How old does a cat have to be for you to hold it?

Kitten Care: The new mom should be doing all the care for her new kittens, but if you have any doubt about her ability to care for them or if the litter is too big for her to care for completely, get the advice of your Vet.

If the new mom (Queen) is OK with you being close to her and the kittens, use her behavior as your guide. If she is nervous about having you near, she may keep moving them or even accidentally hurt them. If her box is in a good spot, but too public, drape a towel or sheet over most of the top to give her her privacy, but at the same time keep an eye on the situation. Depending if there are a lot or just a few kittens in the litter, the "bedding" needs to be changed once or twice daily. The new kittens have no control of the bowels or bladders. So there is going to be pee and poop wherever they have moved to in the box. Strips of newspaper fluffed like a pillow and covered with a light blanket makes great bedding material.

Kittens tend to react more readily to humans when the mother cat is present. The belief is that she does not send alarming signals to her kittens and her presence reassures them. Again let mom be the guide, talk to her and pet her, reassure her you are not there to harm her kittens. If she is acting relaxed with you touching her while she is with her kittens, then stroke the kittens, gently as you continue talking to the new mother.

Handling kittens helps in their socialization to humans, but over handling should be avoided as it may cause undue stress to both the mother and kitten. If you spend 10 minutes with each kitten, twice a day chances are good your kittens will be more social and affectionate than kittens who are not handled.

A Newsletter published by the Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine reports a study indicating that handling kittens very early in life accelerates their development. Siamese kittens handled 20 minutes each day during their first 30 days of life opened their eyes earlier and emerged from their nesting box earlier than kittens not handled regularly.

Studies show that a litter of kittens born in a location inaccessible to humans will, at two to three weeks, hiss at humans. A litter of kittens from the same mother, if handled daily, will not react fearfully.

Handling kittens requires general common sense. Just as with human babies, you should be very careful when holding your little kitten. Even though a mother cat is able to pick a kitten up by the scruff of its neck, you should avoid this yourself to keep from harming the kitten. To safely pick up a kitten place one hand around the kitten's stomach and the other hand under its hind legs. Support the kitten's head and neck to prevent injury. You may cause serious harm through incorrect handling, so always pay close attention to how you hold young kittens.

Make sure that young children in your house are always supervised near young kittens. Most kittens prefer not to be carried around the house by their young owners. Though they love to play, kittens have fragile, developing bodies and should never be handled roughly.

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You can hold after it is born but the cat won't like it.