Chris Kouwenhoven

Kitten development

At birth, kittens are blind and deaf, with a strong sense of smell and touch. They weigh, on average, three and one-half ounces and are about five inches long. At the end of the first week, the kittens' eyes begin to open and they have doubled their body weight.

First signs of play appear toward the end of the first month, teeth are starting to break through, and the first solid food is tasted. During the second month the kittens become very lively, take play seriously, and begin to use Mom's litterbox.

By three months the mother cat has weaned her babies, refusing to allow them to nurse. In their fifth month, the young cats are shedding their "milk teeth" and begin to scent-mark their home range. At six months of age the kittens are fully independent of their mother, capable of hunting prey, and often disperse from the home territory to find their own hunting ranes.

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