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Here’s How to Estimate Your Cat’s Age
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Here’s How to Estimate Your Cat’s Age

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Aug 15, 2022

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Cats develop rapidly and become golden oldies before you can say Puss in Boots. If you weren't present when your cat was born, it's difficult to tell how old it is. What's certain is that senior cats need your understanding, patience, and an extra sprinkle of TLC like the old folks in your life. Elderly cats can become disoriented and sickly, so pet health insurance is a good idea. There's also a chance your cat could outlive you, so you might want to include it in your will. Cats might have nine lives, but here's how to tell how old yours is right now.

1

Average cat lifespan

senior cat Ana Rocio Garcia Franco / Getty Images

How long a cat lives depends in part on genetics. Indoor-only cats can age well and live to about 15 years on average with proper care. Domestic cats that go outdoors get into fights, contract diseases, and are often struck by cars. Feral cats have a much shorter life expectancy, in general, and live for about two to ten years if they survive kittenhood.

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2

Record-makers

Ragdoll cat sitting on a window Julia Gomina / Getty Images

Mixed breeds with more expansive gene pools may live a long time. In 2005, an American tabby mix set the record for the oldest known cat in the world—Creme Puff was 38 when she passed away. The following breeds can live into their 20s and 30s in some cases:

  • American shorthairs
  • Ragdolls
  • Russian blues
  • Balinese
  • Burmese
  • Siamese
  • Savannah
  • Sphynxes
  • Egyptian Maus
  • Persians
  • Maine Coons

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3

Physical signs of age

senior cat martinedoucet / Getty Images

Unlike humans, cats don't go grey and wrinkled when they get old. But like their owners, cats' coats become thinner, and lose muscle mass. They develop cataracts, dental issues, and joint pain after years of wear and tear. Senior cats may gain or lose weight, and changing immune systems make them more prone to illness. Dental issues and obesity prevent some older cats from grooming adequately, so a cat that looks rough around the edges is often advanced in years.

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4

How to estimate a cat's age using its teeth

Abyssinian cat on sofa at home. Liudmila Chernetska / Getty Images

A poor diet can affect your cat's teeth. Still, you can make some educated guesses. For example, kittens younger than four months old don't have molars. Cats between six and twelve months old will have all their teeth looking as good as they ever will— white and sharp. Teeth become yellow with age and worn down too. If your rescue's teeth aren't pointy, your cat's likely long in the tooth and over the age of five. Cats over the age of 10 begin to lose their chompers, and older cats also present with tartar and gum recession.

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5

How old is your cat in human years?

woman hugging her cat StockRocket / Getty Images

The International Cat Care organization put out a helpful cat age conversion chart so cat owners can tell their fur baby's human equivalent age. For example, an eight-year-old cat is as old in cat years as a 48-year-old human. General feline life stages are also beneficial for understanding what your cat needs from you. Cats are considered juniors between six months and two years old, in the prime of their life between three and six years old, mature between seven and ten years old, seniors up to 14 years old, and geriatrics over the age of 15.

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6

An older cat's diet and hydration

old gray cat looking at camera while sitting on floor at home near bowl of food Aleksandr Zotov / Getty Images

At some point, a senior cat will need to transition to an optimal diet for its age, rich in vitamin E and antioxidants. Your vet can guide you with a goal-based food plan and supplementation. Aim for small meals throughout the day rather than two large servings of food. Employ food puzzles to continue providing enrichment. Old cats are still cool cats—they get bored too. Simplify access to water to prevent kidney disease and digestive issues. Canned foods help with hydration, as do more water bowls and litter boxes placed closer to the ground for easy access.

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7

Low-impact exercise for geriatric cats

Three-colored cat is lying on a cardboard scratchpad with the scent of catnip Anastasiia Babakova / Getty Images

Older cats develop mobility issues. Your once-sprightly kitten might struggle to jump or climb, and you can come to its aid. Be more mindful of where you point your laser toy, for example, and adjust your pillows and furniture so your cat can climb up makeshift ramps and come back down without hesitation. Regular playtime and exercise boost longevity. Catnip toys and feather teasers are still favorites with this demographic, as are scratching posts and cat wheels. If you're unsure about any activity, run it by your vet.

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8

Be observant

woman petting cat yanjf / Getty Images

Life gets busy, so it's easy to forget the family members that can't express their pain in words. Keep an eye on your furry friend. If it's moving gingerly, it might benefit from a heated bed, feline massage therapy, or pain management medication. Your healthcare provider can show you therapeutic massage techniques that you can replicate at home.

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9

Visit your vet twice a year

Veterinarian holding a cat FatCamera / Getty Images

Cats over ten need check-ups every six months to nip problems in the bud. Blood tests can pick up tumors, thyroid issues, and other signs of organ dysfunction. Addressing dental problems early on prevents infections that may affect your cat's detox organs and heart. High-quality healthcare ensures your cat doesn't suffer and will live a long, happy life with you.

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10

Adopt an older cat

woman being affectionate with her cat at home Adene Sanchez / Getty Images

Yes, older cats are forgetful and worse for wear. But they're also affectionate and calm and can learn new tricks like sign language when they become hard of hearing. Fostering elderly cats marred by life's journey might not be as attractive a prospect as caring for impossibly cute kittens, but offering palliative care to these creatures is among the most selfless and rewarding acts a human being can do.

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