How To Tell How Old A Kitten Is? Must-Know Animal Facts!

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Feb 29, 2024 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 22, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Two adorable kittens playing together.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.6 Min

If you ever stumble upon a kitten on the road, it would surely be hard for you to ascertain the kitten's age without proper knowledge.

Most kittens develop pretty fast, and their size may not always be the ideal indication of their age. A lot of other factors should be taken into account when estimating a kitten's age.

For cat lovers and those who engage in rehabilitating stray kittens, an integral part of their duty would be determining the age of the kitten they have adopted or put up for adoption. Also, the medical needs of kittens can be better met when their age has been established. So, if a vet is not available to determine the age of a kitten, you can easily carry out the task yourself if you keep a few things in mind.

If you like reading this article, be sure to check out how long to feed kitten food and how much food should a kitten eat for more information on kittens!

How To Tell How Old Abandoned Kittens Are

Unfortunately, it is not that uncommon to catch sight of abandoned kittens. A newborn kitten can be left by its mother cat or even by its human owners. In such a scenario, it is necessary to determine the age of the kitten and its overall well-being.

One of the first things to do when you come across abandoned kittens is to ensure whether they are abandoned or not. For most kittens, especially the very young ones, their mother's milk provides them with the best chance of survival. So, if there is any chance that the mother cat could come back, that should not be missed out on. Unless the kittens are in immediate danger, stand a considerable distance away from the litter and look out for the mother. At times, it takes the mother cat quite a few hours to get back to her kittens. So, if you belong to the neighborhood, you can come back to check later, as well.

If there is no sign of the mother cat, you should take the young kittens in and provide them with warmth, comfort, and kitten milk formula or solid food. Next, you will have to estimate the age of a kitten. The easiest way to do this is by observing their physical characteristics, including tiny teeth, which can help in determining age.

If the kittens are only a few days old, the remnants of the umbilical cord might still be visible, along with closed eyes and ears and pink skin. Kittens who are over ten days old usually have blue eyes and can be observed to be crawling around, but they spend most of their time sleeping. Kittens who have crossed the second week of their life will have fully open eyes, nearly opened ears, and much more active behavior. The first teeth also appear during this time. The consecutive weeks, from four to eight, are marked by a gradual increase in the energy levels of the kittens, along with weaning behavior. If your kittens can consume solid food, then they are probably in this age group.

How can you tell how old a baby kitten is?

It can be pretty easy to determine a kitten's life stage by using its weight, physical, and behavioral characteristics. If you have recently adopted a tiny kitten and want to know its age, make use of this information to your advantage.

One Month: A one-week-old kitten is quite helpless on its own. In the first week, the kitten's ears are folded, and eyes are shut. The weight is less than 4 oz (113.4 g) during this time. The kitten's eyes open during the second week; however, it is not fully functional. The consecutive week witnesses the development of ears, changing of the eye colors and purring. Tiny baby teeth also appear during this phase.

Two Months: The start of the fifth week is marked by a much more active kitten that is eager to explore its surroundings. The kitten will also learn to poop on its own during this time and will be able to transition to kitten food and to eating solid food. During this time, the kitten's weight is between 12-16 oz (340.2-453.5 g).

Three Months: The third month is characterized by the loss of the baby teeth and the development of adult teeth in kittens. The adult eye color is fully developed during this time. At nine weeks old, the social skills and body language of kittens are firmly established. This is when kittens create a bond with their human owners and other pets in the household, if any. Gaining weight continues, with an average weight of 64 oz (1.8 kg), and the kitten is likely to eat cat food more frequently. Kittens of this age are fully weaned.

Four Months: A four-month-old kitten is likely to develop signs of puberty. Increased levels of activity and vocalizations accompany this timeframe. In terms of appearance, its limbs will start to grow longer, and the development of an adult fur coat may set in. Their baby teeth will continue to be replaced during this time.

Five Months: A five-month-old kitten is equivalent to a human teenager and will display more obvious signs of its puberty. During this period, not only will the activity levels increase, but a kitten of this age will also behave more aggressively. This behavior is significantly more prominent in males. The kitten's weight will be around 80-96 oz (2.2-2.7 kg).

Six months: At this age, a kitten usually reaches sexual maturity. The males might attract females by giving out loud calls, while female kittens typically go into heat during this age. The appearance of a six-month-old kitten is very similar to that of an adult cat, except they are yet to reach their adult weight or height.

