During this short period a few weeks long, which goes from birth through weaning, the frail kitten weighing about one hundred grams, completely dependent upon his mother, is going to acquire most of his skills as an adult and determine his dietary preferences.
After covering, the female cat’s gestation lasts 63 to 66 days on average. A few days before giving birth, the female cat, anxious, looks for a quiet place, sheltered from light, where she’ll be able to make her nest. A plastic box the bottom of which has been covered up with clean pieces of fabric, placed in the bottom of a wardrobe, for instance, will be likely to be chosen, provided that she may lie down comfortably there with her little ones. The calm and reassuring presence of her owner is important at that time.
Sharp contractions of the uterus lead to the birth of each kitten, at intervals of about 30 to 60 minutes. The female tears open the amniotic sac and draws out the head of the newborn, warming him up and stimulating his breathing with intense licking. The litter may be composed of 1 to 10 kittens (extremes being exceptional) weighing 70 to 150 grams each on average, depending on the breed.
As soon as the umbilical cord has been cut, the kitten, cleaned up by his mother, then crawls to one of her teats, guided by the warmth and smell of the maternal belly. His first feeds do not give him milk yet, but colostrum. This liquid whose aspect and composition differ from that of milk contains the numerous antibodies which are essential to ensure his first immune defenses.
Sucking and sleeping at the contact of his mother and of his siblings are the kitten’s only activities during these very first days. Completely dependent upon his mother, his struggle for life has already begun as he tries to appropriate the best possible teat. Being blind and deaf, his most developed senses are his sense of smell (olfaction) and his sense of touch. His sense of hearing is functional as early as his 5th day of age. Between 7 and 15 days of age, he opens up his eyes. He may orient himself with his sense of hearing from his 14th day of age. Around his 17th day of age, he starts to walk on his four legs. At 1 month of age, he is able to orient himself by the sounds, lights and smells.
After the colostrum received during the first hours of his life, the kitten sucks maternal milk. In the event of a large litter, of the female cat’s lactation being insufficient or of his being separated from his mother, you shall have recourse to appropriate formula milk. The kitten’s ability to digest milk sugar, lactose, then decreases in favor of other digestive abilities. As maternal lactation diminishes and the first deciduous teeth appear, a period of dietary transition starts between the 3rd and the 4th week of age. It results in a break in his growth curve. The proposed diet, which is going to be gradually substituted for the lacteal diet, must then meet all the kitten’s nutritional requirements so as not to cause any energy deficit and not to make worse his immune fragility. A Health Nutrition* food for the first age kitten, appropriate for his deciduous teeth, allows to offer him ultra-reinforced digestive safety thanks to a selection of highly digestible protein. It also contributes to supporting his natural defenses. According to its consistency, it may be presented to him mixed with formula milk, then with water, and finally in its solid form. At 7 or 8 weeks of age, the kitten is weaned. After 4 months of age, a 2nd Stage Health Nutrition food formulated for his growth from 4 to 12 months of age may take over.