PRENATAL (BEFORE BIRTH)
The kitten nervous system develops significantly during late pregnancy. This is also the stage when the mother cat is putting on weight quickly and must meet the nutritional needs of her big babies, so in addition to the normal good diet we feed, we provide extra calories, fat, and protein during the last several weeks of pregnancy.
NEONATAL (0-2 WEEKS)
Synaptic creation and pruning begins shortly after birth. Kittens quickly develop the ability to learn, remember, plan, reason and problem solve! Until eyes open, their mom provides everything they need. Kittens cannot regulate their own body temperature, so one of our most important jobs is getting the environmental temperature just right. It is also very important that the kitten’s mother has an environment in which she feels safe to nurse. Our sweet Siberian moms give birth in an elevated, enclosed area in our office. We monitor her 24/7 during the first vulnerable days. No strangers are allowed into the room, and we focus on keeping mum stress-free so that she can do a great job with her litter. We clean every day, making sure that every surface is neat, dry, and insulating. Finally, we handle the kittens gently several times a day – weighing, checking on their reaction time, and getting them used to human voices and touch. Kittens at this age have an instinctive reaction to avoid touch, so we are extremely careful to not push them beyond what they can tolerate, and then place them safely back with their welcoming mother.
TRANSITION (2-3 WEEKS)
Between two and three weeks of age, the kittens change from little soft lumps to active, interesting individuals. By three weeks they can walk well and are beginning to play with each other, rolling around in slow-motion wrestling sessions and batting their moms’ tail. Our job at this stage is to begin exposing the kittens to careful, limited, positive stresses to maximize their brain development. This is the age that we begin to introduce toys, things to climb on, warm and cool temperatures, and the smells of food and water. Kittens begin to lick a bit of canned food at this age, and we switch their mom’s food to a special mixture that can nourish both mothers and kittens – knowing that the babies will begin to try her food soon.
The period from three to sixteen weeks is the most important developmental time in a kitten’s life. The experiences a kitten has in this period, both positive and negative, imprint on the brain and have a long-term effect. Our clients often ask us about Siberian kitten socialization – these weeks are the key time where socialization has the most impact. During that time, we expose them to many different sights, sounds and experiences, and we use their natural instincts to teach them desirable behavior.
Our kittens learn to:
- Interact with humans
- Meet other cats politely and fearlessly
- Play on their own and with friends
- Use the litter box without any mistakes
- Meet new people
- Overcome basic obstacles and solve problems
- Go in carriers without fear
- Come when called
FIRST WEEKS AT HOME
Our kittens go to their new homes when they are about thirteen weeks old, which means you have several weeks to continue to positively socialize them.
Here are some of the most important things that you want to be doing with your kitten during the remainder of the sensitive period:
- Interact with lots of people – children and adults
- Interact with other well-mannered, laid back dogs
- Practice car rides, lots of short trips with positive experiences at each end
- Have a positive experience with the vet – use treats!
- Take your kitten to your groomer for a tidy up and a bath (not a full clip!)