Following the six-month mark, kittens do not have much pronounced physical development, except an increase in size, weight, and the onset of their adult color. Behavioral changes include increased levels of confidence and socialization. A 10 months old kitten can be switched to adult cat food, as well. At 12 months, your kitten steps into adulthood and becomes a cat.

How old should kittens be before leaving their mother?

While there aren't many things as adorable as a tiny little kitten, it is imperative to know the appropriate age for a kitten to leave its mother for its well-being.

Leading up to a certain age, the phases of development in a kitten's life are all essential, which would mandatorily require the presence of its mother. Generally, it has been assumed that kittens can be separated from their mother once they have become eight weeks old. However, this assumption is quite far from the truth. Kittens are born appearing quite helpless, with their eyes shut and ears folded. The first four weeks of kitten development are pretty essential for its survival. The mother provides her babies with nutrition and protection and ensures the babies are warm enough, as the kittens themselves cannot regulate their body temperature. Additionally, kittens under one month old cannot defecate on their own and need their mother's stimulation to eliminate waste from their bodies. So, the kittens are not capable of much during this time.

Following four weeks, the mother cat slowly teaches the kittens to survive on their own. This time period is characterized by physical development and behavioral development, including learning how to poop, eat, and hunt. Social skills are also developed during this age, with the mother correcting any wrong behavior. Weaning takes place during the second month, and the mother cat can be observed introducing solid food in her kittens' diet.

While two months old kittens look fully developed, the ideal age to separate them from their mother is between 12-14 weeks. By this age, the kittens develop the correct social and behavioral skills. Additionally, their immune system is also strong enough, and hence, they are much more likely to lead healthy lives.

Group persian kittens sitting on cat tower.

How To Tell How Many Days Old A Kitten Is

During the early stages of development, kittens have remarkable day-to-day changes that can mark how old a kitten is.

A one-day-old kitten will have eyes and ears which are shut. It won't be able to stand on its own or make much movement. Such a kitten would require care 24/7.

At three days old, the kitten's senses will start to improve, but only slightly. The eyes remain fully closed, but the ears may appear to have unfolded to some extent.

At the end of one week, a seven-day-old kitten can be identified by the continued unfolding of ears and opening eyes. It will also make slight movements and have double the weight compared to when it was born.

At nine days, the eyes of the kitten will appear blue. This blue color may persist till the kitten is eight weeks old.

The 12th day of a kitten is marked with more movements to explore its surroundings. Physically, it will appear slightly bigger, but not much.

The next milestone is reached when a kitten is 20 days old. It can now eliminate its bodily waste on its own, and hence, can be introduced to the litter box.

At 22 days old, the kittens have more fur to cover their bodies. Their coat appears to have short fur, but the fur covers the whole body much more extensively.

The ages between 37 days to 40 days are marked by a more active nature, including pouncing, climbing, and even digging. Kittens of this age can be easily identified due to their activity level and specific behavioral imitations of adult cats. Kittens are usually almost fully weaned at this age and are ready to eat cat food.

At 60-62 days, the muscle tone of a kitten continues to develop; however, weight gain is not that quick anymore. The occasional nursing will probably end during this phase.

Once a kitten is eight weeks old, it is much more challenging to point out day-to-day changes.

How To Know If A Kitten Is A Stray

If you ever catch a glimpse of a kitten simply roaming about, it would be your first task to identify whether the kitten is a stray or merely an outdoor cat or a feral cat. With a few pointers in mind, it is not that difficult to differentiate.

One of the most important ways to identify a stray kitten is through its coat of fur. While outdoor cats or kittens will appear groomed, as they are taken care of by whoever owns them, a stray kitten will appear to have dirty or unkempt fur. On the other hand, Feral cats have comparatively cleaner fur due to having the habit of grooming themselves. Additionally, outdoor kittens will look much healthier than a stray kitten that has lost weight due to a lack of food or nutrition.

Some behavioral differences can also be observed in stray kittens. If you speak to a feral cat or kitten, chances are, it will not make any sound in response. However, stray kittens tend to 'meow,' 'purr,' or even approach the person calling out to them. In addition, stray kittens are much likelier to make eye contact with a person, while feral kittens are more fearful of humans, in general. Overall, stray kittens are much more approachable in comparison to feral kittens.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how to tell how old a kitten is, then why not take a look at how to introduce a kitten to a dog, or how long do Siamese cats live?

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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