Do you know at what age a kitten can leave its mother? We are often asked at our veterinary clinic can kittens leave mom at 7 weeks? When a breeder shows you a five week old kitten and says you can take the little fur ball home right after you make the payment, would you believe them? Well, first you shouldn’t as this isn’t really a good breeder in our opinion. Second, is a 5 week old kitten ready to leave its mother?
In this article you’ll learn can kittens leave mom at 7 weeks, why a kitten should be of a certain age before going to it’s forever home, and what they learn.
Table of Contents
- Can kittens leave your mother at 8 weeks old?
- Weaning a kitten must happen gradually
- How old should a kitten be to leave its mother?
- Playing is a social learning tool
Can kittens leave your mother at 8 weeks old?
Under normal conditions, a kitten can leave its mother at 12 weeks of age. A kitten should never leave its mother before it is 8 weeks old. Seems like a really long time, why?
There are three crucial aspects that happen during the early life of kittens:
- The end of nursing must be gradual. Typically, nursing should end between 8 to 10 weeks of age. Sometimes, nursing takes longer and will not end until after 12 weeks.
- The socialization period is between 2 to 8 weeks. This is the time when kittens learn the most from their mother and littermates. This is a critically important period for the social development of a kitten.
- Kittens play with their littermates actively until 12 to 14 weeks, when object play gradually replaces it.
Next, let’s apply some basic math to the overlapping ranges. As you can see when you consider all these aspects, 12 weeks is the best age to rehome a kitten. Now, let’s take a closer look at each.
Weaning a kitten must happen gradually
Nursing is not only about the nutrition from the food provided by a momma cat for newborn kittens. It’s a sense of safety, communication, and learning.
Typically a litter of wild, feral cat kittens get mother’s milk exclusively for up to four or five weeks of age. At this time, the mother cat starts to bring her prey home. She lets her newborn kittens play with the prey and get a taste for their future food sources.
This is an important part of what a mother cat gives to a weaning kitten. Not just the nutrition from her mothers milk, but the introduction to what they as a feral cat will need to hunt to survive. She will gradually wean the newborn kittens from her. They will receive more solid food and less mothers milk simultaneously. In most cases, nursing ends when the kitten is 8 to 10 weeks old, but on occasion, weaning may last for several months. One important fact to note is that at 12 weeks, the mothers milk contains no significant amount of nutrients to the kitten.
The transition from mothers milk to solid food is a gradual process. Not all breeders are aware of this and tend to either switch to solid cat food too rapidly or allow the milk intake to last too long, often through bottle feeding.
From this point of view, 10 weeks of age is the earliest safe age for young kittens to leave their mother. 10 weeks is the time when the kitten has stopped nursing. If the kitten is still nursing at 12 weeks, something is wrong with the breeder’s strategy.
How old should a kitten be to leave its mother?
he next important step of a kitten’s development is an early life experience.
You’ve probably heard that it is necessary to start a kitten’s training as early as possible because younger individuals learn quickly. But, did you know there’s also a period of extremely intensive learning, also called a socialization period? For kittens, it’s between 2 to 8 weeks of age.
During this period, kittens imprint the information they receive. Kittens learn about security, attitude toward humans, how to use the litter box, how to communicate with other cats, other pets, and humans. Kittens learn most of this by observing their mother.
Any stress that the kittens are exposed to during the socialization period, may leave its marks throughout the whole life of the adult cat. On that note, changing homes is extremely stressful for a kitten. As such, we recommended that kittens younger than 8 weeks should not be rehomed.
Playing is a social learning tool
And last, but not least, kittens benefit a lot from being near their littermates. How? Play!
“So what?” you are probably thinking. “I can play with my kitten too.” Sound about right?
It’s not as easy as that. Play between kittens undergoes several complex stages and it’s tough to substitute something for this part of their development.
What do kittens learn from playing with their littermates? Play helps to develop hunting skills and coordination. It is a valuable tool that promotes environment exploration, maturation of the nervous system, helps them bond with other cats, and teaches them that biting causes pain. The last point is important for cat owners since it teaches kitten not to bite.
We recommend littermates should not be separated until they are 12 weeks old. Of course, there is still a lot to learn after that age as well. This is why we say if you can, get two kittens from the same litter. There’s many advantages for them and you so if it is possible and reasonable.
As you can see, the last point is why it’s important to let your new kitten fully develop before removing them from their mother. We know, it’s tempting to bring a kitten home at an early age. They are incredibly cute after all. However, if you do wait (and good cat breeders will encourage you to wait) you will be pleased since your cat will grow up more confident and better behaved.
Now that you understand can kittens leave mom at 7 weeks is a definite no. You know why is because healthy kittens need their mothers milk for up to 12 weeks. Further, you see that momma cat and a kitten’s littermates teach valuable social lessons like how to play, how to hunt, what is wild prey, and that biting hurts. The last behavior problem is tough to correct in an adult cat. Using this knowledge when selecting your new four legged fur baby will go a long way towards a happy life for you and your cat. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.
This article is a part of a series about cat care
Up next: Getting an adult cat instead of a kitten
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