Skip to main content

What are the different stages of kitten behavior? You’ll want to be prepared

If you have a new kitten in your home, or if your cat has given birth to a litter of kittens, then you’ll get to see those kittens develop and grow up. While kittens undergo different growth stages, there are also different kitten behavior stages to be aware of. The more you understand about how kitten behavior changes throughout these stages, the better you’ll be able to spot any behavior that isn’t normal and that might indicate a health issue that needs veterinary care. Here are the behavior changes you should expect in the following kitten stages as your newest fur babies grow.

Neonatal period

According to VetFolio, the first of the five kitten growth stages after your kitten is born is the neonatal period, which occurs from birth to two weeks. During this period, kittens are blind and deaf, so they entirely depend on their mother for survival and feeding. The mother cat also helps kittens to regulate their temperature, and she stimulates them to get them to go to the bathroom after feeding.

Transitional period

The transitional period occurs at the end of the neonatal period, and during this time your kitten’s ears and eyes will open. There isn’t a clearly defined length for this transitional period, but it lasts up until the early stages of your kitten’s socialization period.

Kitten lying in a cat bed with its head on the edge
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Socialization period

The time when your kitten is two to seven weeks old is the socialization period. During this timeframe, your kitten needs to be exposed to new experiences and environmental surroundings so he’s able to develop. As your kitten becomes able to see and hear, he’ll be ready to play with other kittens. Through this play, he’ll learn bite and claw inhibition and develop important social skills. If your kitten isn’t exposed to other kittens during this period, he might not learn to restrain his biting and claw use.

Juvenile period

Your kitten’s juvenile period starts when he’s about two months old, and it lasts up to between four and ten months of age. Aspen Grove Vet reports that during this time, your kitten will eat solid food and will continue to learn important social skills. He’ll be using the litter box and may explore his environment by climbing.

When your cat is in this juvenile period, you can help satisfy his desire to explore by giving him vertical spaces to climb, like scratching posts or cat trees. It’s also important to continue your kitten’s social education during this time by interacting with him in gentle play and by giving him the chance to interact with other kittens or cats.

Orange and white kitten lying on a bed playing with a wand toy
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Adolescent period

When your cat reaches puberty, he’ll enter his adolescent period. Puberty can occur anywhere from between four to 10 months, reports VetFolio. This adolescent period lasts until your cat is socially mature, which happens between 36 and 48 months. This period is equivalent to your cat being a teenager.

According to Aspen Grove Vet, your cat will reduce the amount of social play he performs during this period. Your cat might challenge other cats to establish his status among them. If you allow him outdoors, he’ll start wandering and may go farther than he’s gone previously. It’s important to play with your cat and reward him for gentle, appropriate play during this stage. You might need to get a larger litter box if your cat has grown, and it’s a good idea to ensure your cat has a microchip and a collar with an ID tag, particularly if he goes outside.

This is also the stage when it becomes important to spay or neuter your cat. When your cat is spayed or neutered, he’s less likely to urinate in the house and mark territory. He’s also less likely to get into fights and roam far distances away from home.

Final thoughts on kitten development

In the span of a year, you’ll see your kitten go from being completely dependent on his mom to being an independent and happy cat. Keep an eye out for the different behavior stages that your kitten progresses through and watch for those behavior milestones. If you notice your kitten is falling behind in his behavior, give your vet a call just in case. Kittens grow rapidly, and while your kitten might seem to have tons and tons of energy while he’s younger, remember that it’s just one of his behavior stages. That energy and playfulness are key to your kitten’s social development, and as he ages, that energy will gradually decline. You can still keep your kitten fit and healthy by playing with him daily, though, and don’t forget that play is a great way to bond with your kitten, too.

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Good, better, best: Space heaters that are safe if you have pets
Safest options for homes with dogs or cats
A tabby cat stretched out on a faux fur rug near a space heater.

Having an additional heat source in your home can make all the difference between staying toasty warm during the winter and feeling like you live in a walk-in refrigerator, but not all space heaters are created equally. Whether you share your home with a canine companion, a cuddly kitten, or both, safety is paramount when picking the right space heater for your home. Choosing space heaters for pets requires some research, but we've got you covered.

Let's look closer at our top picks for the best pet-friendly space heaters on the market. 

Read more
Why do you often find your dog with their tongue out? Here’s what vets say about the ‘blep’
This behavior may be cute, but what does it really mean?
A German shepherd puppy sticks out their tongue

There's nothing cuter than a "blep" but what does it mean? Whether you first heard the term blep on the internet (it is meme-worthy, after all), or are learning of it for the first time, you're in for a treat. Bleps are positively adorable. The term started gaining online traction in the late 2010s, though it's no less popular today. The common canine behavior it's based on, however, is a habit as old as time: sticking out a tongue. Yep, a dog with its tongue out is enough to break the internet!

It's pretty dang cute, after all, but it's not always easy to figure out why a dog's tongue is sticking out. Don't worry though, pet parents — this is a great place to start. This is everything you need to know about bleps and what they mean.

Read more
Is getting a puppy for Christmas a good idea? You can’t return them like an ugly sweater
Here's what to know before you bring a puppy home this holiday
Woman snuggling Samoyed puppy in front of the Christmas tree

Of all the viral holiday videos to make their way around the internet, there’s nothing quite as heartwarming (and adorable) as seeing a new puppy jump out of a box on Christmas morning. It’s easy to see why many families feel inspired to get this surprise present for their loved ones and show up with a new furry friend during the holidays!
Getting a puppy for Christmas can seem like a special, even life-changing gift, but the cleaning and work accompanying them aren’t as cute. Many families -- especially kids -- aren’t prepared for the effort and expense of raising a dog, which unfortunately leads to pets being dropped off at shelters not long after the holidays.
If you’re considering gifting a puppy to your family this Christmas, make sure you do the research and consider the obligations that pet parenthood entails. Here’s what to know.

Why getting a puppy for Christmas isn’t always smart
Although raising a dog can be a rewarding and joyful experience, it also requires work, patience, and responsibility. Is your family ready to take this on? Are you willing to pick up the slack if they prove that they're not?
According to the shelter staff at the Marion County Humane Society in West Virginia, shelter admissions tend to increase every year at the end of January. Unfortunately, many of these pets are Christmas gifts that families weren’t ready to care for.
“People that got a new puppy or a new kitten, and they expect their young child to take care of them,” one shelter tech told WDTV. "Of course, if the kid doesn't do it, the parent doesn't want to take care of them, either.”
A lack of research is also a huge factor in unsuccessful pet adoptions. Not all dog breeds will do well in all homes, so consulting an expert or doing some reading is vital before taking action. And remember — a cute, tiny puppy can still grow into a huge, rambunctious dog (depending on their breed), so you’ll need to be prepared.
It’s also important to consider where you’re adopting your new pup from because not all breeders are reliable. As awful as it is to acknowledge, some people sell sick and injured dogs for a quick buck. Needless to say, a dog with health concerns can be as loving of a companion as any other — after treatment, of course — but you have a right to be informed about the condition of your new friend, including information about the puppy's parents.
Shelters can help you get to know your pup a bit before bringing him home, but rescued dogs will still need some extra time to adjust to their surroundings. The honeymoon phase may not be as happy-go-lucky as you expect, especially if there has been any past trauma for your pup. If this is the case, don't be upset if your new dog isn't matching the holly jolly spirit!

Read more