Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

At what age do kittens start purring and why do they do it?

Find out more about purring and your kitten's development

Research shows that a cat’s purr is equally voluntary and instinctive. If you share your home with a frisky feline, you already know their vocalizations can run the gamut from inquisitive chirps to demanding yowls. But every cat parent’s favorite sound is undoubtedly the purr.

Cats purr not only to communicate their happiness, but also as a form of self-soothing. That’s why injured and sick cats often purr. They aren’t happy; they’re trying to make themselves feel better. Have you ever wondered, “When do kittens start purring?” We’ll share everything you need to know about kittens purring and their development, from when they open their eyes to when you should have a kitten spayed or neutered. 

A litter of four black and white kittens lying on a blanket
Image used with permission by copyright holder

At what age do kittens start purring?

While some kittens may purr almost immediately after birth in response to their mother’s vocalizations, they most often communicate using tiny squeaks and mewls when they’re hungry. Kittens normally begin to purr when they reach around 3 weeks of age. They do so as a way to communicate with Mama Cat and their littermates, creating a sense of calm and happiness during snuggle and feeding time. Kittens make this adorable sound for the same reasons adult cats do — to self-soothe and to communicate with their mother, littermates, and humans. 

How kittens develop week by week

Kittens go through their stages of development rapidly in their first weeks of life. If you’re caring for newborn kittens, you’ll want to know how they progress through these kittenhood stages. Here are a few milestones you can expect your new fur babies to hit – and when they should appear. 

1-3 weeks old

At this stage, your tiny bundles of adorableness should develop sight and hearing. Kittens are born blind and deaf, and while their eyes open when they’re around 2 weeks old, they still can’t see very well. Their pupils are still developing the ability to dilate and contract in response to light, so you’ll want to keep your newborn kittens out of bright light to protect their eyes. It’s also possible that you’ll be able to tell the sex of your kittens at this age, but not even veterinarians can determine sex with 100% certainty when kittens are this small. 

Two tabby kittens hiding beneath a stool.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

3-5 weeks old

One of the most adorable stages of kitten development occurs during this stage. Kittens take their first steps when they’re around 3 weeks old. (Is there anything cuter than a kitten’s awkward, waddling gait? Probably not.) By the fourth and fifth weeks, your kittens will grow more confident and curious, so this is the time to kitten-proof your home. Your kittens should also have a strong enough sense of balance to use the bathroom without needing their mother’s help anymore. According to Petful, you can begin training your kitten to use the litter box when they’re between 4 and 5 weeks old. 

6-8 weeks old

Whether you intend to keep the entire litter or are allowing friends to adopt a few of the kittens, this is the perfect time to begin socializing the litter. You can begin to socialize kittens as early as 2 weeks old, but contact should be limited to responsible adults. Young kittens are delicate, and enthusiastic children may harm them accidentally. You’ll want to take your kittens to the vet for a checkup and their first set of vaccinations when they’re around 8 weeks old. This is also the perfect time to teach your kittens not to bite. They’ll have all their deciduous teeth — also known as baby teeth — by 8 weeks old, and they’re razor-sharp. 

9-12 weeks old

Kittens can begin to transition to solid food as early as 5 weeks old, but they should be eating a diet of primarily solid food by 9-12 weeks of age. According to most veterinarians, you should also feed Mama Cat the same calorie-dense kitten food her little ones are eating, as this helps replenish nutrients lost during nursing.  

3-6 months old

If you’re planning to give the kittens up for adoption, wait until the 12-week mark to ensure they’ve had their vaccinations. It’s also best to wait until they reach 3 to 6 months of age before allowing anyone to adopt them. This gives kittens time to learn to socialize with their littermates, making them more likely to accept other cats in their new household. Better yet, make sure kittens are adopted in pairs. Kittens are playful, sociable creatures, and they tend to be happier with a playmate. According to Today’s Veterinary Practice, the optimal time to spay and neuter your cats is when they reach 4 to 5 months of age. 

Three kittens lying side by side on the floor
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In closing

By the time your kitten reaches 1 year of age, they’re technically no longer a kitten. That being said, you’ll probably always consider them to be your kitten. Cats can make over 60 types of vocalizations, and especially clever kittens will begin training you to play with them and feed them early on. 

Editors' Recommendations

Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
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
Why is my dog whining? 6 common reasons and what you can do to stop it
If you wonder "why is my dog whining?" — check out the possible causes
Sad dog resting his head near a shoe

Let’s be honest: No matter how much we love our fur babies, living with a dog that's a whiner can drive you crazy. Whining can be irritating, heartbreaking, and even anxiety-inducing for owners. Whether it's distracting you from work, making you sad to leave the house, or making you worry that something is wrong with your dog, figuring out why your dog is whining and what you can do about it is important.

No matter how disruptive it is, always remember that whining is a form of communication for our dogs, say training experts at the ASPCA. The key is to properly interpret the noise and figure out how to work with her on it; to try to answer the question, "Why is my dog whining?"

Read more
Why do dogs sleep under the covers? It all comes down to nature
Does your dog enjoy burrowing under the blankets? This could be why
A woman wearing a sleep mask over her eyes snuggles a Pug with his tongue out in bed

If you've ever tossed and turned all night, you know it's frustrating. Finally, finding the perfect sleeping position feels oh-so-good. Both humans and their furry friends can appreciate the bliss of discovering a comfy spot beneath the blankets, though it might not seem as normal for your pup’s sleeping routine. So, why do dogs sleep under the covers?
The reasons behind this adorable behavior may not surprise you, and they’re just as cute as you’d expect. Be careful while you read, though, or you may convince yourself to share your bed more often. Your dog will certainly get behind the idea of sharing a bed, but you might have to get used to having a lot less space while you sleep.

Why do dogs sleep under the covers? Here's what experts say
You like to believe that your fur baby gets under the blankets just to get closer to you … and you may be partially right. Because dogs are pack animals, feeling the touch of a family member while sleeping can be the ultimate form of comfort and warmth. Your presence lets them know they’re protected and part of the pack, even if they only snuggle up when they feel anxious. This may feel especially comforting for pups who grew up with their siblings — just think about puppy piles.
Snuggling under the covers has instinctual roots, too. Not long ago, dogs and wolves were born, raised, and sheltered in dens or caves, so it’s easy to see why your pup might feel cozy in a small space of their own.
Canine behaviorist Clarissa Fallis explains that certain breeds might be even more likely to burrow. Small hunting breeds like dachshunds and beagles "tend to mimic their innate behavior of flushing out small animals from tunnels by burrowing." She goes on to explain, "Larger burrowers, like huskies, live in extreme temperatures that make the instinct to burrow under the snow crucial for staying warm."
Whether your fur baby is actually cold, anxious, or just used to a routine of denning behavior, burrowing is generally not a cause for concern. Of course, there are a few safety precautions you can take to make it the best experience possible.

Read more