kitten

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

The Joys of Adopting an Older Cat

Buckley at the Middleburg Animal Hospital

Older cats are often overlooked in shelters filled to the brim with cute kittens and young adults. However, an older cat can make a purr-fect companion for many reasons.

In my years of working with cats, I’ve always been drawn to older cats, especially the really old ones with their graying muzzles and eyes filled with the wisdom of the world.  My own experience of adopting an older cat came with Buckley, who was most likely somewhere between eight and ten years old when I fell in love with her.   Even though she was only with me for three short years, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single moment.

I adore my two girls who are barely  more than kittens. I adopted Allegra a little over a year ago, when she was seven months old, and I adopted Ruby less than two months ago at nine months of age. I wouldn’t trade the experience of watching Allegra grow into a beautiful young lady these past twelve months, or Ruby’s joyful kitten exuberance for the last two for anything,  but there were times, especially after Amber died, when I thought back fondly to the many joys of living with an older cat.

Avoid the kitten craziness

When adopting a senior cat, you avoid the kitten craziness phase.  While it’s fun to watch a kitten play and race through the house, remember that the playing and racing can happen at all hours, including at 3am, when you want to sleep.  Additionally, kittens can be hard on your home furnishings.  To a kitten, the whole world is a toy, which can lead to the destruction of anything from carpets to furniture to favorite family heirlooms.

Senior cats are already spayed or neutered and litter box trained

A senior cat is already spayed or neutered, and in most cases, litter box trained.  He will most likely be current on all vaccinations, and may even come with a complete health history.

What you see is what you get

With a senior cat, what you see is, for the most part, what you get when it comes to temperament and personality.  One caveat:  if you meet your potential older family member in a shelter setting, make some allowance for the fact that the cat may be stressed or frightened.  Ask to spend some time with the cat in a quiet area, if possible, to get a better sense of her true personality.

Older cats make great pets for seniors

A senior cat can be a wonderful choice for senior citizens who might hesitate to adopt a cat because they’re afraid the cat might outlive them.  Older cats often wind up in shelters because their owners died, and there were no relatives or friends who would give them a new home.  Bringing a senior cat whose owners died and a senior citizen looking for a feline companion together could be a match made in heaven.

A senior, or at least slightly older, cat could be a better choice for a family with young children than a kitten.  Kittens are fragile, their tiny bodies can be easily crushed or injured, and their sharp teeth and claws may inadvertently hurt small children.

Older cats make better companions for another senior cat

A senior cat may make a better companion for an older cat who lost her companion.  Senior cats are used to the more gentle energy of a mature cat, and a kitten’s high energy and constant motion can be aggravating and stressful for them.

Consider adopting a senior cat with special needs.  Diabetic cats, cats with missing limbs or eyes, and cats with special medical needs all come with the same wonderful personalities as healthy cats, and they tend to be incredibly grateful for being adopted.  Make sure you understand the costs involved in caring for a special needs cat before making an adoption decision.

Have you ever adopted an older cat? Share your story in a comment!

Photo of Buckley when she was still my office cat at the animal hospital

 

Allegra’s World: Helping Mom

Hi everyone – it’s Allegra!  So, last time I wrote, I told you about my two jobs:  sheet changer assistant, and Assistant Reiki Practitioner Trainee.  Since then, I’ve gotten so much more mature that I’m now helping Mom with her chores, too!

I’m particularly good at helping her clean the house, if I do say so myself.  I help her clean the bathroom by jumping on the vanity and supervising as she wipes the mirror clean.  Then, when she’s finished, I get really close and press my nose against it to make sure she really got every little streak wiped away.  I don’t understand why she doesn’t think it’s helpful to have my noseprint on the newly cleaned mirrow as a kitten seal of approval – I think it looks rather cute!  When she’s done with the bathroom, it’s time to dust.  This is my favorite part of cleaning the house!   Mom uses this fierce-looking thing on a stick that she says is called a lambswool duster.  I jump and try to catch it as she moves it around, and when I do, boy, do I beat that beast into submission!   Wee!!!

When that’s all done, we get to the part about cleaning the house that I’m not all that crazy about.  Mom gets out “The Monster.”  There’s just no other word for it.  It’s a huge, scary looking contraption and I don’t like anything about it.  It has a long grey snake attached to it that moves around, and when I try to attack it, it doesn’t back down at all.  And it’s really loud!  Mom moves “The Monster” all over the house, and I try to be brave and stare it down, but I won’t let it get too close.  It might eat me!  It seems to eat everything else in its path.  I don’t understand why Mom needs to bring “The Monster” out once a week, I think our house looks just fine as it is.  However, it is kind of interesting how smooth the carpet looks after Mom puts “The Monster” away.  I can pounce around on it and my paws leave really fun patterns!  Wee!!!

