Kittens are born blind and helpless, but before you know it, they’ll be pouncing around like an adult cat.

By Doug Jimerson
October 27, 2020
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Credit: anurakpong / Getty

If you’ve never seen a newborn kitten before, you might be surprised at how different they look from an adult cat. Their ears are generally folded against their heads and their lids are sealed so tightly, you can’t see their eyes at all.

When Do Kittens Open Their Eyes?

It doesn’t take long for a healthy kitten to start opening her eyes. Most kittens start to open their eyes at 7 to 10 days, and by two weeks of age, both eyes will be fully dilated. Of course, no two kittens are exactly the same, so some may open their eyes a bit later than others and some might open one eye before the other and then reverse the process. All kittens have blue eyes when they are very young. Their true eye color won’t develop until the kitten is at least 8 weeks old.

Things to Avoid

Try to keep your kitten in a darkened room away from bright light that could potentially damage her developing eyes. It’s also important to keep the kitten clean and healthy. If the kitten is an orphan and mama cat is nowhere to be found, she should be bottle-fed with a well-balanced kitten formula. And, most of all, never try to force a kitten’s eyes open before they are ready. Be patient and let nature take its course.

Things to Watch For

Kittens’ eyes can develop a matted crust that prevents them from opening. This can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection (another reason to keep your kittens in a clean, dark location). If your kitten’s eyes crust over, they need care. Carlene Strandell, Director and Founder of Smitten with Kittens, a non-profit, foster-based kitten rescue that operates in Tallahassee, Fla. says when this happens, kitten parents can clean their eyes with a cotton ball moistened with warm water.

A warm, wet compress can allow you to gently soften and wipe away the crust. But make sure to never use soap! “If the kitten’s eyes don’t get better, take it to your vet,” she says. 

It’s also wise to keep an eye on littermates, because if one kitten gets matted eyes, the rest could follow. Change their bedding frequently to help minimize contagions.