Whether you’ve got a boisterously bouncy kitten or a distinguished older dame, you might be wondering about your cat’s current life stage. Are they in the prime of their youth? Do they see themselves as a senior citizen? And can we really trust that old myth about one pet year being equal to seven of our own? In this article, we’re going to help you find your cat’s true age so that you can create the purrfect environment for their needs!
What is a cat’s normal lifespan?
Lucky for Cat Owners, felines have a relatively long lifespan compared to most domestic pets. As long as they’re healthy, happy, and well cared for, cats can potentially live into their 20s. Some breeds, like the Burmese, seem to be particularly long-lived, with average lifespans of between 20 and 25 years old!
It’s for this reason that we should probably throw that old idea of one pet year being equivalent to seven human years out the window. After all, that would mean that our cats would be experiencing the life of a 105-year-old at 15 years. Anyone who’s spent time with a senior cat knows that even though they may enjoy a quiet life, they’re typically more lively than someone over a century old!
As we’ll get into in more depth, this myth also doesn’t account for the difference in how cats age compared to humans, or dogs, for that matter. So, let’s take a closer look at how cats age.
What are some cat life phases you should know about?
Here’s a basic rundown of the major milestones your cat will go through during their lifespan:
- Kittenhood: Like humans and dogs, cats are born needing lots of attention and care, with the first six weeks being the most crucial and vulnerable. If you feel like your kitten has grown every time you leave the room, that’s because cats do an incredible amount of growing and learning during the first 4 to 6 months, kind of like a human from the time they’re babies until they’ve reached about 10 years old. With all that growing to do, nutrition is incredibly important during this life phase, which is why vets always recommend specially formulated kitten food during the first year or more.
- Adolescence: Many new Kitten Owners are blindsided by their furbaby’s first heat, which can happen as young as four months old. For most cats, the adolescent phase lasts from about 6 to 12 or 18 months, with larger cat breeds experiencing a slower developmental rate during this time. That means that, compared to humans, cats reach full physical and sexual maturity at about a year old. That would make the first cat year equivalent to about 15 human years! During the second year, they still have about 9 or 10 more human years of growing to do, putting them at roughly 24 human years by the time they turn 2.
- Adulthood (AKA the maintenance phase): Kittenhood and adolescence fly by before you can even have a chance to fully appreciate just how adorable your little kitten was. In a blink of an eye, your cat has reached adulthood! This life phase lasts from about 2 year old to 10 years old, which means that every year during this period is equivalent to about 4 or 5 human years. In other words, when your kitty celebrates their 9th birthday, it’s kind of like they’re hitting the big 50th in human years (remember, they flew through about 24 human years in their first 2 years, and every year after counts as 5, which gives us roughly 50 human years!)
- Senior years: Once your cat has reached their 10th birthday, most vets would consider them to be senior citizens. You’ll typically see your cat start to slow down during this phase, and they may need to start on a special diet and lifestyle plan to keep them happy and healthy.
As you can see, the old conversion of human years to pet years doesn’t really work for cats, who naturally enter new life phases on a different timeline than ours.
Do cats and dogs age differently?
You might be thinking, “Well the one pet year to seven human years doesn’t apply to cats, but what about dogs?” Unfortunately, the maths don’t really work for dogs either. That’s because, like cats, dogs go through a rapid growth phase during the first one to one and a half years of life before settling into a longer relative adulthood.
In fact, the formula for calculating dog years to human years is similar to cats, with the 2 years being equivalent to about 24 human years, and each additional year equaling about 4 to 5 human years.
How can you find out where your cat is on their life’s journey?
Of course, we’re talking here about statistics, which means that not every cat will follow the formula exactly. In fact, there are many genetic and environmental factors that can contribute to how quickly or slowly your cat develops and moves through the life phases.
Here are a few things that could change the formula for them:
Large cat breeds, such as Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats, typically take a longer time to fully mature, so you may see a slightly extended adolescent phase. There is also some evidence that they have shorter lifespans than smaller breeds, but the difference isn’t as drastic as it is in dogs.
Cats who suffer from malnutrition or other medical issues during the developmental phase may have a different ageing trajectory than their healthy counterparts.
To know exactly where your cat lands on the ageing timeline, it’s a good idea to have them assessed by a vet. They’ll be able to monitor their growth and health so that you get a more accurate picture of what season of life they’re currently in.
What can you do to keep your cat happy at every life stage?
No matter if your cat is in their prime or is basking in the golden years, there’s plenty you can do to make sure they’re enjoying life to the fullest. Here are a few things to keep your cat young at heart, no matter how old they are:
Upgrade their cat food
A high quality cat food can do a lot to improve your furry friend’s health and wellbeing. Talk to your vet about what they would recommend for your cat’s current life stage and activity levels.
Give them plenty of mental stimulation
Playtime and exercise are crucial for your cat’s physical and mental health. So, make sure to provide them with daily interactive play sessions.
Keep them inside
While your cat may love to explore the great outdoors, the truth is, allowing your cat to roam free can greatly impact their life expectancy. If you do want to give your cat some outdoor time, consider leash training them or setting up an outdoor cat enclosure.
Make toilet time more enjoyable
Your cat may not be the first to tell you, but their litter box could be stressing them out. Cats are very conscious about their toilet habits, so it’s a good idea to invest in a high quality litter to keep them relaxed at toilet time.
How old is your cat, really?
Now you know more about how your cat ages and what you can do to keep them feeling young and lively at every stage! So, how old is your cat? Do they act their age? Let us know all about your furry friend!