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Table 3

Behavioral development in cats14

Period/age

Behavioral patterns and hallmarks

2 days Purring begins
10–14 days Eyes open
2 wk Age at which separation from mother leads to fearful/aggressive behavior to cats/humans
2–4 wk Closeness of other kittens has a calming effect
End of 3rd wk Kittens able to recognize their mother by sight and smell
3 wk Queen begins to teach predatory behavior
3 wk Kittens eliminate voluntarily
3–7 wk Age at which singleton kittens emerge from nest box
3–4 wk Normal social play behavior starts
4 wk Age at which kittens exposed to another species (e.g., dogs) show no fear at 12 wk
4 wk Age through which kittens cannot retract their claws
5 wk Age at which kittens will use scratching material if provided
2–5 wk Early period for social play. Early exposure to humans essential
5–6 wk Kittens independent in their ability to eliminate and find suitable substrates. Appropriate materials should be provided
~6 wk Adult-like response to visual/olfactory stimuli, including the silhouettes of adult cats/adult cat urine
5–7 wk Middle period for social play. Continued exposure to and play with humans/other species essential
~6 wk Gape/Flehmen response appears (open mouth sniff to volatilize compounds through the vomeronasal organ)
7 wk Gape/Flehmen response fully developed
Birth to 45 days During this period, if kittens are handled regularly, their approach to unfamiliar objects is rapid and more time is spent with objects and environment at 4–7 mo
5.5–9.5 wk Age at which if kittens are handled by multiple people less fear is shown later/more interest in people later. More complex interaction recommended
7 wk Kittens begin to cover their urine/feces if they are going to do so
7–10 wk Late period for social play. Last age at which first exposures to humans can still readily ease the extent to which cats are comfortable with humans. More time/day with humans than required earlier to get the same result
By 60 days Object play increases
4–12 wk No sex differences in social play behavior
6–12 wk Pounce, belly-up, and stand-up displays are 90% effective in obtaining play response from another kitten
By 12 wk Social play patterns become more associated with predatory behavior/social fighting
Birth to 12–14 wk Handling kittens for only 15 min/day produces kittens more solicitous of people
14 wk Postsocial play period
14 wk Social fighting may start
12–16 wk Sex differences appear in social play behavior
12–14 wk Social play behavior begins to decline