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Kitten behaviour explained

kitten hiding under a book advice
© Pixabay

Are you thinking of getting a new kitten? You need to read this first, to have a better understanding of kitten behaviour and how you need to respond to a young cat

By Dawn Parrish

Updated on the 19/12/2019, 15:28

Most cats are certainly brilliant at letting their owners know what they need, either with their bodies or vocally. It won’t take too long before you fully understand just what your kitten is trying to communicate.

Baby kittens learn many things from their mother, as they grow. Also, by playing and interacting with their siblings, they learn hunting and social skills. To help you to better understand about a young feline and her kitten behaviour, read on:

Tiny kittens learn from their mothers

A newborn kitten suckles from its mother until it is weaned at around 6-7 weeks old. Kittens that are weaned too early, or are orphan kittens, can exhibit misplaced suckling behaviour as older cats. They might begin to suckle on your arm, pillows or even blankets.

The ideal time for a new kitten to leave its mother is at around 12 weeks old. When a kitten is separated too early, she probably won’t have picked up many social skills. For this reason, they tend not to have learned how to play and thus discovered the status ranking within the litter.

A developing kitten

When a kitten is frequently handled during the first 7 weeks of her life, she will be more adept and responsive. Likewise, she will be a better learner, explore more and be lots more playful. During the first 2 years of a cat’s life, many felines still act and behave as kittens do.

Various stages of kitten development and behaviour

kitten behaviour explained
 Young kitten's eyes will be open by 2 weeks old ©Pixabay

Neonatal period – 0 to 2 weeks

During this initial period, a kitten will learn how to move towards a sound. Their eyes will begin to open, with them being fully open by 2 weeks old. Competition for territory and rank within the litter commences. If a kitten is removed from its mother and siblings during this early stage, aggressive tendencies and poor social skills result.

Socialisation period – 2 to 7 weeks

By week 3, the tiny kitten can see her mother and has a well-developed sense of smell. After the fourth week, her sense of hearing is more matured. Teeth begin to develop and she interacts with her siblings. Week 5 sees her walking, running and even stalking and pouncing. She will be able to groom herself and the other kittens too. During week 6 and 7, her social interaction skills will improve. Likewise, her sleeping routine will settle down.

Kitten behaviour explained
 Young kitten's sense of smell develops as they get older ©Pixabay

Active play period – 7 to 14 weeks

Through this intense development period, the kitten will learn more social skills from her mother. These feline routines include licking, ambushing her siblings, and hugging. Through interactive play, she will enjoy holding and tossing objects, pawing and mouthing. She will be able to chase her tail, leap and pounce too.

Ranking period – 3 to 6 months

Certainly, the kitten will now be influenced by her playmates, be it her siblings or other pets in the house. You will notice how she “ranks” other animals and humans too, by using either submission or dominance stances.

Adolescence – 6 to 18 months

The kitten behaviour changes as the cat gets older and she will show her authority in the household. She will often challenge her human owner as she explores her dominance and ranking. At this adolescent period, sexual behaviour awakens. Certainly, neutering or spaying your kitten at a young age has health and behaviour benefits.

kitten behaviour explained
Young kittens learn social skills and ranking from their siblings ©Pixabay

Other naughty and aggressive kitten behaviour

First of all, none of our kittens is a cute little ball of fluff all of the time. We often find that they have chewed something, peed on the floor or scratched the furniture. Here are some other mischievous behaviours that you can expect from your kitty:

# Scratching and biting – playful aggression is quite normal in kitten behaviour. As they learn their ranking in the litter they will often bite at their siblings with sharp teeth.

# Clawing at and scratching furniture – a normal kitten behaviour used in the first place to make territory. It’s important to keep your cat’s claws trimmed to prevent damaging the furniture and upholstery.

# Chewing houseplants – most cats really do enjoy chewing and eating grasses and plants. It’s good to be aware though, of those varieties that are actually poisonous to felines.

# House soiling – this isn’t the kitten being naughty. Cats poop and spray urine in the house as a way of marking their own territory.

There is a huge reward when watching your tiny baby kitten growing into a playful and loving pet companion. As a responsible owner, it helps to understand the various steps of not only physical development but also how the kitten’s behaviour develops too. Unfortunately, many cats who display naughty behaviour are often at risk of being abandoned by their owners to cat shelters.

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