For the first time in a decade, American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association have updated their Feline Life Stage Guidelines, a 23-page document designed to combine feline-friendly care approaches with a lifelong healthcare plan to improve every cat’s health and well being at any age.
The updated guidelines reflect the evolution of feline biology and lifestyle over time, requiring different approaches to healthcare for kittens and senior cats.
A noteworthy change from the earlier guidelines is the division of the cat’s lifespan into a five-stage grouping with four distinct age-related stages (kitten, young adult, mature adult, and senior) as well as an end-of-life stage, instead of the previous six. This simplified grouping is more consistent with how pet parents think of their cats’ aging process, and provides a better basis for an individualized, lifelong feline healthcare strategy.
Feline Life Stages
Kitten: Birth up to 1 year
Young adult: 1 to 6 years
Mature adult: 7 to 10 years
Senior: 10 years and older
End-of-life: Any age
The guidelines for veterinarians and veterinary support staff aid veterinary professionals in developing evolving care plans that grow with cats as they age. “All cats of every life stage need full, thorough physical examinations at least annually for the best lifelong care; and we recommend checkups at a minimum of every six months for senior cats,” said AAHA Chief Medical Officer Heather Loenser, DVM. “The Guidelines provide discussion items and medical history questions for all life stages, as well as life stage-specific focal points for physical examinations, claw care, litter box management, nutrition, behavior, oral health, enrichment, and vaccinations.”
Additional resources for cat parents are available at the AAFP’s Cat Friendly Homes website.