6 week old kittens are adorable – it’s official! They are very active and energetic one moment, chewing, chasing and climbing, and fast asleep in a heap the next. But if you’re the pet parent of a litter of these little bundles, you know there’s more to caring for young kittens than admiring their cuteness! 6 weeks is a key age for kittens, as many big life events happen around this stage, like transitioning to food from mom’s milk and learning to use the litter box. Today we’ll share what to expect from this stage of development and how to best care for a litter of 6 week old kittens. They still have a way to go until they are ready to leave their mother at 8 weeks old, and it’s a fast and fascinating journey!
- How big are 6 week old kittens?
- Weaning your kitten at 6 weeks
- Diet, food and nutrition
- 6 week old kitten behavior
- Socializing your kittens
- 6 week old kitten health and veterinary care
We’ll tell you what you need to know about caring for kittens at this early stage of development, since it’s common for kitten owners to have questions about things like nutrition, behavior and socialization, and veterinary care. We’ll cover the basics in this article, starting with an overview of kitten development.
6 Week Old Kittens Size and Development
How big is a 6 week old kitten? A kitten at this age is usually in the 22–24-ounce weight range. That’s a little over a pound. At this stage of development, kittens have lost most of that newborn look. Their eyes are open, their ears are upright, and some of their teeth are coming in. Eye color is generally still blue at 6 weeks, but it will begin to change to the adult color soon.
6 week old kittens are very mobile and active, eager to play and explore the world but not totally ready to leave mom’s side for good. Speaking of mom…let’s look at when and how young kittens transition from milk to solid food.
Weaning a 6 Week Old Kitten
Up to about 3 weeks of age, a kitten will rely exclusively on mother’s milk for its nutritional needs. Orphaned kittens will require bottle feeding with a milk substitute kitten formula. Around the 3–5-week age range, milk can be supplemented with some commercial kitten food or finely chopped cooked meat, like chicken.
The 6–8-week age range is when the weaning process can be accelerated. Solid food should be increased and access to mom’s milk should be decreased. A 6 week old kitten may still want to return to mom for comfort and a little bit of nursing, which is fine, but by 8 weeks, it should be fully weaned.
6 Week Old Kittens Nutrition and Feeding
Good nutrition is important for all cats of course, but for growing kittens, it’s essential for healthy body and brain development, including a strong immune system. Veterinary nutrition experts note that kittens need a high-protein diet, especially during the 6 week weaning age range. Kittens also need essential fatty acids for energy, growth, and development.
The other important component in a 6 week old kitten’s diet is calcium, which helps bones and teeth grow strong. A commercial food specially formulated for kittens will contain the right balance of these essential nutrients. Many owners like to start their younger kittens on wet food and add kibble as they get a little older.
Free Feeding vs Limiting Kitten Food?
Ideally, young kittens should be fed small amounts of food about 4 times per day. If you must leave food out, make sure that your kitten maintains a healthy body weight. At the 6 week age, a kitten should only be eating kitten food. The transition to adult food should happen when your kitten is older and fully grown.
Hold off on feeding your kitten treats until around the 8-week age. You should also avoid giving your kitten any kind of milk besides mother’s milk or formula, as this can cause diarrhea.
6 Week Old Kittens Behavior
Besides transitioning to solid food, 6 week old kittens will also experience other key developmental milestones. At this age kittens should be able to clean themselves. They also engage in grooming with their siblings, an important bond building activity.
What about the litter box? Using a litter box comes naturally to cats, even very young ones. Before 3 weeks, a kitten needs to be stimulated with a little grooming from mom to go to the bathroom. After 3 weeks, kittens are ready to use the litter box on their own. Make sure to get a small one with low sides to start. An unscented, non-clumping litter is safest for young kittens.
Socializing 6 Week Old Kittens
6 week old kittens are playful, curious, and active. They are already comfortable with mom and siblings, so this is the time to socialize them with people and other pets. Good socialization in kittenhood will result in a friendly, well-behaved adult cat. Socialization involves not just gentle handling and play, but also introducing them to new objects, sounds, and experiences.
Be sure to get a scratching post and encourage your kitten to use it on a regular basis. The 6 week age is a great time for lots of interactive play sessions with a variety of toys. And don’t forget to introduce your kitten to people outside the immediate household.
Caring for a 6 Week Old Kitten
6 weeks is a good age to begin getting your kitten used to healthy routines like tooth brushing, nail trimming, and brushing or combing (especially if you have a long-haired cat). As your kitten leaves the nursery area and begins exploring the house, you’ll want to make sure that your home is safe for a curious kitten.
Keep hazardous items like cleaning supplies, medications, and pesticides out of reach. Remove any plants that might be toxic to cats. Make sure all window screens are secure.
Kittens need to start getting their core vaccinations at around 6-8 weeks of age. Other veterinary treatments may be necessary, depending on the individual kitten.
Kittens that were rescued from the outdoors or group environments like animal shelters often need to be treated for parasites or other infections. It’s not uncommon for these kittens to have intestinal worms, ear mites, fleas, or upper respiratory infections.
Regular visits to the vet in its first few months will ensure that your kitten gets a healthy start in life!
Kitten Growth and Development
- Newborn kittens
- 8 week old kittens
- 9 week old kittens
- 12 week old kittens
- 4 month old kittens
- 5 month old kittens
- 6 month old kittens
References and Further Reading
- Edney, A. ASPCA Complete Cat Care Manual. DK Publishing, 1992.
- Williams and Downing. Feeding Growing Kittens. VCA Animal Hospitals.
- Robertson, A. Feeding Your Kitten: A Guide for the First 12 Months. Vet Voice, 2020.
- Ginn, S. How Often Should I Take My Cat to the Veterinarian? Animal Medical Center of Chicago, 2020.