An old urban legend says you multiply a dog's age by 7 to get the dog's age in human years. Oh, were it that easy! There is a more accurate formula for calculating a dog's age in human years, and one for cats, too.
Multiply a Dog's Age
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Dog's age faster than people do. They are much smarter at age 3 than their human counterparts. Evolution has made it so they have to be. But the simple ratio of 1 to 7 just does not apply. Up to the age of 5, all dogs, regardless of size or breed, age at about the same rate. Upon reaching his first birthday, a dog of any size will be roughly 15 in human years. At age 2, they are all about 24 years old. Then they all age about four human years for each dog year until they reach the age of 5. After that, the size of the dog comes into play. A larger dog will age more quickly than a medium dog, and a medium dog ages more quickly than a little dog. An 8-year-old Chihuahua, for instance, will be roughly 48 human years; a beagle, 51 years, and a golden retriever, 55.
Calculate a Cat's Age
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Cats, like dogs, age much more quickly in the first few months of their lives than people do. A year-old cat will be about 15 in human years. A 2-year-old cat will be about 24 months, just like a dog. So in some ways, cats do multiply in age like dogs do, but in some ways, they do not. At age 3, a cat will be about 32 in people years, where a dog will only be 28. At age 5, a cat is between 36 and 48 years in "people years."
A cat's lifestyle is an important consideration in how the cat ages. A cat who is forced to put up with the stresses of living on the streets, even if only part of the time, will age much more quickly than a cat living in a home where all his needs are met. For example, a cat at the age of 8 who lives indoors will be approximately 48 in people years, whereas a cat who lives outdoors, even part of the time, will be at the ripe old human age of 72. There is no doubt that a house cat lives much longer than a street or stray cat. Stress and risk play big parts in how long a cat will live.
Cats vs. Dogs in Longevity
Some people are dog people and some people are cat people, and some people are decidedly both. However, ask a cat person which is better and they will give you all sorts of reasons why a cat makes a better pet than a dog. They live indoors so they are cleaner, you don't have to walk them, you never have to worry about noisy cats (well, if you don't have a Siamese, that is), they stay out of your way when you are not in the mood to play and they are always up for a nap when you want a nap buddy. Well, here's one more reason cats are better than dogs. Healthy, happy, stress-free indoor cats can live to age 20 or more. Not many dogs, no matter how pampered, can live that long.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.