Cats age at various rates depending on their health and environment. Below is a general guideline of the stages of aging and what is typically found in those stages.
There are six stages of aging:
- Kitten (birth until typically 6-7 months of age)
During the kitten stage, your cat will go through more physical and mental changes than at any other point in his life. With so much happening so quickly, it is important to focus on these things to ensure you have a well-balanced, friendly and confident adult cat:
- Nutrition Kittens have special dietary needs. Feeding high-quality nutrient-rich kitten food is recommended to help them grow into healthy adults. Kittens can be finicky so it is recommended different textures of food be used if they stop eating a food type they previously enjoyed.
- Socialization Exposing your kitten to different people and situations is necessary for them to grow into well-balanced adults and set a behavioral foundation. Desensitization to cars, vet exams and handling will prevent these situations from causing major stress in the future. Kittens often play rough and it is recommended to adopt them in pairs as their rough play can be too much for adult cats, dogs and humans.
- Litterbox Kittens should be trained to use a litterbox.
- Junior (reproductively mature but still growing, typically until 1-2 years old)
Just like with humans, adolescence, or the junior stage, can be a challenging time for cats Cats reach full size and have learned about life and how to survive in their environment. Many cats in the junior stage will experience:
- Wandering Junior cats who are not spayed/neutered have a tendency to wander as they search for a mate. Ideally, a cat is spayed or neutered as a kitten, but ensuring your cat is spayed/neutered by this stage will help prevent him from running away.
- Litterbox Now that the cat is full grown, it is important to ensure the litterbox is the appropriate size and being used properly. Any issues with proper use of the litterbox should be addressed immediately to prevent ongoing issues in the future.
- Adult or Prime (3-6 years old)
Adult cats have established their basic temperament and personality. They don’t require as much time and supervision as a kitten. Still, there are a couple important considerations for an adult cat:
- Behavior and activities Your cat will not be quite as active as when he was a kitten, but he still needs enrichment in the form of regular exercise, mental stimulation and socialization.
- Medical needs Adult cats benefit from yearly veterinary visits. Special attention to proper weight and dental hygiene is needed to prevent problems as they age.
- Mature (7-10 years old)
Cats in the mature stage are the human equivalent of 40-50 years old. Mature cats tend to be less active than adult cats. They may need special considerations based on physical issues. Yearly veterinary exams will help identify arthritis, weight or dental issues, which are more common in mature cats.
- Senior (11-14 years old)
In their golden years, cats often sleep more, eat less and are not as active. Pay attention to these special considerations:
- Medical needs Lab work is typically done at the yearly veterinary visit. It will help the vet identify any underlying issues and maintain a baseline for your pet’s health.
- Diet Senior cats need fewer calories and less fat. Discuss dietary changes with your veterinarian.
- Activity Senior pets may need help getting around, especially accessing litterboxes so the height of the box may need to be adjusted. Challenges with sight and hearing are not uncommon.
- Geriatric (15 years and beyond)
Geriatric cats inevitably encounter medical issues. Veterinary exams two times a year are recommended at this stage. Keeping your pet as comfortable and healthy as possible is of upmost importance. While the geriatric stage can last years, be prepared to make difficult decisions about when it is time to say goodbye. Giving your pet the best care also means recognizing when he is suffering and putting his needs above your own to end that suffering.