How Long Till Kittens Open their Eyes

picture of a kitten

If you have ever witnessed the miracle of birth in the animal world, you already understand that you wave witnessed one of the most incredible facets of life. Kittens are born as these adorable little sacks of fur and softness, almost too delicate to touch. It’s okay to follow those instincts, because their survival depends largely on their mother’s ability to nourish them and stimulate their internal systems. With their tiny paws and their cub like faces, their innocence is endearing, and humans can sit and watch newborn kittens for hours without distraction. It’s definitely an exciting time. You’re likely to be filled with questions. How can you be sure they are receiving enough milk when nursing? Is the room warm enough? Too warm? How long before they are able to climb out of their box? How long till kittens open their eyes? They’re all so adorable is it really too irrational to think about keeping them all?

When a kitten first emerges into the world, they are remarkably weak creatures. The most they can do is crawl a few inches at a time, starting their search of the world safely close to their mother’s side. This, of course, is by the design of nature. Had the mother cat needed to keep up with her entire littler before they were somewhat aware of their surroundings, she herself would never be able to get enough rest to recuperate from delivery or produce enough milk. Thus, her precious litter eeks about inch by inch for ten to fourteen days after delivery, relying solely on their mother for any true locomotion.

They are also born without hearing. Their deafness is another self protection designed by nature. Cats have very sensitive hearing. Kittens in their first few weeks of life need further development to protect their very sensitive hearing. Loud noises that hurt the ears of humans would be downright cruel on the ears of kittens. Thus, their deafness allows further development before they begin to achieve fuzzy hearing, which will be replaced by acute hearing around the age of 16 weeks.

Kittens have an amazing sense of smell. Their entire recognition of the world in the first few weeks of life is graded through their sense of smell. Their mother, familiar humans, and their siblings all carry a unique scent that kittens can identify almost immediately after birth. During those first few weeks, anyone with an unusual or unrecognized scent may find themselves actually hissed at by the tiny, barely mobile kittens. At only one week old, kittens are already developing their sense of self enough to offer what they can of self protection. Hissing allows them to at least alert their mother that they are around something unfamiliar. However, in reality it is more just practice, as the vigilance of the mother cat can be compared to the prowess of a full grown lion.

How long till kittens open their eyes actually depends on the length of their fur. The long haired cats will open their eyes on a much later schedule than a short haired cat. There is no scientific research to verify why this may be, but it appears to run true throughout every breed. Short haired kittens will often peep out at the world for the first time between 5 to 8 days after birth. Long haired kittens don’t see what they are groping at until somewhere around 10 to 14 days old. Mixed litters (those with both short haired and long haired kittens) will actually develop at different rates because of this unique difference.

Not too much changes for these little guys after their eye finally open. Their sight is dramatically under developed and it takes several weeks for them to grow into the eagle eye sight that cats are known for. As their sight is still developing, and their ears are gaining their hearing, kittens don’t take their first wobbly little steps out into the world until about 4 to 5 weeks old. But watch out. Around the 25 day mark is when they begin to adjust to their wobbly legs, escape from their box, toddle about and topple over, and begin to understand what the sound and sight really means to them.

Kittens seem to reach their milestones at an amazingly rapid rate. Once the eyes open, everything else seems to follow along in record time. Many kitten owners believe that how long till kittens open their eyes sets the standard for everything else, including how long until the kittens can be adopted. Most kittens can leave their mother as early as eight weeks, however it is much healthier for them if they stay until about twelve weeks. By twelve weeks, a litter of kittens can wreak havoc all throughout a house, climbing curtains, scratching couches, and even navigating their way up onto kitchen counters and tables. In three short months, these sweet little gems have grown from their tiny little balls of lion cub faced fur into monkey oriented creatures hanging from every possible structure in the house. And it all starts with the opening of the eyes.

Despite this, kittens who stay with their mother for the full twelve weeks are healthier, stronger, and are not nearly as emotionally effected by their departure. By twelve weeks old, most mother cats are now starting to ignore their kittens, leaving them to their own devices more often and preparing them for the world. In the wild, the kittens stay for about another 2 to 4 weeks before noticing for themselves that they are prepared to go out into the world.



12 Responses

  1. I thought this was very useful, I liked the way they explained everything out. I didn’t realize that their hearing is that underdeveloped, thought it was just their eyes. Really cool info in this article.

  2. This is our first litter of kittens from one of the 5 kittens we rescued from our house in Ohio. Our lessee just left all of their cats and kittens there. Our neighbors started feeding them and finding all of them homes and by the time we were notified that they’d moved my husband and I drove from Texas to Ohio to see the damage these people left. This article is fantastic. We’ve always rescued kittens or cats and always had them spayed or neutered so never have had kittens. Well one of the five was pregnant and a little over a week ago she gave birth to 4 beautiful kittens and cleaned up the mess…I had no idea this had happened until the next morning when I went into their bedroom and momma was much skinnier…surprise 3 calico’s and one black and white kittens were in the corner up under the bed…they are now in a kennel with a beach towel and the door off so momma can go in and out as she pleases. Thanks again…great article…

  3. sir i found three rusty spotted kittens in our home, their mother took two of them and abandoned one of them. not even his eyes opened, ive tried to fed him milk but its not taking a drop.please tell me what to do

  4. My 2/1/2 week old kitten has one eye open one is slightly open no sign of infection is this normal

  5. Very interesting information!
    I have a newborn kitten myself , but it’s been 14 days now and the eyes aren’t opened . Should I be worried?

  6. my cat gaev birth to long hair ragimuffin- unknown, mixes
    we didnt have enough money to spay the cat……………..she squashed one, and the other 2 survived so far

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