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You know that they’re cute, cuddly and the darlings of social media, but what do you really know about kittens? Well, test your knowledge as we uncover some hidden gems about kittens that might surprise you. Ok…stop the kitty video, and join us as we explore 10 kitten facts that you didn’t know.
10. They can purr from birth
Since kittens are born deaf and blind, and they can’t meow while nursing, their only means of communicating to their mother is through purring. A kitty mom welcomes her babies to the world and makes them feel safe with a deep, low purr. The vibrations guide the kittens to their mother’s warm body and milk. If they are happy, they will respond with sweet little purrs to let her know they are content.
This barely audible means of communication also helps keep the tiny furballs safe from predators. Unlike the piercing sound of a meow, it is very difficult to hear or detect.
It’s just another amazing way Mother Nature takes care of those who can’t take care of themselves.
9. They sleep an average of 18 hours a day
Kittens have a lot of growing to do, and because growth hormones are released during sleep, they need a lot of sleep. During its first week outside the womb, your kitten can sleep more than 20 hours a day, and may double its size. A newborn’s sleep is light and restless. While asleep, it contracts its face muscles, moves its ears and may even purr a little. This type of sleep, called rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, is typical of all mammals, some birds, and maybe even reptiles.
As your kitten gets older, it will become more active and sleep less. It will start to develop another phase of sleeping called slow or non-REM sleep during which it is completely relaxed. Your kitten will then begin to become a “polyphasic sleeper,” alternating between the two types of sleep in a cycle called a “sleep bout.”
Your furbaby will begin to sleep longer as time goes on, and after two months he or she will begin to sleep like an adult cat—an average of 18 hours a day, split into several 20-25 minute intervals of deep sleep followed by 5 minutes of light sleep, or in other words—cat napping.
8. Newborns can’t regulate their temperatures
Your kitten’s “beauty sleep” serves another essential purpose. Not only is it necessary for growth, it’s also necessary for warmth.
A brand-new kitty can’t regulate its body temperature until it is about four weeks old, so it keeps its core temperature up by snuggling close to mom and the rest of the litter.
Hypothermia is a major cause of neonatal death in kittens. Only feed your kitten if it is warm. A cold kitten can’t metabolize food or medicine, so feeding it when its temperature is low can be dangerous, even deadly. Holding your kitten close to your body may help to a degree, but to thrive, it will need to be exposed to an ambient temperature of 100 to 102 degrees. Even if your little one is responding to other heat sources, it is important to get to a vet as soon as possible.
7. Their bodies are a wide as the length of their whiskers
A kittens whiskers serve as its personal navigation system. Every hair has nerves at the base which they use to feel objects and areas around them, and to determine distances. Sometimes, it even uses them to detect shifts in air movement.
So, it’s only natural that these important appendages are super-sized. They’re a way for your kitten to check out its surroundings without having to move its whole body, sort of like having its own antennas.
6. They learn to walk at about three weeks old
One would think that a cat would come into the world ready to walk fences and land on all fours, but truth is, kittens don’t learn to walk until they’re about three weeks old.
That’s because they’re so tiny at birth, that their yet-to-be-developed leg muscles aren’t ready to support their body weight and being deaf and blind seals the deal on sticking close to mom and the rest of the fam.
At three weeks, they usually start to take a few wobbly steps, and by the fourth week they start to become more self-assured and adventurous as their balance improves.
5. They can be right-pawed or left-pawed
Left or right handedness isn’t exclusive to humans. Felines and several other species can born with a paw—or for primates—a hand preference.
Studies show that females tend to use their right paw more, while males are more likely to use the left. Animals that have been neutered usually show no paw preference, and some cats appear to be ambidextrous, using one particular hand to perform a certain task.
If you observe your kitten closely, you will likely notice that they use one paw more often than the other as they discover the world around them—including that pretty little antique vase your grandma gave you…
4. Kneading serves a purpose
Whether you call it “milk treading” or “making biscuits,” virtually all felines have the need to knead.
Females use kneading to let potential mates know they’re ready to get frisky, but all adult cats use kneading to stretch and mark their territory. As they tread on an object, scent glands in their paw pads are activated, and the item is marked as “theirs” even if it’s actually yours—be it a favorite chair, pillow, rug, or toy…heck, they’ll even knead you. They’ll gently press their paws into your lap to show their affection and contentment.
When a kitten kneads, it’s a matter of life or death. By pressing its tiny paws against its mother’s mammary glands, it helps her produce milk, thus increasing its chances for survival. In addition to being her kitten’s only source of nourishment, a mama cat’s milk also contains antibodies that help protect it against disease. Just proves what they say about milk is true…it does do a body good!
3. They’re all born with blue eyes
No matter what color their eyes will eventually end up being, all cat babies are born with “baby blues.”
Kittens lack eye pigmentation because they don’t produce melanin until they’re about six weeks old, so the “blue” that we think we see is actually an optical illusion for us, because our eyes see a color that really isn’t there, and for the kitten because the illusion actually involves their eyes. (Not only do I tell dad jokes, I also dabble in double entendre.)
So, in addition to the suspense of finding out whether your kitten is a boy or girl and left or right handed, you will also have to wait a little while to see what eye color your snuggle buddy ends up with…green, yellow, grey, some shade in between—maybe even true blue.
2. Newborns can’t pee or poop on their own
Since they potty-train themselves, it’s a little hard to fathom that a new kitty would need help with the most basic bodily functions—butt they do. Kittens less than four weeks old require manual stimulation to urinate or defecate.
Mama kitty stimulates her kitten’s intestinal tract and bladder by gently licking its tummy and uh…rear. You can assist an orphaned kitty by rubbing its abdomen, and using a baby wipe or tissue to gently stimulate the anal area by rubbing it a circular motion until it has the urge to push. Keep encouraging elimination until the kitten completely finishes the bowel movement. Hey, sometimes you gotta doo what you gotta doo.
1. Kittens in the same litter can have two or
Why the potential for so many “baby daddies,” you ask?
Well, let’s face it. When a female cat is in heat, she might mate with several different males. She also releases several eggs. Each egg could potentially be fertilized by a sperm from any of the males with whom she partnered. This is type of fertilization called superfecundation, is why kittens in the same litter can look very different from each other.
Cats aren’t the only animals who can be fertilized two times or more by multiple partners, in the same heat or estrous cycle. Several species have the physiology to superfecundate—including humans…somebody get Maury on speed dial!