From kittens to cats: How does the brain grow?
Kittens are so much fun to watch. Their playful antics keep us entertained for hours. But, did you know that there’s just as much going on inside their bodies, especially in their brains?
Kittens grow at an incredible rate, moving from tiny balls of fur into larger kittens in a blink of an eye. By the time they reach adulthood, they will be 40-50 times their birth weight! As well as experiencing rapid physical growth, kittens also undergo very fast sensory development by comparison to humans. Kittens are born blind with their eyes shut – by 2 weeks of age, their eyes open, and by 8 weeks they have already developed a broad field of both 3-D and night vision. Did you know that it takes them only 10 days after birth, to develop their tastebuds to identify the difference between bitterness, acidity, saltiness and savoury flavours? Finally, their brain and nervous system are also developing at an amazing pace, especially in the first few weeks, and within a short 3 months your kitten’s brain will be the size of an adult cat’s.
A closer look at this critical period of a kitten's life
You would be amazed to know that almost everything inside your kitten’s body develops at the same time. Apart from their brain, and their sensory systems, their muscles are growing and their bone structure is also changing, forming the locomotor system which helps your kitten move about. Their nervous system is becoming more efficient, improving and refining the messages between the brain and body – this is when they start to become less clumsy and start being more agile.
As they gain mobility, their curiosity grows. Through this period, they are constantly learning about their environment, such as how to navigate different surfaces, how to interact with people and other pets, and they quickly learn to identify safe areas of the home as well as threats. This window of learning peaks at about 8-9 weeks of age, so is the perfect time to begin exposing your kitten to many positive experiences, as well as socialisation, so they can develop into a well-adjusted adult cat. It is also a great time to kitten-proof your home to keep them safe as they play and explore!
What is the role of nutrition during this period?
A high-quality kitten diet is imperative not only to support the critical growth of the physical body systems such as the bones and muscles but is also crucial for brain development. Omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, is a fatty acid found in abundance in brain tissue. Supplemented in the kitten’s diet, it can help neurological development, helping to improve your kitten’s memory, hearing, vision, and overall brain development. Diets rich in high-quality protein, and that contain sufficient energy will also ensure your kitten has the nutrition to help them explore their environment and grow into a healthy adult cat.