During your kitten’s first year, they will go through a number of changes as they reach growth and developmental milestones. By knowing what to expect as your feline friend grows, you can help guide them, ensuring they grow up happy, healthy, and confident. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of La Marque team describes several kitten milestones you can expect during your feline friend’s first year.
Your kitten will grow extremely quickly
You will notice your kitten growing extremely rapidly during their first six months, seemingly changing from a tiny mewling infant to a gangly teenager overnight. In general, kittens gain one pound of weight per month during their first six months. Once your kitten reaches the six-month mark, their rapid growth will slow, but they will continue to put on weight as their body fills out.
Your kitten will lose their baby teeth
Kittens start getting their first (i.e., deciduous) teeth around 3 to 4 weeks of age, and should have all of their baby teeth by 8 weeks of age. A kitten’s baby teeth begin falling out around 14 to 16 weeks of age, and their adult (i.e., permanent) teeth replace these. Your kitten’s adult teeth should all be in place by the time they are 6 months of age. To help prevent your kitten from developing periodontal problems if any baby teeth are still in place, your veterinarian will recommend extracting them during their spay or neuter surgery.
Your kitten will need to switch to adult food
Kittens experience a huge growth spurt during their first year, so they need a proper diet to support their development. Unlike adult cat food, kitten food has higher calories and more protein and fat content to provide playful, growing kittens with adequate energy. Kitten food is also formulated with the appropriate balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients necessary for a kitten’s developing organs, senses, and immune system.
Once your kitten reaches physical maturity around 1 year of age, they no longer need all those calories, and their nutritional requirements will also change. Continuing to feed your now-adult cat a kitten diet can result in excessive weight gain, so make a gradual switch to an appropriate adult diet at that time.
Your kitten will go through a socialization period
Unlike puppies, who experience a socialization period from about 3 to 16 weeks of age, kittens have a much shorter socialization window that typically closes before they leave their mother and littermates. Kittens’ socialization period—during which they are most receptive to new experiences—is between 2 and 7 weeks, but the period can extend up to 14 weeks.
During your kitten’s socialization period, they will learn how to interact with other cats, animals, people, and the world around them. To help your kitten develop into a friendly, confident, well-adjusted cat, positive experiences are critical. Allow your kitten to approach new experiences at their own pace, and reward them for being brave and accepting. This is the ideal time to acclimate your kitten to grooming, handling, traveling in a carrier, and other pets.
Your kitten will need to be spayed or neutered
Kittens can reach sexual maturity—and begin breeding—as young as 4 months of age. To tackle feline overpopulation, animal advocates have introduced an initiative recommending that kittens who are 5 months of age be spayed or neutered. By having your kitten spayed or neutered at this age, you help prevent them from developing various health and behavior issues, particularly malignant mammary cancer in females and urine marking behavior in males.
Your kitten will require regular wellness care
To help protect your kitten from infectious diseases and parasites, ensure they receive regular wellness care. Preventive veterinary care helps ensure that your kitten will grow into a healthy adult cat. Typically, kitten wellness visits start between 6 and 8 weeks of age, and are scheduled for every 3 to 4 weeks until your kitten is about 16 weeks old. Your Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of La Marque veterinarian will discuss normal kitten behavior, litter box training, socialization, proper diet, and the many aspects of raising a happy, healthy cat. In addition to discussing behavior and training during your kitten’s preventive care visits, your veterinarian will provide your feline friend with the following:
- Physical exams
- Intestinal parasite testing and deworming
- Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention prescriptions
Your kitten’s first year will be full of physical growth and developmental milestones. Start them off right by scheduling their preventive care visits. Give our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of La Marque team a call to set up your kitten’s first visit.