Now that you have read Part 1 – From Birth to 4 Weeks, you know that Elara and Shira’s kittens all successfully made it through their first month without any major setbacks. We left off in part 1 with one month old pictures of Shira’s litter. It only seems fair to start part 2 with 5 week old pictures of Elara’s litter. Remember these adorable sleepy faces?
Despite the sleepy photos, by the end of five weeks the kittens are all very mobile and exploring their world. Shira’s litter was well on its way to figuring out that canned kitten food is delicious. Elara’s litter was still happily nursing. Litterbox training was in progress. For Elara’s litter this week was the week of adding litterboxes and different non-clumping litter options to the room (kittens shouldn’t have clumping litter, as they can eat it and it can create an intestinal obstruction). You can see just how many litterboxes I have in a small space in the video below. For Shira’s litter, they were using both the litterbox and the towels right around it at this point.
By week six, the kittens are starting to climb, run, and really play with each other.
In addition to cat trees and scratching posts, they are learning how to maneuver stairs.
By midway through week six, the kittens are grooming themselves and reliably using the litterbox. They are beginning to eat more kitten food, although they are still nursing. Shira’s litter was running over for the canned food at this point. Elara’s litter had a couple kittens that loved the canned food, but two of them would just snack on the dry food. When starting kittens on kitten food, I try to offer a variety of food types – patte, chunks and gravy, round dry pieces, shaped dry pieces, etc. Many cats will form their food preferences during kittenhood. As a veterinarian who oftentimes has to start pets on prescription diets to help treat illnesses, it can be frustrating to have a cat that will only eat one type of food. Offering variety when cats are young, helps them be more receptive to food changes as an adult cat.
By week seven, the kittens’ personalities are really starting to shine through. Socialization to new people, experiences (like trimming toenails), and things (like vacuums) continues to be of great importance. At this point, I will let the kittens interact with my dog, Glia, as they are old enough to move away if they don’t want to continue playing with her.
During week seven, I will also begin separating them from mama cat for a few hours at a time. This helps them nurse less frequently and helps speed up the weaning process. Since most kittens are adopted out to families of their own around 8-10 weeks, it is important that the kittens are used to eating kitten food prior to adoption.
Most of my litters are also large/old enough to vaccinate at this point. The shelter waits for them to weigh 1lb 8oz and be at least 6 weeks old. As you can see from the growth chart for both litters, all of my kittens have weighed enough to be vaccinated between 6 and 7 weeks of age. The chart below includes weekly weights for the kittens in both litters from birth to 8 weeks. I had a couple kittens gain extra weight and then lose a small amount between week 4 and 5, but otherwise the kittens all grew at a pretty steady rate.
As a quick aside: did you know that a kitten’s weight provides a quick and easy rule of thumb for figuring out how old they are? Kittens weigh roughly one pound per month of age. A one pound kitten is about 4 weeks (one month) old. A 2 pound kittens is about 8 weeks (2 months) old.
Between 8 and 9 weeks of age, the kittens return to the shelter to be put up for adoption. Mama cat will stay with me for another couple of weeks until she can be spayed. Sending the kittens to the shelter is the hardest part of fostering. I always miss their sweet little faces and check the Coulee Region Humane Society’s website daily until they all find furrever homes.
Before the kittens go back, I always try to get individual pictures of each of them. Here are the kittens almost 8 week old pictures:
In Shira’s litter, Aidan was the most sociable. He was always attempting to climb up and play with anyone he met. Seamus was also a cuddly and fun people kitten. Rosy was brave and independent, although she loved playing with wand toys and when she was tired, was very willing to cuddle. Finn was an easy going happy kitten and very easy to handle.
Elara’s litter was overall more independent than Shira’s. Amren was an adventurous kitten who was happy to be held and cuddled. Azriel was an agreeable kitten who impressed me by sitting still for trimming of nails on ALL four paws in one session. Cassian was an even-tempered, laid back kitten. Feyre was full of energy and independent. She rarely sat still around me unless sleeping (hence her blurry 8 week photo). Rhysand was another energetic kitten who spent a lot of time with Elara.
Once back at the shelter all 9 kittens were adopted out within a few weeks of arrival and are (hopefully) living happily ever after with their furrever families.
Fostering kittens has been a wonderful experience for me. If you need a list of reasons that you should foster too, read my article on Top Ten Reasons to Foster Kittens. I hope my readers enjoyed following along in the development of 2 different litters of kittens. If you have any questions about kitten rearing or fostering, let me know.