Newborn kittens come into the world blind and deaf. To help them start breathing, their mother has to lick them right after they're born. At that point, they can't do much more than drink and sleep. After each meal, the mother licks the kitten's belly to stimulate digestion. A newborn kitten weighs 2.5 to 3.5 oz, and gains 0.5 oz daily. Around the tenth day, the kitten's eyes open and it starts to use its other senses as well.
The first quarter
From the middle of the third week on, kittens cautiously start to explore their environment. During the following weeks they get to know the litter box, and start copying how their mother paws at the litter.
Now the kittens start to play with each other. This helps them learn how to coordinate their movements for attacking, defending, escaping and chasing. They also learn calls and signals to warn each other in case of danger.
Within five weeks, all of the kitten's senses are fully developed. From six weeks on, they can clean themselves. Now it's time to wean them gradually from their mother's milk so they can be separated from her between 10 and 12 weeks and taken to a new home. They need a special diet formulated to meet the requirements of young cats.
The adult cat
Between four to six months, cats lose their baby teeth and their permanent ones grow in. All the abilities of an adult cat - such as stalking and hunting -- are now fully developed. A female cat will go into heat for the first time between 7 and 12 months, and a male cat will be sexually mature between 9 and 12 months of age.
As soon as a tom-cat is sexually mature, he will start spraying his surroundings. Neutering a tom-cat can reduce or eliminate this behavior. If you don't want your female cat to have kittens, you should have her spayed. There are minor operations from which your cat will recover quickly.
The older cat
From a biological point of view, an eight-year-old cat is already a senior. The decrease in her activity level over the coming years may not be very noticeable, though. Lots of cats older than 10 will still love to race around like kittens and play at the drop of a hat.
The first recognizable signs of old age are longer resting and sleeping periods, an increased stiffness of joints, and sometimes a deterioration of sight and hearing. This is when you need to make your cat's life more comfortable. For example, it will be easier for your cat to reach her favorite place on the window sill if you put a chair under the window so she can jump up in two stages.
Older cats need more warmth. Be sure to provide your older cat with a warm place to snuggle. In addition, the metabolism of an older cat will change, so she may need a special diet for her age group.