grams (1 pound) kitten is about one month old and a 1.5 kg (3 pound) kitten is about 3 months old.
At 5 to 6 months, kittens reach sexual maturity and so should be spayed or neutered at around 4 to 5 months.
Remember that every kitten is an individual and will grow and progress at different rates! By carefully looking at the physical and developmental clues above, you should be able to guess an age fairly accurately.