Last updated: August 10, 2016
When blind, deaf and helpless kittens are born, it can be difficult to believe that this is the same species of mammal that can bring down a fully grown gazelle in the African Savannah. Your domestic cat can’t do that, of course, but watch out for your parrots and goldfish, because these tiny rat-like creatures have exactly the same predatory instincts. ‘But it can’t even walk!’ I hear you say. Just wait. This little guy will soon be walking, running, jumping, stalking and even killing. Read on!
First Minutes – Getting to the Milk!
When they’re newly born and Mommy breaks the amniotic sac the first thing the tiny kitten does is seek sustenance. This means finding milk, and in this it is aided by its sense of smell. It can’t walk or even crawl yet, so it wriggles on its tummy, gripping on to the surface underneath it with its claws, and latches on to the first nipple it finds. If it has problems finding its way Mommy will guide it by nuzzling and licking. The first milk is a thick rich substance called colostrum.
Day 5 – All Fours
At this stage the umbilical cord is starting to shrivel and fall off, and the eyes are beginning to open, although this is quite a slow process. (By the way, did you know that all kittens are born with blue eyes?) The kitten is just about able to crawl now, although walking is still a distant dream! How long does it take for this kitten to walk? Read on.
Day 12 – Getting to His Feet
By this age, the kitten’s pelvis, legs and shoulders are getting stronger. They are able to bear the weight of the kitten if it sits up but doesn’t try to actually go anywhere. The kitten can just about stand up but can only remain upright for a few seconds. The ears are perking up, though!
Day 17 – 20 Baby Steps
The kitten’s legs and sense of balance are now good enough for it to take its first tottering steps and solve the complex problem of shifting its weight from one foot to the other without toppling over. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of this – it ain’t easy when you’re only two weeks old.
Around three weeks old Mommy will start encouraging the kittens to explore outside the nest a bit. This coincides with the eruption of milk teeth and possible irritation from biting. (As a mammal Mommy myself I know how this feels – ow!) Now the kitten can lift a front leg while it’s sitting and scratch its ear with a back one. (Wish I could do that!) We’re now about to find out how long it takes for kittens to walk.
Learning the Basics
From around the twenty third day the kitten can carry his own weight while squatting to urinate and defecate. From now onwards a scratching post is recommended, since the little darling can now stretch and climb, so heaven help your furniture! He should now have an instinctive urge to urinate and defecate in his own latrine, so now’s the time for training him to use the litter tray, and it isn’t much good to him if he can’t get to it so he needs to be walking now.
The Second Month
Your beautiful little 3-5oz (80-140g) babe has now grown to a respectable 1lb (450g) and should be moving around quite well on all four paws. He is now at the stage where he can follow Mommy around a bit, and will be standing quite well and trying to lap from her water bowl. He’ll be playing with his litter mates and grooming himself by now. The range of movements of which he is capable has increased. He can not only walk, but run, jump, pounce, bounce and stumble. His limb-eye co-ordination is better, helped by such activities as playing with his siblings and imitating Mommy. He can start to chase and stalk small prey, and as walking and running are perfected, he can venture further and further from the nest. However, kittens between five and six weeks are learning a lot, but are still not very good at navigating a potentially hostile environment, so great care must still be taken since they are totally crazy!
Since cats do such a lot of climbing, scratching, walking and running, and use their claws to fight off other cats, extra care should be taken to look after their feet. Kitties have five toes at the front, four toes at the back, and a corresponding number of claws. An interesting thing about cats’ feet is that they are the only bits with sweat glands on them. They are also yet another site of scent glands! That’s why you’ll probably see your cats and kittens scratching around doorways marking their territory. A curious thing about their claws is that they never stop growing, which is why they need scratching something to scratch on. Mine uses a favorite tree in the garden and seems to do well on it. The claw has its own blood supply in a nerve in the middle of the claw called the quick. The outside is called the sheath, and is made of keratin like our nails.
If your kitten injures its paw, for example, doing mortal combat with a trespasser or simply not looking where it’s going and stepping on a thorn, bit of glass or other sharp object, it’s usually best to let your vet remove it. If you absolutely have to do it yourself then use pointed tweezers and don’t forget to disinfect, preferably with something like hydrogen peroxide. After cleaning it’s very easy for infection to set in – and septicemia is not a nice way to go!
If your kitty’s holding his paw off the ground and trying not to walk on it, pay attention. This is his one obvious way of telling you he’s in pain. The pads of the foot may also be swollen, hot, and have a discharge. If he’s also going off his food, that’s another telltale sign. Please bear in mind that you or anyone else who’s dealing with your injured kitty may be scratched or bitten, even if yours is usually a placid animal, so take care.
So how long does it take for kittens to walk? About a month, usually, and that’s when the mayhem starts. But you gotta love ‘em – they’re so beautiful!