THE NEWBORN KITTEN
Newborn to 10 day old kittens
A cat changes in many ways from birth through adulthood. Irrespective of how “cute” a kitten may be, a breeder must have sound guidelines identifying the qualities that are desireable in a cat that is good enough to keep and breed.
Gaining skill in evaluating a kitten requires experience, access to kittens of various quality, and spending time evaluating the kittens as the kitten changes over time. Using photographs taken at birth and every few days in the first week(s) when there are rapid changes, and comparing them to photos of the “finished” adult product allows one to develop skill in assessing the ultimate “quality” of the cat as an adult. These are some of the key features that I look for in newborn to 7 day old kittens (the time when the eyes open). The quote indicate that I have used the exact words in the CFA standard.
The head is “slightly longer than wide” with a strong jaw and a “squared” muzzle. I look for a broad head with great width between the ears (“twice the distance between the eyes” therefore at least twice the eye width apart) and also set at the outer corner of the tophead. Ears tend to come up as the head lengthens, and will look higher on the older kitten or adult.
These proportions mean that the tophead (forehead) must be broad but still “smooth” with only a “moderately convex continuous curve” of the profile . When viewed face on, the bridge of the nose should be in the middle of the face, e.g. half way between the “base of the ears” and the “chin tip”. Many breeders and judges seem to equate the degree of curvature of the profile with the extremety of the kitten/cat, e.g. A curvature that “stops” the finger is extreme. One should also consider that a profile that conforms to a finger held straight is extreme, but in an undesirable direction. The curve of the nose (profile) is described as”gentle concavely curved rise from the bridge of the nose to the forehead, essentially an s-shaped curvature. This gentle curve is very clearly seem at a very early age.
The muzzle must be broad and full or “squared” and I like to see the outer edge of the whisker pad line up with the outer curvature of the eye. The ASH jaw and muzzle is described in functional terms “strong enough to grasp prey” and the chin is a perpendicular line with the upper lip”. Although the muzzle and chin are strong, they must fit within the “slightly longer than wide” overall structure. The chin seems to become more prominent as the kitten grows, and it is possible to have a strong chin grow into an unsightly undershot chin as an adult.
Because the tophead is broad and the muzzle is broad and the length is only slightly longer than wide, I look for a square-ish shape (a rounded square) to the head of a newborn. The shape is similar to what I would like to see in a newborn Burmese, Exotic/Persian or Fold when viewed face on as a newborn.
The head (face) has a “sweet, open expression” which requires the eyes to be “large and wide” with a slightly flattened upper lid (Half-almond) and a “fully rounded curve” to the lower lid with the outer corner set slightly higher than the inner corner. At birth, I look for a long, level eye slits set far apart. The longer the eye slit, the larger the eye when it opens. An eye slit that is slanted in the face will be slanted in the face of the older kitten or adult and will not enhance the open-ness of the expression. A slanted eye slit is seen in a narrower wedgey type head. In some lines with promenent cheekbones, the outwe lower eyelid curves upward along the line of the cheekbones. Unless the eye set is very wide, this results in the eye shape appearing to be somewhat almond or slanted when view full-face on. When looking down on the face and eyes, it can be seen that this is an optical illusion but is perhaps sufficient reason to select for less prominent cheekbones.
The body is “slightly longer than tall” and is”solidly built, powerful and muscular”. The shoulders and chest are broad and I look for a chest that is so broad that there is almost a bowlegged appearance to the newborn kitten. At this age, the kittens should be very well-nourished (pudgey).
Dilute colors may be less distinctive in the early weeks. The dominent colors should be distinct with clear demarkation of pattern especially on the sides. Spinals are often not apparent in the tabbies until the kitten is older. Coat texture can’t be determined until much later, and sometimes one must wait until the adult (second coat change) coat comes in before you know about coat texture.
In the next issues, I will discuss the kitten from age 2-12 weeks (from the time after the eyes open until the kitten is a mobile entity), from 12 weeks to puberty/early adult and finally from early adult through mature adult.