Humans take many years to develop and grow to adulthood, but kittens reach similar milestones during their first year. Most pet owners enjoy watching their kitten learn to explore their world, but this time goes by quickly. Our Tamberly Animal Hospital team is here to support you and your kitten through each new phase, so you can enjoy the journey. Here is our overview of the events during your kitten’s first year and how you can ensure they grow into a healthy, well-adjusted adult cat.

Kittens from birth to 8 weeks

Kittens are born weighing only a few ounces and completely blind, deaf, and dependent on their mothers. Although they grow quickly, ideally they should remain with their mother and littermates until at least 8 weeks of age for social and behavioral health. A kitten’s eyes and ears are fully open by age 2 weeks, and they will begin playing, exploring the litter box, and sprouting teeth around 3 to 4 weeks. Five- to 6-week-old kittens are active, playful, and socialize well with their littermates and humans. At 7 to 8 weeks, kittens have all their baby teeth, and their eyes change from blue to their adult color. 

Weaning can begin as early as 5 weeks when kittens can start sampling wet kitten food before they transition to dry kitten food. They should be dewormed starting at 2 to 3 weeks of age, and then medicated every few weeks. Vaccinations should begin around 6 to 8 weeks of age to prepare the kittens for their new homes. Socialization is also an important part of this early life stage, because this is the time when kittens are most receptive to handling, meeting children, adults, and other pets, and learning to accept—not fear—everyday household items and experiences.

Kittens from 2 to 6 months

At around 8 to 10 weeks of age, most kittens will go to their new homes, where they will enjoy playing and socializing with other pets and humans. They will grow rapidly—a 2-month-old kitten weighs around two pounds and will put on about a pound a month until they reach sexual maturity at around 6 months. Kittens in this age range will lose their baby teeth and begin growing their adult set. They will seem like little tornadoes of energy and will play all the time except when they’re eating or sleeping. Develop a predictable routine of play, grooming, and cuddle sessions for your kitten during this time.

You should feed your kitten a variety of food textures and tastes and provide meals at least three times per day to accommodate their rapid growth. Kittens should visit our veterinary team as soon as you bring them home and again every few weeks for vaccine boosters and parasite control until they are 16 weeks old. We recommend spaying or neutering kittens around 5 to 6 months of age to prevent unwanted pregnancies or behavior problems. 

Kittens from 6 months to 2 years

Between 6 months and 1 year old, kittens grow to their full adult size and can be slowly transitioned to adult food. Continue providing a variety of food tastes and textures, but avoid drastic or fast changes or transitions. Provide regular dental care to prevent early onset dental disease. Cats reach social maturity between 1 and 2 years old, so you will notice your kitten becoming less playful and developing their individual personality and preferences.

The importance of kitten socialization

Socialization, the process of exposing kittens to people, things, and experiences they likely will encounter during their lifetime, is crucial to create a well-adjusted adult cat. The best socialization period is between 2 and 7 weeks old when kittens are with their mothers, but older kittens can still benefit from social experiences once they are in their new homes. Expose your kitten to new things gradually and keep the experience positive—for example, place a traditionally “scary” object, such as the vacuum, in their play area and let them investigate while they play or receive treats.

Ongoing veterinary care

Your kitten will need veterinary care throughout their life to stay healthy and to address illness. However, many cats fear their carrier or the car, and transporting these cats can be so incredibly difficult that they may not get the care they need. Start training your kitten to love the carrier early by taking them for short car rides, and keep veterinary visits positive by bringing treats or favorite toys to distract them throughout the visit.

Your kitten’s first year is an unforgettable experience—for you and your four-legged friend. Keep them healthy through each kitten milestone and beyond with regular visits to our Tamberly Animal Hospital team. Call us to schedule a visit as soon as you bring your new kitten home or to schedule an annual wellness appointment for your adult or senior cat.