Growth is a phenomenon which can be assessed quantitatively by measuring the kitten’s weight gain. As for development, it is a qualitative phenomenon which corresponds to the transformation of an embryonic egg into an adult cat with the ability to breed. These phenomena involve intrinsic factors of breed, gender and parental genotype, and extrinsic factors linked to the kitten’s environment, which influence its growth and development.
These are factors of a genetic nature. One may mention:
- The breed: the newborns of large-sized breeds such as the Maine Coon are heavier than those of other breeds.
- The gender: sexual dimorphism, almost nonexistent at birth, increases with age. The males become heavier than the females between 6 and 12 months of age. Their growth potential is therefore higher, but it takes place a few weeks later.
- The mother’s weight: the heavier and larger-sized the mother is, with a better body condition, the better she’ll be a wet nurse and the higher the kittens’ growth rate will be.
- Individual genetic factors: the mix of maternal genotypes and paternal genotypes results in the formation of a unique individual presenting variations in his bone and muscle development and in his growth rate, as compared with his litter siblings.
- Hormonal factors: after birth, growth is driven by a number of hormones synthesized by the kitten.
- Quality of the environment: like the other environmental factors, hygiene and calm largely condition growth. Poor hygiene weakens the mother and her kittens. Stress affects sucking and disturbs their hormonal balance.
- The litter size: a large litter, beyond 5 kittens, means as many kittens to be fed with the same quantity of milk.
- The mother’s diet during and after gestation: female cats must be at their ideal weight before breeding. Poorly fed female cats run the risk of giving birth to underweight kittens or of not being able to feed. From the start of gestation, the female cat must be fed a food with a high fat content and, consequently, with a high energy content. A Health Nutrition kitten food does meet these nutritional requirements thanks to its concentration in essential elements: high energy content, quantitatively and qualitatively high protein intake, reinforcement of mineral (calcium) and vitamin intakes. This food will also accompany the suckling period during which the nutritional requirements increase considerably. If need be, for kittens, a replacement formula milk may complement or even replace the female cat’s milk if this is necessary until weaning.