Did you know that kittens are born deaf and blind? In fact, newborn kittens enter the world with their eyes entirely shut, and they don’t open their eyes until they are 1-2 weeks old. In this article, we will discuss why kittens are born with their eyes closed, how they communicate with their mothers at an early age, and what you should do if you find a newborn kitten with its eyes closed.
Why Are Kittens Born With Their Eyes Closed?
When a kitten is born, its eyesight is not yet fully developed. For the first week or two of a kitten’s life, its eyelids remain shut in order to protect sensitive eye tissue until the outer eye is more developed. In most kittens, the eyes won’t open at all until at least 8 days of age.
Even once a kitten’s eyes do open, it will be essentially blind until it is around 14 days old. It takes some time for very young kittens to adjust to light after total darkness, and they may not open their eyes all the way at first. Once they do open their eyes, you’ll notice that their eyes are blue when they are young. After about 6 weeks, their eyes will change to their adult eye color, which can include shades of amber, yellow, green, or their original blue (in this case, you wouldn’t notice a change).
How Do Newborn Kittens Communicate?
Although kittens are born without sight and hearing, they do have touch, smell, and taste. They rely heavily on these three senses to start bonding with their caregivers and understanding the world. Like human babies, newborn kittens are very dependent on their mothers or human caregivers at the beginning of their lives. They will cry to indicate that they need something, such as warmth or food. If your kitten’s mother isn’t around to help care for it when it is a newborn, you will need to step in to help it eat and eliminate. As much as your kitten communicates with you by meowing, you communicate with it by feeding it and otherwise letting it know that you are its caregiver. Through these simple acts, you will be able to bond with your new kitten.
What To Do If You Find an Orphaned Kitten
If you find a young kitten with its eyes still closed, you should bring it to a veterinarian if possible. These young cats need a lot of care because, as mentioned, they can’t do much of anything for themselves. However, if you aren’t able to bring your new kitten to a vet immediately, you should know that at this age it is very vulnerable and needs your attentive care to survive. If possible, you should only feed your kitten formula specifically formulated for kittens—do not feed cow’s milk to a kitten. When you aren’t feeding your kitten, keep it in a relatively dark and warm area, like a cat carrier with lots of blankets. Even if its eyes are open, avoid exposing a newborn kitten to bright lights, as this could potentially damage its eyes.
Although cats are generally independent and self-sufficient creatures, as kittens, they require a high level of care. Kittens open their eyes at around 2 weeks old, but they aren’t usually fully weaned from their mothers until around 8-10 weeks. If you’re hoping to adopt a newborn kitten from a litter, you should know that you probably won’t get to take it home until it’s around 10 to 12 weeks old. If possible, it’s best to let your kitten stay with its mother and its litter throughout the weaning process so that it will hopefully grow up to become a healthy, well-socialized, and well-adjusted cat.
Featured Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock