Little kittens are absolutely adorable and while you may be tempted to give a home to one, it is very important that they stay with their mum until they are at least eight weeks of age. There are many reasons why keeping kittens with their mother will give them the best possible chance to grow up to be healthy and well-behaved cats.
The nutrients in a mother cat’s milk are essential for the growth and development of a healthy kitten, plus the antibodies in her milk are crucial to boost the kitten’s immune system and help prevent illness. Kittens separated from their mother too early are more likely to have health issues and are at greater risk of suffering from disease.
Mother cats will start weaning kittens off their milk around four to six weeks of age but for a little while longer kittens will occasionally suckle. Even if the kittens are not completely dependent on their mother for food anymore, there are still lots of things they need to learn.
From three to eight weeks of age a kitten is discovering the world around them, and this time is vital for their social development. Kittens will be shown a range of things by their mothers from grooming and toileting as well as how to respond to humans and other animals. Kittens are taught by example, and you can often see kittens trying to copy their mothers, stretching out or licking their paws to clean behind their ears. With their mother’s guidance kittens learn ways to take care of themselves but just as importantly they are also learning how to be a cat, how to meow and communicate through body language.
Mother cats and litter mates will also teach a kitten how to play, if the playing gets too rough then a nip from mum will let the kitten know that attacking is not acceptable and that biting, or scratching are bad manners.
If you are considering adopting a small kitten, make sure they are old enough to leave their mother’s care. For more information on cat care and looking after kittens visit www.catprotection.org.au or phone Cat Protection Society of NSW on 02 9519 7201