By the way, Mom says to tell you that because of me, she uses cleaning products that are safe for me even if I do rub my nose in them like I do when I check the mirror.  I love her for always making sure things are good for me.

That’s all for today.  I hear my favorite mousie calling.

Allegra’s World: One Month Update

I know you’re all waiting for an update from my big sister Amber on how things are going with the two of us, but Amber is feeling a little under the weather, so my new mom said I could write on this computer.  Weeee – I’m a blogging kitten!  Fun!

My new mom said she introduced me to you in her blog New Family Member.  I’ve been here exactly one month now!  Kittens can’t really tell time, but my new mom said it’s been a month, and since she’s my  mom, I believe her.  I’m just a kitten, I don’t know things like time.

I really like it here.  At first, I wasn’t sure about anything.  My new mom seemed nice enough, but I really didn’t know her, although her energy felt very special – I did notice that from the first moment I met her.  My new big sister Amber didn’t seem too thrilled to have me come live there.  If I so much as I got within a few feet of her, she’d hiss and growl at me.  All I want to do is play – I don’t mean to harass her!  Okay, well, maybe a little….  I heard my new mom say to someone that she’d forgotten about kitten energy.  I guess that means she didn’t remember how playful, energetic, and, okay, crazy, us kittens can get.  Sometimes I just feel so much joy, I have to race through the entire house, tear around corners, jump up and down furniture, and just generally go nuts – it’s the only way I can think of to express this much joy!  I think Amber at least tolerates me now.  We do hang out in the same room together and take our naps together, but on different pieces of furniture.

There are so many things I like about my new home.  One of the best things is that there are lots of windows!  Before I came here, I lived in a cage at an animal hospital.  They were all really nice to me there, but the only way I could look out a window is if I leaned very far toward the front corner of my cage, and even then, I could only catch a glimpse of daylight, but not really see what was going on outside.  Here, I can look out of any given window and see trees.  Trees are fun, especially when the leaves are moving in the wind!  I want to chase them!  I know I could catch them!  I’m fast!  And there’s also birds, and squirrels.  Boy, I’d love to catch me a squirrel – how much fun would that be!

But there are lots of fun things for a kitten like me inside, too.  I have never seen so many toys!  They’re everywhere!  And my new mom is really fun to play with.   She tosses mousies for me to chase, and laughs when I fly across the room after them.  Weeee!  I love making my new mom laugh!  And there are so many other things to play with, but my new mom says they aren’t toys, and sometimes she takes them away from me.  Like the time I pried off the wooden screw on the stairwell.  I worked really hard at it to get it loose, and it made such a cool noise when I batted it around!  But my new mom said I couldn’t keep it to play with and took it away.  Not to worry.  I found another one and pried that loose, too.  Same thing – she took it away.  Oh well.  It’s not like I don’t have plenty of other things to play with.

My new mom is really great.  Even though there are times when she tells me I can’t do something (like when I pounce on my big sister, or go after what my new mom calls people food, or when I bite her hands when she plays with me), mostly, I can tell that she really loves me.  I love being part of a family.  I just wish my big sister would like me more.  I try so hard to make her like me.  I do all kinds of cute kitten things:  I pounce on her if she’s walking by me.  I creep up behind her so she can’t see me coming and then I jump out and startle her.  I particularly like to run after her when she’s going to the litter box and I don’t understand why my new mom gets so upset with me when I do that.  I just want to play and I want Amber to like me.

Earlier this week, though, we had a really special moment, and it felt really nice.  Amber was sitting by the screen door enjoying the spring breeze wafting in and feeling the sun on her fur.  I could sense that she wasn’t feeling well, so I exercised great restraint and just approached her very very slowly.  (I also didn’t want to get hissed at yet again!).  She gave me that look she usually gives me when I annoy her, and I froze.  But there was no hissing this time, so I got brave.  I slowly continued to inch closer, until I was right next to her, and for a while, we both looked out the window together.  It was really nice.  I just wish she’d understand that it’s really hard for me to be that quiet, and that I’d much rather she loosen up a bit and play with me!

Anyway – that’s my world.  My new mom, my big sister Amber, and my new home.  I am one happy kitten.

Amber’s Mewsings: Getting Used to My New Sister

I know you’ve all been waiting to hear how things are going at my house since the arrival of my new little sister Allegra last week.  Yup, she’s been here an entire week now.  Guess she’s here to stay.  The first couple of days, I was kind of thinking maybe she was just visiting, but oh well.  I’m starting to get used to her.  Mom is making sure that I get plenty of attention, and that really helps.  In fact, I’m writing this on the laptop – and I mean that literally.  I’m on top of Mom’s lap, and typing away on the computer.   It’s the best place in the world to be, and for now, it’s all mine.  Allegra is taking an after dinner nap in the chair across from us.  She hasn’t figured out how to be a lap kitty yet.  I know she will sooner or later, and then I’ll have to share again like I did with my sister Buckley, so I’m enjoying this while I can.  I’m showing Mom how much I love it with a huge purr while I’m writing this.

