Your cat needs different care at every stage of life – but when is a cat considered senior and how can you best care for it at this age?
At each stage of your cat’s life, whether it is a growing kitten or a senior cat, different care is required to promote its well-being. But when is your cat considered senior? What changes can you see?
Your cat’s age in human years
As with humans, the aging process is an individual experience and different cats show signs of aging at different times. In general, however, your cat’s body will start to show the first signs of aging at the cellular level by around seven years of age. However, you may not notice any outward symptoms until your cat is about 12 years old. From this point on, cell renewal in her body slows down and her bodily functions are less effective, including her heart and immune system.
Your cat’s age is classified according to the veterinarian:
- Between seven and ten years old, your cat is in its prime
- Between the ages of 11 and 14, she is considered a senior
- From the age of 15 she is classified as elderly
To put this in human years, a 10-year-old cat is roughly equivalent to a 56-year-old human. It’s not uncommon for cats to live up to 20 years – that’s about the same as a 96-year-old human.
Signs your cat is getting older
Although each individual cat’s signs of aging can be different, there are some common processes that occur in every cat as they age. The cat’s sense of smell, taste and hearing decrease, which affects its appetite. Dental problems can also contribute, such as teeth showing signs of wear, gum disease or tooth loss. When these problems come together, it can lead to weight loss.
The joints are less flexible, especially if the cat has osteoarthritis. This can cause severe pain and lead to mobility problems. This impairment in her flexibility also makes her unable to groom herself properly, which in turn affects her coat and skin.
The coat itself can become whiter and the quality can also decrease as the sebaceous glands, which produce nourishing oils for the skin, are less productive. The natural ability to mount an immune response decreases with age, leaving the cat more at risk of infection and disease. Various metabolic processes such as digestion also change as the ability to process fats and proteins decreases as the cat ages.
Older cats may also exhibit different behaviors, perhaps being less interactive or making noises at inappropriate times. They may sleep more but less deeply, which can disrupt their routine and cause behavioral problems.
Disease symptoms in older cats
Sometimes these symptoms in an older cat aren’t just a sign that they’re getting older. They can also be a symptom of a larger problem.
Cats tend to hide illnesses. They do not draw attention to their pain, for example by limping or making noises. Instead, they move less or are less active, which often only makes the problem worse. For this reason, it’s important that you also notice subtle changes in her behavior, such as refusing to eat or no longer jumping up onto her favorite spot. Then take your cat to your veterinarian for a check-up.
There are a few symptoms in older cats that often indicate an underlying problem:
- Loss of appetite or weight, which may indicate a digestive problem
- Increased urination or thirst; possibly a sign of urinary problems
- