Development of the senses and other critical events in the life of a young kitten

This is a chart showing the key stages in development of a kitten before they are born and up to around 10 weeks of age. I think it’s quite interesting and I hope you agree. This is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that the personalities of cats are affected strongly by what they learn when they are small kittens.

Newborn kitten

Newborn kitten. Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

When a kitten suffers prolonged stress during these early weeks of development because, for example, they been abandoned by their mother and then hand raised by a cat rescuer who found them they may become excessively attention-seeking towards that person.

When their mother for whatever reason leaves her kittens the kittens’ brains endure high levels of stress hormones which can cause permanent changes in their mental development and changed in their stress hormone systems. This may lead them to overreact to novel events later in life. This may make them less good as cat companions than kittens raised by a well-fed mother in a stable environment.

Also, when a mother struggles to raise her kittens they live in an uncertain world in which they have to live on their wits and outcompete their litter mates. They may grew up to be more competitive and more anxious in my opinion.

Developmental table

-5.5 weeksTouch
-1.25 weeksBalance
0-4 weeksOlfaction
1-5 weeksVision
1.5-6 weeksTeeth erupt
2-6 weeksHearing
2-6.5 weeksLocomotion
3.5-8.5 weeksThermoregulation
4 weeksPlay
5 weeksPredatory actions

I want to thank Dr. John Bradshaw’s book Cat Sense for the timings in the development of kittens. There is one thing that all of us know about kitten development namely that the first seven weeks of their lives is vital in terms of their socialisation to people and ideally other pets. If they miss that window it takes much longer to turn them into settled and contented cat companions. Although genuine adult feral cats can be socialised with a lot of patience.

Newborn kitten - no teeth

Newborn kitten showing no teeth. Photo in public domain. Click the image for info about baby teeth.


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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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