How old age affects cats
Throughout each stage of your cat's life, it needs different care to support its well-being—whether that's the growth stage during their life as a kitten or supporting their health as a senior cat. But when does your cat become senior, and what changes might you notice?
Your cat's age in human years
Just as with humans, the aging process is an individual experience and different cats will show signs of aging cat different times. However, in general your cat's body will start to show the first signs of aging cat a cellular level at seven years old—but you won't be able to see any outward symptoms until your cat is about 12 years old. From this point on, the cells in their body are slowing down and their bodily functions are less effective, including their heart and immune system.
The veterinary classification of your cat's age is:
- At seven to 10 years, your cat is mature
- At 11, it's considered senior
- From 15 years upward, it is classified as geriatric
To understand this in terms of human years, a 10-year-old cat would be the equivalent of a 56-year-old human. It's not uncommon for cats to live up to 20 years—that's the same as a 96-year-old human.
The signs of aging in your cat
Although each individual cat will display signs of aging differently, there are some common aging processes which happen to every cat. Their smell, taste, and hearing become less acute, which has an impact on their appetite. This can also be affected by dental issues, such as the teeth showing wear, gum disease, or tooth loss. Some dental problems can lead to weight loss.
Senior cats may exhibit altered behaviors including a lack of interaction or making noises at unsociable times. They may sleep more, but less deeply, which can interrupt their routine and cause behavioral issues.
Signs of illness in senior cats
- Loss of appetite or weight, which can indicate a digestive or dental issue
- Increased urination or thirst; potentially a sign of urinary or renal problems
- Stiffness, limping, or difficulty getting up, which may be arthritis
- Appearing disoriented, anxious, or exhibiting unusual behavior
1 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines