- Ten days to ten weeks
the transition to mobility
By now, the initial (newborn) assessment will have given you an idea about the conformation of the shape of the features of the head to the adult head shape. During the next several weeks, with growth, the kitten is becoming a mobile entity and it will change to meet the needs of this stage.
The head will go through some of the most profound changes that will ever happen. During this time, the “flat bones” of the skull will lose the molding of the intra-uterine time and broaden as well as grow along the edges of the bones. The overall quick impression of the ten-day old kitten will be that the kitten has a wonderfully broad head with a full face. Because of this, you will need to look very closely at determine the overall shape of the head and the relationship of length to width.
At this time you should also look closely at the muzzle width; this should be broad and the outer curve line up with the outer edge of the eye.
The eyes should be widely placed and the eye size relatively large. As stated in the standard, at least one eye aperture apart. In addition to checking the overall relationship of eye width to size, you need to look at the absolute size of the eye; large or “oversized” eyes that are set well apart are essential for the “sweet” open look that is ideal for an American. If the eyes are small, the eye placement can meet the standard but still not produce the “open” sweet look. You should be able to “draw” an almost equilateral triangle between the corners of the eyes (curve of the upper eye aperture) and the nose.
The shape of the skull will be influenced by selectively breeding for very large and wide set eyes. The skull will need to be wider, obviously, but it will also need to have more height and rounding to the tophead to maintain the “slightly longer than wide” balance. At this young age when the skull is going through major structural changes, the head-on appearance may be slightly wider than high.
To balance the fuller appearance of the tophead, the lower face and chin need to develop. I like to see the point of maximal curvature of the nose exactly in the middle between top of head and point of the chin. An overly strong or undershot chin is undesirable, but that rarely is apparent at this time.
Ears are often deceptively large at this age and often tilt forward until the cartilage has firmed up. I’ve found that ears don’t seem to grow at the same rate as the rest of the head, so I don’t pay a lot of attention to size at this time. Visible very small ears may be problematic. I do pay attention to ear-set; I like to see the ears set wide and at the outer “corner” of the head and cupped inward. Ears that are upright at this age tend to stay upright, and the overall relationship with other head features will get worse as the head matures, especially in males.
The body is also going through major changes during this period. The kitten is going through a metamorphosis from a fat slug-like furball to a mobile entity. As the kitten learns to get up on it’s feet and bounce around, the body shape will become apparent. I like to see a very broad body with a “bowlegged” look to the front legs. The back should be broad and level as soon as the kitten is able to stand. The hind legs should be straight without “knock-knee” appearance; this is not a common problem with ASH and pains should be taken to make sure that this structural soundness is maintained. An unsound kitten will have hind legs that look “X” from behind. At this age, the body height may be slightly more than the breadth or length. The feel of the body must be solid and well nourished; if I feel any boniness I supplement the kitten and check mother and other kittens to find out why. Americans are usually excellent mothers producing ample milk. A kitten getting inadequate calories and protein at this age is likely to have growth and immune problems later.
The coat is kitten fuzz at this time; you can tell color and pattern but nothing about texture for several weeks. Pattern definition varies with different bloodlines. At a very early age, I prefer to see a dark pattern with spinelines barely distinguished and some of the margins of the bullseye touching because, in my experience, the pattern tends to spread as the kitten grows. A well defined pattern at a very early age usually turns out to be thin pale pattern definition by the time the kitten is an adult. As a word of caution, other lines do not do this and the pattern color intensifies with age. Ask the breeder and the people who bred grandparents, etc. how pattern develops as the cats mature.
I also like to see very intense ground color so that the browns look almost red and the reds look mahogany. I prefer to have the ground color go all the way to the skin--that gives the clearest color. While it it not uncommon to see dark roots on a brown tabby , the brightest color will be seen in those where the band at the skin is the desired ground color (brown, red, cream or white in silvers) rather than black. At this very early age, you have a good idea of the intensity of the adult ground color.