Your kitten's behaviour is a key way to gauge your kitten's health. So your kitten is home, you’ve introduced them to the family, got their litter tray and bedding sorted and some fresh kitten food in the fridge. But what now? We will explain the key developmental stages and how they should be behaving as well as looking at the importance of playtime and sleep.
Kitten Behavioural Development
When you are getting a kitten, understanding its behaviour is an essential part of being a cat parent.Their behaviour will also be a good indication for you to tell when something is wrong. Below is our guide from birth to adulthood.
At Birth - Kittens are born blind and deaf but they still have many reflexive behaviours at this early stage. As soon as a kitten is born it can already navigate its immediate surroundings. They do this by relying on touch and smell. These survival instincts allow them to keep warm by nestling into their mothers as well as gaining nourishment by suckling their mothers milk.
0-3 weeks - In a kitten's first few weeks of life they sleep for up to 90% of the day. They have started to make some noises and can now purr. They still can’t move very much but they can crawl towards their mother for milk and warmth. For now kitten feeding is left in the capable hands of the mother but in time it will become your responsibility to provide nutritious fresh food for your kittens to thrive.
4-8 weeks - Between 1-2 months a kitten's eyesight, hearing and smell fully mature so they are now fully aware of their surroundings. They will start to actively play by running, pouncing and stalking their toys and will start interacting more with their littermates through play and mutual grooming. Their teeth should also be starting to push through.
8-16 weeks - A kitten is at its most influential at this point and its most playful. They constantly learn behaviour from their littermates, other household pets and their cat parents so socialisation is key for a good rounded cat. You will find them scooping, tossing and holding any object that interests them as well as chasing its tail, pouncing, leaping and dancing around the house. This is the ideal time to start training as they start to understand their ranking in the household.
16 weeks - At 16 weeks kittens begin to reach physical maturity. It is also the start of them challenging their dominance within the family including their humans and other pets. Just like babies, maintaining routines and behaviours that have been taught before this will help keep your cat's behaviour in check and will help manage any stressful situations that arise.
24 weeks - 2 years - You may find after the 6 months stage a cat's energy level may decrease but the need for understanding and exploring their surroundings will increase. Around 12 months old most kittens have reached adulthood. (Larger cat breeds such as Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats don’t reach adulthood until 15 months old). If you have an outdoor cat their knowledge of your surrounding area and neighbourhood cats will now be vast. It's probably time to think about spaying & neutering if you haven't already, else you may end up with an unwanted cat pregnancy. As their activities and bodies have changed from kittens to adults they will also have different nutritional needs. So it's time to make the transition from kitten food to a fully balanced fresh adult cat food.
Ideally kittens should have 2-3 play sessions a day. These don't need to be for long periods of time. Short bursts of energy will be enough to keep your kitten happy.
Playtime with your kitten is a perfect time for you to add some mental and physical stimulation into your kitten's daily routine.
If you have more than one kitten they will most likely spend part of their day play fighting and wrestling each other whilst they practise their natural hunting instincts. It is still important for you to learn how to play with your cat as it is a great way for you to bond with your new family member.
Every cat is different so some may have more energy than others but offering interactive toys regularly will help you understand the needs of your new kitten.
Ideal Kitten Toys
Kittens are playful and curious creatures by nature and there are a wide variety of toys they will love playing with.
Mice Toys - By kicking, biting and throwing mice toys it gives kittens the thrill of the chasing and catching prey.
Tunnels - Cats love exploring dark spaces. Providing tunnels whether pop up versions or cardboard tubes, they provide a great space for kittens to engage their senses.
Scratching Posts - These will help cats shed the outer layers of their claws as well as allowing them to mark their territory. It will also help distract unwanted claws from your furniture.
Fishing poles - Poles offer another perfect way for cats to use their predatory instincts. Complete with feathers, catnip, squeaks and crinkles, fishing poles are one of the most bought and played with cat toys.
Toys can also be used to redirect any bad behaviour your kitten may be showing. If you find your kitten biting your ankles as a way of play, try to distract them with their favourite toy.
Kitten Behaviour FAQs
Below are some frequently asked questions around kitten behaviour.
Why does my kitten bite me?
Biting is a natural behaviour for kittens but biting too much can be a behaviour many of us do not like. Kittens learn how much and how hard to bite from playing with their littermates and their mother. If a kitten is separated from their family too early it may end up in rough play being more vicious than a kitten that has had more family time. Human cat parents often make the mistake of playing with their young kittens using their hands and feet instead of using toys. If this happens a kitten will learn that rough play including biting people is okay and fun! Luckily in most cases, it is still possible to teach your cat that rough play is not an acceptable behaviour.
How Long Do Kittens Sleep?
Our sleep guide below will give you a rough idea of how much your kitten will sleep:
Newborn-2 weeks: Kittens will sleep up to 22 hours a day
3-11 weeks: They will become more active and sleep 19-21 hours a day
12 weeks-adult: Comparable to adult cats, kittens can sleep up to 18 hours a day
Kittens are known for being bundles of pure energy but they also need plenty of sleep to allow them to develop and grow. This means kittens will often sleep up to 20 hours a day when they are little. If you find them napping half the day away, it is quite normal. As is them zooming around in the middle of the night.
Kittens do not tend to keep the same time frames as their cat parents so as it becomes bedtime for you it may be wake up time for your new furry friend. You may find their most active times are around dusk and dawn.
Creating a sleep schedule for your kitten can help train them to sleep through the night. This should include a later mealtime, playtime before bed and a nice quiet and comfy place to sleep.