After the initial excitement of newborn kittens, owners anxiously await the next milestone: the moment when they finally open their eyes. But, when do kittens open their eyes after birth?
Kittens are born totally helpless. They are blind, deaf, and extremely vulnerable. While they’re useless little bundles of fluff as newborns, they won’t stay that way for long. Kittens grow quickly, and opening their eyes is one of the first steps they take towards independence.
Unfortunately, impatient kitten owners may have to wait a week or more for this momentous occasion and may worry that it isn’t happening quickly enough.
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
Newborn kittens are defenseless, only capable of wiggling around and crawling a few inches at a time. The reason for this initial lack of mobility is strategic: if newborn kittens were immediately able to see, hear, and run, the mother cat wouldn’t be able to protect them from predators and go out and get food.
While they only weigh a few ounces, newborn kittens generally open their eyes between seven and ten days after birth. The speed with which they open their eyes depends on something unexpected: the length of their fur.
Short-haired kittens almost always open their eyes long before their furrier counterparts. They typically open their eyes between 5 and 8 days of age, while kittens with longer fur tend to grope around blindly until 10 or 14 days old.
While this is an almost universal phenomenon, no scientific explanation has been successfully proposed.
Newborn kittens are possibly the cutest little creatures in the world! Look how tiny they are.
At first? Not much. Before they open, a kitten’s eyes are covered in a film, most likely to protect their developing eyes from bright lights.
Once their eyes open, you may notice they appear blue. While some kittens retain these crystal blue eyes into adulthood, most of the time they will change to a different color.
In fact, kitten’s eyes are still developing even after they’ve opened them. Because their retinas are only partially formed, kittens can’t see very much at first. Their vision is blurry, and their eyes are extremely sensitive to light.
Kittens won’t fully gain their vision until around 8 weeks of age, when it becomes hyper-focused and adept at detecting even the smallest movements in their surroundings. While kittens aren’t considered adults until they’re about a year old, their eyesight reaches its adult state much more quickly than the rest of their body.
While this little guy has blue eyes right now, it’s likely that they will turn as dark as coffee beans in a few weeks.
It’s not a good idea to get to fixated on timelines when it comes to young kittens. While there are certain guidelines that determine when kittens should reach each developmental milestone, the truth is, each kitten is different.
If your kittens haven’t opened their eyes after a week or so, there’s no need to panic. Even kittens in the same litter may reach various milestones at different times.
There are a few instances in which you should be concerned, though. If there is one kitten who is drastically lagging behind the others (by 5 or more days), you may want to bring them to the vet to make sure that the delay isn’t a sign of a serious health problem.
Your vet will likely clean up your kitten’s eyes a bit with mineral oil, sterile eye wash, or water and a cotton ball, to clear away some of the protective film that has been keeping the kitten’s eyes safe during their most vulnerable period of development.
You should also contact your vet if you notice reddening, swelling, or yellow or green discharge from your kitten’s eyes. All of these symptoms may be a sign of infection. And because kittens have such immature immune systems, they’re particularly susceptible to catching illnesses.
If you have one sick kitten, isolate them from the litter as much as possible (except when it’s time to eat) to try to avoid infecting their littermates. It’s also important to keep their nest and bedding clean.
Most kittens will open their eyes between seven to ten days after birth. However, some kittens may open them sooner while others won’t open them until a few days later. There is really no reason to be concerned unless one kitten is lagging behind the others or if you notice any signs of infection.
If your kitten needs a little help opening their eyes, you can try gently dabbing with a bit of eye wash specially formulated for veterinary use, such as Tomlyn Sterile Eye Wash which may help to clean away some of the gunk that has accumulated.
And remember, kittens with long hair tend to open their eyes after their short-haired littermates!
What did you think of this post? If you have had any kittens, tell us at what age they opened their eyes in the comments below. We’d also love to hear any theories as to why long-haired kittens open their eyes later than short-haired ones!
After moving to New York City from Rome, Italy, I began working in the nonprofit world. Despite my day job, my passion has always been animals, especially dogs and cats, and writing. What better way to combine the two? I’ve been a pet owner for 15 years, and my menagerie includes dogs, cats, hamsters and the occasional hermit crab. My beloved cat, Mozart, who I found as a newborn kitten, sparked my love for felines and is now nearly 15 years old. I am an enthusiastic volunteer at the local ASPCA, where I enjoy spending time with the cats and cleaning up after the dogs. I’ve been writing about pet ownership and care for the past five years.