Two gray kittens with their eyes closed.
Two gray kittens with their eyes closed. Photography © Ztranger | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

When Do Kittens Open Their Eyes?

Answering the question "When do kittens open their eyes" gives you insight into more than just a baby kitty’s eyesight. Knowing when a kitten opens his eyes can let you know his age, what to feed him and how to care for him.
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Kitten season is in full swing across the country. Although kittens can be born throughout the year, the majority of litters are born in the summertime.

Sometimes the kittens are rescued with their mothers, and sometimes they have been orphaned. It’s crucial for any animal lover who happens upon an abandoned kitten to recognize what type of help he will need, and this information starts with knowing how old the kitten is. One of the main indicators of a youngster’s age is whether or not his eyes are open. His age will determine how much and what type of care he will need to survive.

Related: 9 Tips for Bringing a Kitten Home

So, when do kittens open their eyes? Let’s find out about one of kitten season’s most important pieces of lifesaving information: What to do if you find an orphaned kitten who still has his eyes closed!

An orange tabby kitten with his eyes closed.
When do kittens open their eyes? Photography © Scharfsinn86 | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

When do kittens open their eyes?

Kittens are born with their eyes tightly shut. Keeping their eyes shut following birth allows for their eyes to continue to develop. Because newborn kittens are also hypersensitive to light, it’s imperative that their eyes remain shielded until they are ready. So, when do kittens open their eyes? Newborn kittens start opening their eyes in the first week to 10 days of their lives. However, they will not open their eyes widely.

As they get more acclimated to a world of light from total darkness, kittens open their eyes gradually. No one should force a kitten’s eyes open for any reason. Kittens are especially susceptible to eye infections during the first few weeks of their lives (any signs of discharge or crustiness warrant a trip to the veterinarian). At 2 weeks old, a kittens’ eyes are totally opened and looking for trouble!

A group of kittens.
All kittens have blue eyes — for a little while, at least! Photography by Cherry-Merry/Thinkstock.

Those eyes won’t be blue for long

All newborn kittens have a few things in common: they’re blind, they’re deaf, they can’t eat by themselves, they can’t eliminate by themselves and they can’t regulate their body temperatures. The other lesser-known fact is that all kittens are born with blue eyes. While adult cats have a variety of eye colors, they all started with some shade of blue, and their eye colors begin transforming around 6 weeks old to their adult hues.

Two gray kittens with their eyes closed.
What should you do if you find kittens with their eyes closed? Photography © Ztranger | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

So, you found an orphaned kitten with eyes his closed, now what?

Another question you might have when thinking, “When do kittens open their eyes?” might be, “What do I do if I find a kitten who still has his eyes closed?” Again, kitten season means the likelihood of finding a kitten in need exponentially increases. Knowing what to do if you find an orphaned kitten who still has his eyes closed can mean the difference between life and death for the vulnerable kitten.

Related: What to Know About Kitten Behaviors

The first thing to do is get him to the veterinarian. Neonatal kittens with their eyes closed need around-the-clock care. If you have found a kitten and it will take 24 hours before getting him to the vet’s office or to a pet-supply store where you can get the proper formula, there’s a recipe from The Feline Foundation of Greater Washington, Inc. perfect for emergency situations. You can also use goat’s milk in a pinch (do not feed the kitten cow’s milk).

Since kittens’ eyes are fully opened at two weeks old, kittens with eyes that are either completely shut or slightly opened require specialized care. Below is a quick guide to how much and how often to feed them. For more information, check out Catster’s guide to feeding weaning kittens.

  • Under 1 week old: kitten weighs less than 4 ounces. Feed formula: every two to three hours.
  • 7 to 10 days old: kitten weighs 4 to 6 ounces. Feed formula: every two to three hours.
  • 10 to 14 days old: kitten weighs 6 to 8 ounces. Feed formula: every three hours.

