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When Do Kittens Start Walking? Feline Development Explained

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By Nicole Cosgrove

kitten playing outdoor

Few things are more exciting than watching a kitten grow and develop. But while you might be familiar with human development timelines, developing kittens can throw you for a loop.

Most kittens start walking around 3 weeks, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Also, just because they’ve started walking doesn’t mean they have the best coordination.

But if kittens only start walking around 3 weeks, how do they get around before that? When do they appear more coordinated? We answer both these questions before diving into more developmental milestones here.

Can Kittens Move Before 3 Weeks?

Little kinkalow kitten
Image Credit: UW.ART, Shutterstock

While a kitten might not start walking around until the 3-week mark, that doesn’t mean they’re completely immobile before then. Even as freshly born kittens, they’re extremely curious and want to start exploring their surroundings.

They use their paws to scoot across the floor, in much the same way that newborns crawl. However, while they might try to explore the world, their mother doesn’t let them get far. Momma cat will nudge them around, and if needed, she’ll pick the kitten up by the nape of their neck to put them back in place.

When Do Kittens Gain Coordination and Balance?

While kittens first find their feet and start trying to walk, right around the 3-week mark, they don’t have very good balance. You’ll notice that they stumble all over the place as they gain coordination.

While this is an adorable stage, it doesn’t last long. Most cats find their balance and coordination by the 4-week mark. They’ll still be a little clumsy until they reach full cathood, but it’s nothing compared to their initial unsteadiness as they learn to walk.

When Can You Start Holding Kittens?

Three kittens being picked up
Image Credit: olgaozik, Pixabay

Newborn kittens are adorable, and it’s only natural to want to snuggle up with them and hold them as much as possible. But just because they’re cute, that doesn’t mean you should handle them.

In fact, you should do your best not to handle them at all until they’re 2 weeks old. After that point, not only is handling fine, but it’s also actually recommended!

Kittens need plenty of human interaction up to their 8-week mark to get and stay super cuddly throughout their entire life. This is especially important after the 3-week mark, but you can definitely start as early as 2 weeks!

When Can Kittens See and Hear?

When kittens are born, they’re all blind and deaf. When they first open their eyes and when they start hearing what’s going on around them are huge developmental milestones.

Kittens will open their eyes for the first time between the 1-week and 2-week mark. If they haven’t opened their eyes by the time they’re 2 weeks old, that’s a cause for concern.

Meanwhile, kittens’ ears start to open up by the 17-day mark. These should be open by the 17-day mark, and if they aren’t, that’s a symptom of a deeper problem.

However, it might be hard to tell if your kitten can hear at this point. Kittens don’t usually start responding to sights and sounds till just after the 3-week mark, at 25 days. It’s at this point that they’ll begin to become aware of the world around them, even if they’ve already had all their senses for more than a week.

What Does a 3-Week-Old Kitten Look Like?

woman holding a homeless kitten outdoors
Image Credit: shymar27, Shutterstock

It’s at the 3-week mark that your kitten starts to develop features that make them look more like a cat. At first, they will have blue eyes and extremely small ears, but after 3 weeks, those small ears start to point up.

Your kitten will also start to develop their first teeth! Once their teeth begin to come in, you can introduce solid foods, starting with wet food first.

Between the development of their first teeth, their ability to respond to external noises and sights, and the fact that they’re just starting to wobble around, identifying a 3-week-old kitten is a relatively straightforward process!

What Do Kittens Do at 3 Weeks Old?

Kittens of all ages are curious, and a 3-week-old kitten is no different. They focus most of their energy on learning to walk, but the driving motivation behind wanting to walk is that they want to play.

Whether it’s with toys, littermates, humans, or their mother, a 3-week-old kitten is a bundle of energy and curiosity. They want to explore, play, and eat!

But while they want to do all this at the 3rd week, they won’t start to master it all and really start to explore and play until about the 4-week mark.

Final Thoughts

Having kittens around brings a certain amount of inexplicable joy, but they’re also a huge responsibility — for both momma cat and you. Having a thorough understanding of what to expect at each milestone is critical, and the 3-week point is a huge milestone.

Not only will they start walking at this point, but they’re also a little less fragile, and their chances of survival have skyrocketed dramatically. It’s the perfect time to start bonding and cuddling with them!

Featured Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

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