Your Top Kitten Questions Answered

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Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

17 April 2019

Questions about catsWhy are kittens born blind and deaf?
Kittens are given birth to when all their senses are not yet fully developed and they are still immature and dependent on their mother for care (unlike, for instance, an antelope that needs to be able to flee along with the herd soon after birth). Because the kittens’ optical system (i.e. their sight) and auditory system (their hearing) still needs a few weeks to develop completely. Having their eyes and ears closed essentially means that no dirt can get into their eyes and no loud noises or changes in air pressure can hurt their ears.
You should never force a kitten’s eyes or ears open. If it’s been more than two weeks and you’re starting to get worried, contact your vet.
Why are kittens’ eyes blue, and later changes colour?
Kittens are born with their eyes not yet fully developed. The blue colour their eyes have at first, is actually a lack of colour and pigmentation. As the eyes mature, the melanocytes in the begin producing melanin; which gives the eyes their mature colour. The more melanin, the deeper or more brown the colour of the eyes.
Some breeds retain their blue eyes, though, for instance the Siamese, Balinese, Birman, Himalayan, Javanese, and Tonkinese. This is because of the low levels of melanin that are produced in the eye.
Why shouldn’t kittens drink cow’s milk?
After kittens have been weaned, they can’t digest milk properly — and they also lack the enzyme that can break down the sugar in cow’s milk. You should also steer clear of goat’s milk, almond milk, and soy milk.
If you’re looking after very young kittens that should still be drinking milk, you need to feed them a kitten milk replacement (also called kitten supplement formula, cat milk substitute, and kitty glop). These are commercially available, but you can also speak to your vet.
Why can’t kittens go outside?
The main reason kittens shouldn’t go outside at first is because it’s such a dangerous environment. They should definitely not go outside before they have received all their vaccinations to ensure that they don’t pick up any illnesses. They could also pick up fleas and worms, which are difficult to treat in kittens.
When you do let them go outside, make sure that the garden is kitten-safe — that is to say, not containing poisonous plants — and, preferably, have a cat enclosure where they can play and sleep in safety while still enjoying the outdoors. This will also keep them safe from any roaming cats looking for a fight!
Here is a handy guide for making your garden — and your cat enclosure’s plants kitten-safe.
Why can’t kittens wear flea collars?
It is, in fact, quite difficult to treat fleas on kittens as most of the medication and collars are poisonous to them when they are young. Sometimes kittens get fleas when they are so tiny that these critters even need to be removed one by one with a comb!
However, fleas can be deadly to kittens, so you need to have your vet treat your kitten ASAP once you find the fleas. Your vet will know what medication or medicated shampoo you would be able to use depending on the age of your kitten.
Why did my kitten’s tooth fall out?
Just like human babies, kittens have milk teeth, or non-permanent teeth, before they get their set of permanent teeth. Kittens start growing their milk teeth when they are about 2-weeks-old and will start losing them when they are about 3-months-old.
It’s time to see the vet if the permanent tooth emerges but the milk tooth doesn’t fall out. If it is your kitten’s permanent tooth that fell out, get them to the vet immediately as it could be a sign of dental disease and/or infection.
Here is a handy guide to your kitten’s teeth and how to look after them.
Why do kittens bite when you pet them?
There are various reasons why kittens will bite (or scratch) when you’re petting them. The most common reason is that they aren’t use to the human contact and may be scared. Don’t just go and pick up young kittens (especially feral ones!) that have not been socialised, as they will be scared.
It’s better to get the kittens — even if it’s your new, adopted kitten — used to you slowly. A treat or two, given with an open hand, will also not go amiss to get your kitten to come closer to you. They will also learn that petting is nothing to be afraid of and that you aren’t going to hurt them.
This is also very important: never hit a kitten or punish them if they’ve scratched you. Show them that they’ve hurt you, but hitting them will only make them scared of you and make them more aggressive next time. If a kitten was orphaned, feral, or not properly socialised, it will definitely not know exactly how to act around humans and you’ll have to be the one to teach them.
Here is a helpful guide to help you socialise your kitten.

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