Your cat may not be as old as you think

 Bengal kitten Maine Coon Cat Zee Zoey Mia

At least not in human years. Conventional wisdom used to be that cats age seven human years for every feline year. The limitations of this calculation become particularly obvious on the high and low ends of the age spectrum. With advances in veterinary care, some cats now life well into their teens and even into their twenties, which, using the old paradigm, would make a 15-year-old cat 105 years old, a 20-year-old cat 140 years! On the low end of the age spectrum, a 9-month-old kitten would be the equivalent of a 5-year-old child. If you’ve ever had a 9-month-old kitten, you know that they act much more like a teenager than a young child.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recognizes that there is a better way to classify feline life stages. Individual cats and individual body systems age at different rates, and while any type of age grouping is inevitably arbitrary, they felt that the new age designations take physical and behavioral changes that occur at different ages into account (for example, congenital defects in kittens, obesity prevention in young cats). Of course, aging is a process that is influenced by many factors, including diet, preventive care, genetics, and environment.

The following chart was developed by the AAFP’s Feline Advisory Bureau, and may give you a better indication of where on the human age spectrum your cat falls:

feline life stages how old is a cat in human years

Why is this important? Cats need different levels of health care at different ages. The AAFP recommends a minimum of annual wellness exams for cats of all ages, with more frequent exams for seniors, geriatrics and cats with known medical conditions. I recommend bi-annual exams for cats age 7 and older. Cats are masters at hiding discomfort, and annual or bi-annual exams are the best way to detect problems early. Once a cat shows symptoms, treatment may be much more extensive, not as effective, and will also cost more.

According to this chart, Allegra and Ruby are both Juniors. Allegra is almost two in feline years, and Ruby is almost a year, which makes her fall right into the middle of the teenage years in human years. Yup – I’d say that’s an accurate assessment!

Photo ©Dan Power. See more stunning cat photos like this one over at Zee & Zoey’s Chronicle Connection, nominated for a Pettie for Best Blog Design.

Lifestages table from the AAFP’s 2010 Feline Lifestages Guidelines.

Related reading:

Feline-friendly handling guidelines to make vet visits easier for cats

Minimizing stress for cats can decrease illness

How to care for your older cat

28 Comments on Your cat may not be as old as you think

  1. RumpyDog!
    September 9, 2012 at 9:57 pm (7 years ago)

    June Buggie is 76! No wonder he’s so grouchy!

    Reply
  2. Marilia
    August 8, 2011 at 8:59 pm (8 years ago)

    Great post!!!! I love to know more about our baby cats!
    Thanks for share!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 9:40 pm (8 years ago)

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Marilia.

      Reply
  3. Anna
    August 8, 2011 at 6:23 pm (8 years ago)

    Great post, Ingrid! I had read about this modern cat-age classification in a beautiful book about senior cats. As you said, it’s important to know about physiological age and different needs at different stages of life… although of course “soul age” may differ from cat to cat — exactly like for us humans! 🙂
    So… my Zoe is 8 (she wouldn’t like to be called “mature” I guess, LOL!), my mom’s Lilli and Tommi are 3 (prime!), and Theo just turned one — and yes, he’s definitely a teenager! 😉

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 9:40 pm (8 years ago)

      Thanks, Anna. I doubt too many of our middle-aged cats would really like the term “mature” – and I can’t say that I blame them. I don’t like to be called mature, either, it sounds so old!

      Reply
      • Anna
        August 9, 2011 at 6:34 am (8 years ago)

        Hehehe I don’t like that either, according to this chart I’m getting into my “mature” age this year! LOL!!!

        Reply
  4. Katnip Lounge
    August 8, 2011 at 3:52 pm (8 years ago)

    Happy World Cat Day!!

    This was very interesting and we printed it for Mommy’s files.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm (8 years ago)

      Happy World Cat Day to you and yours, too!

      Reply
  5. Weetzie's
    August 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm (8 years ago)

    Very interesting post! Like a few others have said, the bi-yearly check-ups isn’t something my vet has mentioned either, but I’m so glad you did. I’ll be arranging that from now on.

    7 is so right on for the “mature” stage. That’s right when our two 8 years olds mellowed right out and started really enjoying peaceful times. We like to say they entered their Carlsberg Years!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm (8 years ago)

      I’m glad you’ll start taking your two to the vets twice a year, Weetzie. LOL to the Carlsberg Years!

