How Early Can You Hold a Kitten? Tips to Safely Handle Them


Cats are known to be exceptional at taking care of their young ones, and there’s little more exciting than having a cat give birth to a litter of kittens at home. If you have a cat that has recently given birth, the first thing that comes to mind after ensuring that the kittens and mom are okay is when you can hold them. In general, you should wait at least 2 weeks before holding a kitten, but there are cases where this may not be possible.

Keep reading to discover why you should wait to hold kittens, and what to do if you need to hold them earlier.

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The Birth and Early Life of a Kitten

Cats are usually pregnant for 63 days. You will see changes in your cat’s behavior and appearance in the first few weeks of her pregnancy. The things you will notice are:

  • Eating more
  • Resting more
  • Their stomach will start growing
  • Their milk glands begin to fill
  • Looking for a nesting place (dark places like attics, under the bed, etc.)

Your role as a responsible owner is to ensure your cat stays strong by giving her high-protein food and ensuring that your cat has a safe nesting place away from noise and other animals. When it comes to giving birth, you will first notice your cat’s nervous meowing and behaving like she’s trying to tell you something. In the first stage of giving birth, your cat will have a mixture of short contractions and relaxations. And as time goes on, you will start to see stronger and stronger contractions until the first kitten is born. Sometimes the second kitten can emerge very fast after the first, and sometimes it can take a few hours.

The kittens are born blind and are not aware of anything happening in the outside world. The most important thing for a newborn kitten is eating. The mother’s milk is the only thing that kittens eat for the first few weeks, and because of its high protein and fat value, kittens grow rapidly for the first period after they are born. The milk also contains a lot of antibodies that protect kittens for the first few weeks of their lives.

mother cat with kittens
Image Credit: Karen Hogan, Shutterstock

Your Role in the Birth of the Kittens

Sometimes inexperienced mothers will need a helping hand during birthing, and that’s where you need to step in. This includes things like cutting the amniotic sack that the kitten is born in, cutting the umbilical cord, and cleaning the nose of the kitten to make sure that it’s breathing normally. When you are assured that the kittens are alive and well, you must ensure they are eating properly. A common occurrence, especially in a big litter, is that the bigger kittens eat the vast majority of the milk, so you’ll need to ensure that every kitten is eating and growing properly.

The same goes for the mother, who needs to regain her energy by eating and drinking properly.

Relationship with the Adult Cat

A big role in holding a kitten for the first few weeks is your relationship with the cat who gave birth. We often see stray cats who give birth and want to help them, but we must earn the mother’s trust before we can hold them. In that case, we suggest just leaving the food and water for the mother cat until she makes sure that you are not a threat to them. On the other hand, with pet cats, we often see that they let humans hold their kittens very soon and it doesn’t make them anxious because of their bond with their owners. In some instances, we also see the mother cats bringing their babies to the humans as a sign of trust and respect.

cat drags a kitten in a secluded place
Image Credit: Pukhov K, Shutterstock

Orphaned Kittens

Unfortunately, we sometimes find kittens that their mother left them or was killed. Before adopting an orphaned kitten, you need to know it’s a lot of work. The care of the kitten depends on how old the kittens are—older kittens are easier to care for, and you can hold them safely. But the problem is with younger kittens—in this case, you’ll need to hold them to ensure that their temperature is alright, for feeding, and for making sure that they are gaining weight properly.

You must feed the newborn kittens every few hours, and also, if you find them, you should probably bring them to your local vet for a check-up to see if everything is alright.

Handling Kittens

When handling newborn kittens, you first need to ensure that your hands are clean and that they are not cold. Newborn kittens are very fragile and don’t handle cold temperatures very well. Also, because of their small size and their soft muscles and bones, you need to be very gentle while holding them. The important thing is that you should always handle newborn kittens in front of their mother because if they go out of her sight, it can cause a lot of stress and discomfort for the mother and the kitten.

Adorable little tabby newborn kitten sleeping in woman hands
Image Credit: Sergiy Bykhunenko, Shutterstock

Reasons to Hold a Kitten

We already said that the most important reason to hold a kitten is health-related. But second on the list is socialization, which is very important to practice from an early age with the kittens. They are blind for the first 7–10 days of their lives, and in that period, they are unaware of their surroundings and don’t need to be socialized. But you should start socialization at 2 weeks old by petting them and getting them used to your scent. The second step should be holding them every day for a short period and getting them used to being handled.

As time progresses, kittens will be more and more used to your touch, and as they get stronger, you can introduce them to objects such as toys.

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Final Thoughts

Although in the wild and our homes cats are very good at surviving on their own, sometimes there are instances where they need our help. In these cases, you will need to hold the kitten no matter its age, although you should typically wait at least 2 weeks before touching a kitten. Remember, you can always consult with your local veterinarian if you still have doubts and worries.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

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