How Cats Age
You always hear about dogs and aging. You know…
How 1 human year is equal to 7 dog years. But what about cats?
What does the aging process look like for them? And as a cat owner what can you expect as they grow from kitten to adult cat and beyond.
Well, that’s exactly what this article is all about.
You see, the rate at which your cat ages can depend on a variety of factors including their overall health and the environment they are raised in.
I’ve put together some general guidelines as to what you can expect at the various stages.
Most experts agree, there are six stages of aging. So, I’ve summarized each of them below.
- 1. Kitten Stage (this stage represents the time from birth until they are around 6 months old)
It’s primarily during this stage that your cat will change the most, both physically and mentally than at any other time in their life. So, much can happen so quickly, that it’s important to know what to look for to determine whether or not your cat is developing normally, and is becoming a well-balanced, healthy and confident cat.
Let’s look at a few of the most important things.
- Nutrition - Kittens are a lot like growing children and it’s important that during this time you feed them plenty of high quality, nutrient dense kitten food. If you’ve ever owned a cat, then you already know how finicky they can be. If your kitten turns their nose up to any particular type of food, try to offer them foods with different textures. This can often do the trick until you find a texture that they like.
- Socialization During these formative years, it’s important to expose your cat to a variety of situations and people. Just be sure to do it in a way where they know that you’re there and they know they are safe. If you scare them or if they associate a certain person or situation with fear, then it may be hard to break that association later in life. This is also a good time to get them used to the cat carrier and the car, for those future trips to the vet. Also, make sure they get plenty of play time both with humans and other pets if you have any. This is a good time to also expose them to other animals, especially dogs.
- Litterbox – This is also the time when your cat will learn how to use the litter box. The good news is that most cats pick it up pretty quickly. Just make sure to place it in an area where they can easily find it and an area that feels safe.
- 2. Junior (during this stage cats are reproductively mature but are still growing, this stage typically lasts during the first 1-2 years)
During this stage, cats are a lot like teenagers. They’re exploring their environment and trying to get a sense as to where they belong. During this stage, your cat will reach their full size and will have learned how to survive and thrive in their environment. They can also become a bit adventurous and little more curious as their confidence grows.
Junior cats will typically display these behaviors:
- Wandering – Cats at this stage who aren’t spayed or neutered have a habit of wondering. This is an instinct that they are born with and it can get them in trouble. Ideally, you’ve spayed or neutered your cat as a kitten, but if you haven’t now is still a good time.
- Litterbox – Now that you know how big your cat is going to be, make sure their litter box is big enough for them. Also, make sure that they are using it appropriately and that there are no issues with its placement.
The next stage is…
- 3. The Adult Stage (this stage is represented by your cat being in the prime of their life physically and usually occurs between the ages of 3 and 6)
By now you have a pretty good handle on who your cat is, what their personality is and what their basic temperament is.
As an adult, your cat’s needs will change. For example:
- Behavior and activities During the adult stage, your cat won’t be as active as they were when they were a kitten, but they still need regular exercise and play time. They also need mental stimulation and some social time too.
- Medical needs Hopefully you’ve been taking your cat to the vet for regular checkups since they were a kitten, if not now is the time to pay attention to their health including their weight and dental hygiene.
Next up is the…
- 4. Mature Stage (This stage is usually defined between the ages of 7-10 years old)
During this stage, it’s important to keep in mind that cats are the human equivalent of around 40-50 years of age. They’re less active than your typical adult cat too. And based on how well you took care of their health needs during their adult years, health issues may begin to pop up. At this stage, it really is recommended that you take your cat into the vet at least on a yearly basis. That way, your vet can identify any developing health issues like arthritis, weight or dental problems, which are more common during this stage.
The next stage is the…
- 5. Senior Stage (this stage typically occurs between the ages of 11-14 years)
This is equivalent to what we humans consider our golden years. During this stage, cats will often sleep more and eat less. They also don’t play as much as they used to either.
Here are things you should consider.
- Medical needs – If you’ve been following my advice so far, you’ve been taking your cat in for yearly checkups. During these checkups, they’ll typically do lab work. This will help your vet identify any issues that come up and hopefully, you’ll catch them early.
- Diet- Senior cat don’t need as many overall calories or fat. At this stage, you can also ask your vet what they recommend based on your cat’s current health.
- Activity - As your cat enters this stage, you may also find that they aren’t getting around like they used to. You may need to change some things around the house, including where their litter box is located and how they access their favorite lounging spots.
Finally, we have the…
6. Geriatric Stage (This stage is typically defined as 15 years and beyond)
Unfortunately, this stage is associated with mounting health issues. And during this time of your cat’s life, I recommend you take your cat in twice a year for checkups. Health problems can come on quickly and you want to make sure that you catch things early. During this stage, you’ll also want to keep your cat comfortable and loved. Giving your pet the best care also means recognizing when it may be time to say goodbye.
I hope you’re lucky enough to have a cat through all of these stages.
Each one brings so much joy.
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