      Reply
  6. Julia Williams
    August 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm (8 years ago)

    That is interesting. I have had cats that lived 15 years and longer, and I certainly wouldn’t equate them with being 105 or older! Right now I have one senior and two mature, but the two mature don’t act all that mature, MOL

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm (8 years ago)

      That’s proably because cats don’t read age charts, Julia 🙂

      Reply
  7. Zee and Zoey
    August 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm (8 years ago)

    Makes so much more sense than the 7 year rule. In our house of seven cats, we have a range between juniors and seniors. Very interesting to note, my three kittens that were all born on the same day, are now 2 years old, making them approximately 24 in human years – just like with people, there is a variance of maturity levels between them – Rolz probably acts the most like a 24 year old, Mia would be a 21 year old, and Peanut, well, bless her – she still has the heart and personality of a 15 year old teenager!

    Thanks for this great post and it was such a privilege to see Papa Zee with his daugher Mia as your featured photo!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm (8 years ago)

      You definitely cover the range at your house! Thanks for letting me use the photo of Zee and Mia – it’s just too purrfect for this post!

      Reply
  8. Layla Morgan Wilde
    August 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm (8 years ago)

    It was time for a revised version with cats living older. I’ve a photocopy of the chart sitting on my desk for months with plans to post it this week but the early bird got the worm 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm (8 years ago)

      Layla, even though we share some readers, I think you should still run it on your blog. The more people know about these new age classifications, the better!

      Reply
      • Layla Morgan Wilde
        August 8, 2011 at 5:10 pm (8 years ago)

        True. I think the upper ages over twenty could be tweaked.

        Reply
  9. Ellen
    August 8, 2011 at 9:59 am (8 years ago)

    Very interesting, Ingrid! Thanks for sharing this. So I’m aware, now, that I have two geriatric cats, ages 15 and 19; one cat in his prime, about 4 years old; and one junior, about 19 months old. I appreciate the guidelines for twice-year checkups too and find it interesting that my vet has never recommended that. Maybe she’s just trying to give me a financial break, since I seem to visit her office at least once a month or every other month, to get supplies and to get kitties various types of care.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 10:16 am (8 years ago)

      Ellen, every vet I’ve ever worked with recommends the twice a year check ups for cats age 7 and up. I think it just makes good sense, given that cats age so much faster than we do.

      Reply
  10. Amy Sikes
    August 8, 2011 at 9:11 am (8 years ago)

    Thanks for the chart – very interesting! Though I suspect my 18-year-old Casey-cat would vigorously object to being called “geriatric”! I still call her “Kitten”, and I know she still thinks she is one! 🙂 (I know it confuses people when I tell my younger cats to “be nice to Kitten”! LOL)

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 10:15 am (8 years ago)

      LOL Amy! I think there are probably a lot of “geriatric” cats out there who would object to the term. I actually don’t like it, either, but I guess physiologically, there needs to be a distinction between merely old, and really old!

      Reply
  11. Barb
    August 8, 2011 at 8:48 am (8 years ago)

    This is the proof that I can show my Husband in regards to our furbabies. We have a 16 month old and a soon to be 5 month old. We had noticed a distinct change in our little one and I thought she was at the “preschool” age at the time and now I see her new category fits as well.

    For the 16 month old, we brought her home at 7 months, although she had a few traits that could be associated with the age, she is an “old soul” and was pretty mature by 9 months old.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 10:13 am (8 years ago)

      Barb, you bring up a really great point with your mention of an “old soul” cat. Just like with humans, this, of course, comes into play with cats, too. The chart, of course, only addresses physiological age, not spiritual age.

      Reply
      • Barb
        August 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm (8 years ago)

        Exactly..

        Reply
  12. Max the Quilt Cat
    August 8, 2011 at 8:43 am (8 years ago)

    Yep… that seems much more logical. Thanks for the chart….

    pawhugs, Max

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 10:12 am (8 years ago)

      You’re welcome, Max!

      Reply
  13. Caren Gittleman
    August 8, 2011 at 8:01 am (8 years ago)

    Thank you for sharing that senior cats should see the vet bi-yearly. Thankfully when my Bobo became Senior I had a vet that shared the same philosophy and I religiously brought him in twice a year.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2011 at 10:12 am (8 years ago)

      Since cats age so much faster than humans, the more frequent check ups make sense. I’m glad your vet shares that philosophy, Caren.

      Reply

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