Cat behaviors usually develop and are practiced by kittens by the time they are six month old. Understanding normal behavior will help owners decide if their kitten is developing normally as well as create the proper environment in which your kitten can develop into a calm, well-socialized cat.
The first stage of kitten behavior is neonatal behavior, which begins as soon as the kitten is born and lasts for the first two weeks. At this time, kittens are very helpless. They can't even see until the end of the first two weeks.
Initially, the kittens orient toward sound and spend most of their time suckling their mother, being groomed and sleeping. It's important that a kitten remain with his mother and littermates at this time. Kittens who don't miss valuable learning opportunities, which may forever affect their adult personalities.
First Three Months
In the first month, the kittens develop all their senses, which allows them to become more independent. By the second month, they can move, have all their senses and have most of their teeth. They begin to groom themselves and develop adult sleep patterns.
At this time, they begin to develop their social skills and begin practicing adult behaviors. Kittens at this age will already begin to play, which serves as a learning tool for skills they will need as hunters and communicators in the animal world. Kittens will pounce, stalk and begin to bat at toys and tails as they would prey. Kittens separated from their litters need at least a half hour of playtime with toys daily.
At this time, kittens need to be handled by humans or they may never learn to properly trust them. This is an important socialization window as kittens are not yet fearful. They should be exposed to noises, other pets and people of all ages. However, don't overdo it. Handle them or introduce them to new items only a few minutes a day so as not to create fear.
This is also a great age to begin training your cat. Clicker training is a great way to teach behavior and eliminate problem behaviors, such as improper elimination and scratching.
Now more aware of their world, kittens start to develop social hierarchies among littermates and other cats in the house. Their interactions become more sophisticated as do their hunting skills. They will begin showing dominance and submissive postures with each other and possibly humans in the house.
As they get a little older, around six to 18 months, kittens may begin to challenge humans while testing their limits. This is a good time to reinforce training that began a few months earlier. Kittens can learn where to properly eliminate and play. They should already be socialized at this time but may still show kitten play behaviors. Sexual behavior will develop as well if your cat is not spayed or neutered.
After 18 months, your cat is basically an adult. He may still show adolescent behaviors from time to time, but his personality is developed. If you have done your training and socialization, you should have a calm, well-adjusted cat, so enjoy your hard work.