Few things in this world are as heart-meltingly adorable as the tiny, wobbly little bundles of fur that are baby kittens. Born in litters as small as three and as large as nine, the kittens of today quickly grow from tiny helpless creatures to the agile independent cats of tomorrow.
The term “weak as a kitten” is an apt description, as this little puffball is pretty helpless when he is born. His eyes are closed and his ears are curled down against his head, rendering him blind and deaf. Those tiny little claws on his tiny little feet couldn't inflict as much as a paper cut, and he can barely crawl to move around. Newborn kittens rely on their mother for everything, from food to warmth to bathroom duties.
Practically as soon as a kitten is born, he begins crying out for his first meal. You'll recognize this insistence for food as he gets older and stands outside your bedroom door at five o'clock in the morning meowing for his breakfast. Each kitten has his own favorite teat, where he nurses until he weans. To stimulate milk flow, the kitten kneads his paws against his mama, a behavior that a cat can carry on to adulthood. Mama's milk provides important antibodies to protect her babies from illness and the kittens will nurse every few hours for the first few weeks.
Leaving Mama's warm womb for a bright, cold new world is hard on a little kitten, and he needs help regulating his body temperature to keep warm enough. Mama comes to the rescue by licking him clean and snuggling all her babies close to her body to nurse and nap. You can help even more by offering a hot water bottle or heating pad wrapped in a towel to give them a little boost of warmth to make sure everyone's cozy and happy.
All that nursing helps keep a kitten happy and healthy, but it also works its way through his little digestive system. His inability to see or walk means the kitten can't exactly head to the litter box when nature calls. Mama to the rescue! Motherhood is not a glamorous job, and the mama cat would understand that. She must lick her baby's bottom to encourage him to go to the bathroom. Kittens cannot go on their own until they are 2 or 3 weeks old, when they can start learning to use a litter box -- luckily for Mama!