Nothing is more exciting for cat owners than watching your own cat give birth to kittens. Even if the mother does most of the care, cat owners can be on hand to help. Find out how you can support your cat here.
Pregnancy and childbirth
As soon as you suspect that your cat may be pregnant, it makes sense to have the pregnancy confirmed by a veterinarian. Your cat’s vet can answer your questions and guide your cat’s pregnancy.
The cat often goes through a relatively long period of labor before giving birth. The birth itself is usually quick, often even unnoticed by the owner, in a nest chosen by the cat. As soon as the mother has freed the puppies from the amniotic sac, she pushes the kittens to her stomach, where they are warmed and suckled. Breast milk is essential as it contains important antibodies that protect the young from diseases in the early days. The other kittens follow at intervals of around five to sixty minutes. There are usually only three young animals with the first litter, but generally, litters with up to eight puppies are not uncommon. The young animals are around 10 cm tall at birth and weigh between 70 and 100 g.
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The evolution of kittens
If you look at the development of kittens, the first seven months can be divided into three different phases:
Weeks 1-2: The newborn phase
The blind and deaf pups are completely dependent on their mother. Also, this phase is mainly characterized by sleeping and drinking. The mother animal nourishes the puppies and provides vital warmth, but it also stimulates the digestion of the little ones by licking the belly and ensuring hygiene in the nest.
Between the 10th and 14th day of life, the little ones open their eyes and begin to hear. However, they initially remain in a safe nest. At the end of this phase, this is where you start your first attempts at walking. They are now almost 20 cm tall and weigh around 200 g. It’s best to weigh the little ones regularly. This is the only way to control the weight and determine in good time whether a kitten is developing less well. In this way, health problems can be identified early and treated accordingly. Regular, monthly worming treatments are also important from the second to fourth week.
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Week 3 – 7: The socialization phase
In this phase, the kittens still sleep a lot, but the waking phases become longer and longer. Your sensory perception improves progressively until it is fully developed by the end of the 6th week. Besides, the ability to walk and the deciduous teeth develop. With the development of these skills comes the curiosity and desire to perceive life around you. The safe nest is left, and the area is explored. Now comes the time when it is up to you to make your house or apartment safe for puppies. Be careful to avoid potential hazards. Hide cables, lock stairs, and defuse other sources of danger.
This second phase of life is characterized by socialization. This means that the kittens discover, get to know and learn a lot. The experiences that the young cats make during this time shape the animal’s character for the rest of their lives. It is therefore important that the kittens get to know as much as possible, including different people.
Gentle caresses and a calm voice are beneficial here so that the little ones have good experiences with people from the beginning and develop a basic trust. This also applies to other animals, for example, the family dog. Familiarizing cats with dogs at this stage will make it easier to socialize them later. In addition to other living beings, the kittens also have to get used to everyday noises and things like vacuum cleaners, umbrellas, and the like. If you teach them from the start not to be afraid of these things, they will develop better and grow into confident cats.
In addition to socialization, the point of learning is also an important part of this phase. The learning process takes place mainly through two motivations; the first is play. By romping with their siblings, the little cats sharpen their senses, become more and more coordinated, and learn to behave like sneaking up, attacking, and hiding.
Besides, they receive important lessons in the area of social behavior. Also, the little ones learn a lot by imitating their mother. In doing so, they imitate their behavior, for example, using the litter box and personal hygiene. From the 6th week on, the kittens usually do this themselves.
The little ones also want to try solid food more often, which can be fed slowly from the 6th week. Special puppy food is ideal here; the nutrient content is adapted to the growing cats’ needs. We should take care to increase the chunk size of the food components only slowly to switch to solid food step by step. This should be the sole main food from the 12th week after stopping breast milk.
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Week 8 – 28: The youth phase
This phase is also still characterized by learning and socialization. Especially the relationship between kittens and humans is developing. It is easier to build a good relationship with the little ones when you have a good relationship with the mother. After all, young animals learn from their mothers that they can trust people.
Basically, you should leave the litter together until the 12th week. If the young animals spend this time with their siblings, they are much more open to other conspecifics. They show good social behavior, develop healthy self-esteem, and are less anxious.
For the kittens to develop physically well, they should receive the first vaccination against infectious diseases such as cat disease and cat flu in the 8th week. This is repeated after four weeks. There is also a lot in growth around the 10th week. The kittens get more and more “adult proportions” and start changing teeth. This can drag on up to the 6th month. Even if cats are only considered adults from one year of age, they reach sexual maturity between 6 and 9 months. This depends on the respective cat breed – some breeds, e.g., the Siamese cat, can in rare cases be sexually mature as early as 4 months. So one should consider neutering early enough.
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