When little Missy was born, her eyesight and hearing weren’t developed. She relied on her already-developed sense of touch, some sense of smell and her mother’s warmth to guide her. For the first few weeks, her job was to eat, sleep and grow, allowing the rest of her senses to develop.
Deaf and Blind
All cats are basically blind and deaf at birth, though their tactile sensitivity develops early -- before they're born, at about 24 days of gestation. This sense of touch helped Missy respond to the warmth of their mother’s body while she nursed and slept. Though her sense of smell was still developing, it was advanced enough to help her find nourishment for nursing. If you’ve seen a newborn kitten, you probably noticed her little ears were “folded,” making it easy to understand why Missy wouldn’t hear much.
The First Two Weeks
Though she’s born with very little hearing ability, Missy will quickly begin to hear some sound, at around a week old. Sound is just noise to her for another week, but when her ears stand up at about two weeks old, she can figure out the directions sounds come from. Her eyes have opened about the same time but, like her hearing, her vision isn’t fully developed yet.
Missy’s hearing is pretty well developed by the time she’s a month old. When she masters the rotating of her ears -- which can look pretty big on her little head -- she will hear far better than you can dream of hearing. A cat’s range of hearing is between 10 and 60 KHz, compared with your 18 to 20 KHz. That means Missy can hear lower and higher frequencies than you can, which aids in her hunting. As well, each ear has more than 20 muscles, allowing her to rotate it over 180 degrees to locate the direction of a sound and focus on what she’s hearing.
As cats age, it’s not unusual for them to develop hearing loss. If Missy becomes very clingy or cries louder than normal, she may have experienced some hearing loss. To give a quick check of her hearing at home, snap your fingers behind each of her ears. If she doesn’t respond, have the vet do an exam to check her ears and hearing. If Missy has hearing loss, she should stay indoors, safe from traffic or dogs she may not hear. To get her attention, tap on the floor to call her, and she’ll likely respond to the vibration. Don’t touch her from behind, as she may be startled and strike at you.
- Breeding-Cats.com: Kitten Development From Birth to Eight Weeks
- Georgia SPCA: Stages of Kitten Development
- Cat World: Kitten Development (Weeks 1 to 8)
- Know Your Cat: The Life of a Kitten - Early Development
- Animal Behaviour.net: The Behaviour of Cats and Dogs: Cats
- The Cat Doctor of Atlanta: Cats' Sense of Hearing
- Photo Credit John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images