The phases of the kitten’s development
The phases of the kitten’s development about which we’re talking today are the phase of socialization and the puberty ; the prenatal phase and the neonatal phase are presented to you in a previous article.
The phase of socialization
This period, which goes from the 2-3rd week to the 7-9th week, is a key period : it conditions all the life to come of the kitten.
The kitten learns first that he’s a cat : it’s the imprinting process. He recognizes his congeners by being next them. Even an orphan kitten can imprint as far as it has the opportunity to spend time with other grown-up cats. Contrary to the habituation or to the socialization with other species, the imprinting process is a long-lasting learning which does not require to be maintained throughout the cat’s life. The kitten also learns to communicate and to interact by following the life’s rules of cats.
Towards 21 days, his sense of smell allows him to locate the place for elimination, which is taken away from the nest. The kitten is physically capable of relieve himself by himself, and he observes how does her mother : he becomes clean.
Depending on the environment in which he lives, the kitten learns that there are “friendly species” with which he can communicate and interact : humans, dogs, …
Now that he can see, hear, and move, he can explore his environment. He learns to adapt himself to diverse situations and to react to diverse hearing, visual, olfactive, or tactile stimulations.
His new motive skills allow him to play from the 2nd week. The game allows the kitten to learn self-controls : control of his strength and his movements, and capacity to play without biting and without claws. Milk teeth appear at about 4 weeks : the cat strongly reprimands his kitten if he plays to nibble her tail or her ears, or if he hurts her by sucking. When kittens play together, the bites or the scratches provoke cries of pain and sometimes the stopping of the game. The mother can also intervene to calm all those little guys so that kittens learn to control themselves.
From the end of the phase of socialization to the beginning of the puberty, the kitten continues his learnings.
The phase of puberty
As for humans, there are hormonal modifications that pull physical and physiological modifications. The genital glands become functional, the kitten develops still physically and gains weight, the behavior differs between males and females, urinary marking and the first estrus appears at this moment. Depending on the cat breed and the environment in which he evolves, the puberty arises between 4 and 18 months. Thus it’s better to be early enough all eyes !
Thus a large number of obstacles appears on the way of the harmonious development of an orphan kitten : we dedicate an unlimited admiration for all the humans who accompany orphan kittens on this long way, and help them to become cats feeling good about their life.
What’s next ?
Our kitten is grown-up soon ; he is going to keep learning (or to forget some not maintained learnings) throughout his life.
Philippe Bocion «Le développement du comportement du chat» (training)
Valérie Dramard «Le comportement du chat» (book)
Thanks to our friend Alexandra for the photo of the kittens born at night from 30 to 31 March 2017.