Anyway – it’s been interesting having this youngster around.  It doesn’t take much to amuse her.  In her world, everything is a toy, whether it’s the shadow on the wall, the reflection of a prism on the floor, or a Q-tip.  As you can see in the photo above, I’m exhausted from just watching her – always on the move, always running around.  Unfortunately, she actually thinks she can make friends with me by pouncing on me.  I think not!  I just hiss at her and if she gets really obnoxious, I swat at her.  Mom says she just wants to play and get to know me, but I have to tell you, she better find a less annoying approach to get on my good side.  For now, I’m focusing on making sure she knows I’m in charge – make no mistake about that!

I can tell that she’s starting to calm down a little, though.  The first few days, she was on the go constantly, exploring our house, playing with all the toys we have all over the house, and looking out the windows.  She’d barely slow down long enough for Mom to get in a pat or two. The last few days, she’s been more relaxed.  I think she’s finally starting to believe that this cool place is really her new home.  I know how she feels – I couldn’t believe it either when Mom first brought me here almost ten years ago.

There is one very annoying problem, though, and I sure hope Mom figures out a way to make it better.  I’m talking about feeding time.  Now mind you, I love my food, and I’m a hearty eater.  But I like to savor my meals and extend the pleasure by eating a third or half of it, and then come back a little while later to finish the rest.  Allegra has no culture whatsoever when it comes to meal time – she just inhales the kitten food Mom puts in front of her.  I’ve never seen a cat eat so fast!  The bad thing is that when she’s finished with her own dish, she goes after mine (not while I’m eating, though – at least she has more sense that that!).  Mom’s been trying to stay on top of things and puts my dish out of reach when I’m done with the first part of my meal, but it’s a problem when Mom can’t keep an eye on things. Like the other day, Mom went out for a while.  She said she’d be gone past our dinner time, so she fed fed us before she left.  What she doesn’t know is that the second she was out the door, Allegra went and finished everything that was left on my dish.  The nerve!

But all in all, it’s not so bad.  I can tell that Mom is already in love with Allegra, and that makes me happy for her.  I know Mom’s heart is big enough to love both of us.  I think once Allegra settles down a little bit more, and once she understands that I’m in charge, no if’s, and’s or but’s, I’m going to like having her for my little sister.  I know I have a lot to teach her, and I’m not just talking about manners.

New Family Member: Meet Allegra

The Conscious Cat has a new family member!  Amber and I are excited to welcome Allegra into our hearts and into our home.  Well, right now I might be a little more excited than Amber, but so far, things have been going really well.  Amber is watching the newcomer from a cautious distance, and if she comes too close for comfort, she lets Allegra know who’s in charge.

I found Allegra on Facebook on the Great Falls Animal Hospital Cat Adoptions page.  When I contacted the page administrator for more information, I was told that she was seven months old and “very very sweet, loves cats, loves dogs, loves people, loves life!”    I knew I had to meet this little girl.  The first time I met her, I spent about an hour in an exam room with her.  She was your typical ADHD kitten – discovering and exploring everything, whether it was a stethoscope hanging from a hook on the wall or a syringe cap on the floor.  She didn’t pay all that much attention to me, but I started to fall in love with her anyway.  However, I didn’t want to make a hasty decision.  I had only just begun to even think about bringing another cat into our lives.  I didn’t know whether I wanted a kitten or an adult cat.  So I went home, slept on it, thought about it – and I just couldn’t get Allegra out of my mind.  I went back to see her again the next morning.  And that’s when I just knew.   She was meant to come home with us.

Her background, as far as I know it, is this:  she was rescued from a county shelter in Maryland, and fostered by two different foster moms.  Her most recent foster mom described her as a “total love bug lap kitty” who loved to follow her everywhere.

I brought her home yesterday morning.   And so a new chapter in our lives begins.  Allegra spent most of yesterday exploring her new home.  She was particularly fascinated by windows – something she hadn’t been able to enjoy for the last ten days when she lived at the animal hospital.  Everything seemed to delight her – bumble bees flying by, leaves blowing in the wind, squirrels rushing by outside.  It’s so much fun watching her discover her world.

Amber is not so sure this was a good idea just yet.  I’m sure you’ll hear all about it from Amber herself soon.  And you never know, Allegra might eventually want to contribute to The Conscious Cat, too, once she adjusts to her new home and new life.