Trying to get a grasp on a cat's age can be confusing. After all, the cuties have different typical lifespans than humans, and they tend to retain their youthful appeal, even deep into older age. As with humans, the age of maturity depends on what facet of maturity you're considering.
Cats typically reach adolescence when they're around 6 months old, but the age of puberty varies. Certain breeds bloom much more rapidly than others. Siamese kittens may become reproductively capable at a mere 4 months, while a Persian kitty may not come into season for the first time until she's up to a full year old.
The behavior of a cat who hasn't been spayed or neutered will unmistakably communicate the arrival of reproductive maturity. Male cats start roaming, display aggression, spray urine and vocalize. Females begin regular heat cycles and exhibit behaviors such as incessant meowing, crying, escape attempts and spraying. Cats aren't coy when they're ready to mate.
The ASPCA recommends spaying and neutering cats before 6 months in age. Early spaying and neutering helps to prevent, minimize and eliminate the aforementioned "mating" behaviors in cats.
All of your kitty's permanent teeth will be in by about 6 months, according to the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. At around 1 year old, cats generally reach full physical size, weight and adulthood. A yearling kitty is roughly comparable in maturity to a 21-year-old human. Bone growth usually has ceased; in most cases, Kitty is as large as she's going to be. However, not all cat breeds are the same, so there are exceptions to the age of full growth. For instance, Maine coon cats often do not attain their full growth until they're between 3 and 5 years old.
Social and mental maturity in cats typically is reached in the range of 18 months to 4 years. With a few exceptions, cats reach maturity in all ways somewhere within that time frame.
When your kitty is between 12 and 14 years old, she reaches the senior stage of life, according to the ASPCA. If your sweet pet is around this age, you may begin to notice the start of gradual changes in her health, appearance and cognition such as slight graying of the fur, partial or full loss of hearing, weight gain, arthritis or other signs of aging.
Weigh your senior cat regularly as one way to keep an eye on her health. If you observe either weight loss or gain, consult your veterinarian. If your pet is gaining weight, as many aging cats tend to do, you may want to speak to the vet about putting together a sensible and healthy senior diet plan.
Older cats are more vulnerable to health issues than a young cat is. Ask your vet for instructions on conducting weekly at-home physical examinations on Kitty, from feeling her coat for unusual bumps to looking closely at her ear canals. When you notice anything out of the ordinary, it's time to notify the doc. When you're caring for older pets, the sooner you are aware of a health problem, the better.
Young kitties are ready to eat normal adult cat food at 1 year old. Until your kitty has been walking around on this planet for a full year, make sure she eats a quality dry or wet diet formulated for kittens. If a commercial cat food is labeled as being for kittens, then you're golden. Kittens are growing and they require significantly more energy than adult cats, so their dietary needs are different. Food specific to kittens has the right balance of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals that the little guys need.
After a cat reaches about 7 years, the ASPCA recommends switching to a food that is specifically formulated for middle-aged and older felines. Middle-aged and older cats are more susceptible to a variety of ailments and conditions, including obesity, diabetes and overactive thyroid. A proper diet balanced for the needs of older felines may help prevent or combat some of those issues.
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Spraying and Soiling Indoors
- ASPCA: Nutrition Tips for Kittens
- ASPCA: Questions About Cats
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Neutering Your Cat
- ASPCA: Aging
- ASPCA: Feeding Older Cats
- ASPCA: Spay-Neuter
- Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association: How to Determine a Cat's Age
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: The Special Needs of the Senior Cat
- Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: Nutrition for the Growing Kitten