Buy the formula from the pet supply store — such as KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer Liquid). Feed kittens from a bottle with their bellies facing downward. Kittens with their eyes closed further require assistance eliminating their waste and regulating their body temperatures. Check out Catster’s article on what to do if you found a stray kitten for best practices on taking care of feline orphans.

A pile of newborn tabby kittens.
How do kittens communicate before their eyes are open? Photography © IpekMore | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

How do kittens communicate before they open their eyes?

Here’s another query that might accompany, “When do kittens open their eyes?” — “How do kittens communicate if their eyes are closed?” The minute a neonatal kitten enters your life, you are communicating with him. Kittens are born with only two senses — touch and smell. Moving him about in a gentle way mimics what his mother does. The very act of feeding him is letting him know you are his caregiver. Helping him eliminate by stimulating his bottom area with a warm cloth is not just serving as an important function but also a form of bonding. You are his surrogate mother and all your interactions with him are communicating this message loud and clear.

Kitten season means shelters are full, and caring individuals are the lifeblood of creating more positive outcomes. Knowing when kittens open their eyes is the first step in saving that cat’s life.

This piece was originally published in 2018.

Read Next: Wondering What to Feed Kittens? We Ask a Vet to Answer Some Common Questions

 

23 thoughts on “When Do Kittens Open Their Eyes?”

  1. You are doing the best you can, and I commend you for it. I have a dear friend, who was in a similar situation only luckier. She found an abandoned newborn kitten minus the cord and placenta. She brought the kitten home, with the hope that her 2 yr old feline would adopt this kitten. I say she was lucky, because her cat had recently given birth to a litter of 4 kittens. As it turned out, her cat did in fact adopt this precious new baby. My friend’s vet says it is optimal for a newborn kitten’s development to be adopted by another mother cat if possible.

  2. James E Callaway

    I have a feral who gave birth to three kittens in the storage area above my workbench in the garage I estimate they are two to three weeks old. They all have crusty eyes. they seem to be healthy otherwise, they cry loudly and are moving around pretty well for being so young. Mama cat feeds them because I leave the back door of the garage open all the time now that I know they are up there. I suspect the environment may be causing the eye problem. I have several bales of old burlap up there that I will replace with a clean fluffy blanket. I will also try to clean their eyes as often as I can wit warm compresses (while standing on a ladder!). I thought about moving them to a different location, but hesitate to do so, because the mother might try to move them back, and it is a treacherous climb and walk across rafters to get there. Any thoughts?

    1. It is best to leave the kittens where they are. Mom cat would most likely attempt to move them back, or worse yet, if mom cat couldn’t find them, she might abandon them all together. Federal cat mom’s are notorious for not having the strongest of maternal instincts. I would leave them where they are for now.

  3. Your article was very interesting indeed! I found a tiny kitten at my front door on Saturday night – umbilical cord attached, eyes closed, 85 grams in weight. I have been feeding her every 2 hours ever since and I am exhausted but it is nice to know that by taking care of her (and yes, even doing the bottom rubbing etc), we are bonding. I feel desperately sorry for her being on her own :(

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  7. susan gallagher

    Some kitten’s eyes do of course stay blue, particularly those with the Himalayan coat pattern such as Siamese, but some others too.

  8. Your article was very interesting indeed! I found a tiny kitten at my front door on Saturday night – umbilical cord attached, eyes closed, 85 grams in weight. I have been feeding her every 2 hours ever since and I am exhausted but it is nice to know that by taking care of her (and yes, even doing the bottom rubbing etc), we are bonding. I feel desperately sorry for her being on her own :(

    She is increasing in weight, and is taking to feeding really well. I just feel bad when I pick her up to feed or toilet her, because she cries so loudly. It must be so confusing for her.

    I came here to see when kittens open their eyes. I am hoping that once hers are open, she will be less frightened.

    1. Continued luck on raising your new kitten, big job! God bless you for taking her in, she found you for a reason!

  9. Pingback: When Do Kittens’ Eyes Change Color? – My Blog

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