The kitten’s development
Completely dependent upon his mother, the kitten gains his autonomy within a few weeks. This rapid development which takes place before weaning, i.e. when the kitten still suckles his mother, is a true performance specific to the feline species.
Blind and deaf, the kitten coming into the world weighs only about one hundred grams. Licked by his mother and thus rid of his envelopes, he is warmed up and stimulated. This is going to enable him to find the nourishing teats. Unable to regulate his body temperature until 3 weeks of age, he’ll cuddle there nice and cozy against his mother’s belly to suckle the colostrum which contains numerous antibodies. After a few days, what he’ll get from his mother will be milk when he feeds, this taking up one third of his time during the first month. Within 7 to 10 days, he’ll double his weight. Within 5 weeks, he’ll be able to move and his senses will develop, as he shares his time between play and sleep when he is not suckling.
The five senses
At birth, the kitten has a sense of smell sufficiently developed for him to be able to find back his mother. He’s also able to differentiate between the three basic flavors: the sweet, the salty and the sour, with little appreciation for the two latter. On the other hand, he is blind and deaf and acquires these two senses almost at the same time. The sense of hearing appears around 5 days of age, but does not enable the kitten to orient himself by sound before 14 days of week. He’ll gain the adult’s skills around one month of age and will then recognize his mother’s voice. The kitten opens his eyes between 7 and 15 days after birth. He’ll still need 3 or 4 days to gain the notion of depth of field. Adapting to this simultaneous acquisition of the senses of sight and hearing requires a few days.
The kitten has a great sense of balance at a very early age, even through he is still somewhat clumsy. He coordinates his motions with difficulty before 2 weeks of age. He begins to walk on his four legs around 17 days of age and becomes skilful enough to scratch his ear with a hindleg around 3 weeks of age. At 35 days of age, he’s able to scratch and to retract his claws.
The major body areas
The major anatomical areas do not all develop at the same rate. The kitten is thus born with a relatively large head, and then one witnesses a lengthening of his members: the kitten seems to be high on his legs. Finally, the rest of his body develops, giving the typical proportions of the adult.
There is an innate component in the grooming, elimination and feeding behaviors (to the exclusion of suckling), but these are also taught very quickly by the mother to her kittens. As early as his 15th day of age, the kitten is able to lick his foreleg. At 30 days of age, he begins to make his first approaches to the litter box by scratching at the material. From 3 weeks of age, he’s able to do his business alone in the box. As early as his 4th week of age, he can feed, imitating his mother’s behavior and, by doing so, acquiring her dietary preferences.
Establishing all the communication behaviors specific to the feline species starts around the 3rd week of age to end on the 7th or 8th week of age. His play activity starts around the 3rd week of age. It consists in contacts and games between the kittens, and in interactions with the mother, which make this intraspecific socialization possible. The kitten thus learns to inhibit scratching, and to get interested in "preys," insects or small objects. The predation behavior specific to his species begins to set in at the end of the first month. Learning the social behaviors directed at friendly species (man, dog...) also takes place around the 3rd week of age to end around the 3rd month of age. The kitten must also find himself in an environment enriched with visual, sound and relational stimuli. Stroked, handled a few minutes a day, placed in the presence of children, of other animals, surrounded with various noises, the kitten will become all the more balanced. His behavior when he becomes an adult will largely depend on the diversity of his environment at that time of his life.