Your Kitten: What to Expect at 8 to 12 Weeks

IN THIS ARTICLE

Kitten
Thinkstock

Hello, world! Your furry feline friend is ready to explore. His adventurous nature can be a lot of fun — and it can also get him into trouble. He has some pretty intense kitty boot camp and socialization lessons to learn from his mother and siblings.

Physical and Mental Development

Your kitten sleeps a lot — about 20 hours a day. The other four hours he will go nonstop. He’s ready for human interaction, but keep it positive. Your furry bundle is forming his first impressions about people, and your interactions now will affect his opinions of people for the rest of his life.

We have all heard of or encountered the cat who won’t let anyone near, shunning the company of people. This often happens when a cat isn’t properly socialized. Gently holding your kitten and exposing him to other people will help foster an easygoing personality that makes him well-liked by your friends and family. And he will be a happier cat with less fear of strangers.

Behavior Changes

Those first wobbly movements your kitten took will shift into high gear as he begins real kitten play, from jumping and pouncing to stalking and running in an imitation of his larger ancestors.

Your frisky friend is on the hunt for playmates, and he’ll soon pounce on anything that moves — his mother’s twitchy tail or his fuzzy siblings. You can get in on the play with a few kitten-proofed toys, like paper sacks with the handles removed or laser pointers to stimulate his frisky side. Watch his motor skills grow by leaps and bounds as he begins hunting mock prey.

Health and Nutrition

Your 8-week-old may begin eating dry or canned kitten food, but he has a tiny tummy, so he prefers small, frequent meals. Your veterinarian can recommend the best kitten food for your furry friend.

Make meal times a routine, and if you feed canned food, don’t let the leftovers linger longer than 20 minutes. If it’s a dry food, allow free feeding, but keep an eye on it. You want to balance your pet’s diet with exercise, too, so he keeps his feline figure slim and trim. Bad eating habits now will be difficult to break later. At about 4 months, you can transition him to four meals a day.

When your furry friend was a newborn, he was nursing and receiving immunity to disease from his mother’s milk. At about 6 to 8 weeks, he likely received the first in a series of kitten vaccinations and will be due for additional doses during this period. However, it is never too late to start, so if he has not been vaccinated yet, do not hesitate.

Your kitten will need to receive vaccinations for feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus and feline panleukopenia virus. And for kittens who wander the great outdoors (even just occasionally), your veterinarian may recommend protection against feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. All kittens should also be vaccinated against rabies. Your veterinarian will let you know the best schedule for your kitten's vaccines. She will also discuss de-worming and flea prevention.

Some veterinarians will recommend spay or neuter procedures as early as 8 weeks. Ask your veterinarian’s advice at your first appointment.

Training Tips

Cats come equipped with 18 perfectly shaped claws (some will sport a couple more), and your little kitten wants to explore his world by stretching his needle-sharp devices on all kinds of new surfaces. This is potentially bad news if your cat develops an affinity for your Persian rug.

So redirect him to appropriate places to practice what comes naturally — scratching and shredding. A good scratching post will save a lot of heartache and offer an appropriate outlet for him to satisfy these urges.

It’s also a good idea to practice nail trimming with your cat. If you get him used to this now, you’ll have a much easier time cutting his claws when he’s a strong adult with fully formed razor-sharp weapons at his disposal.

Start by picking the right time to practice — when he’s calm, especially after a nap, but not after playtime. Offer treats and use a nail trimmer designed for cats so you won’t accidentally split your kitten’s claws.

Before you actually trim, plan several practice sessions where you simply hold your cat and pet his feet. If he gets used to the handling, he will be less likely to fight. Hold your cat gently but firmly, and lightly press the joint above the claw until the nail protrudes. Look for the quick — it’s the pink area of the claw — and avoid clipping too close. If you cut the quick, don’t panic. Use styptic powder to stop the bleeding. Then be sure to follow up your trimming session with treats and play.

Now is also a good time to get him used to a cat carrier. Those visits to the veterinarian will be much safer and less chaotic if he is used to traveling this way. He will be more accepting of new situations now, so resist the urge to travel with him and his siblings on your lap or loose in the car.

Your kitten is just beginning to reveal his playful personality, so enjoy his first forays into cat adventures together. With the right care and lots of love, he will grow into the purr-fect feline companion for you and your family.

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!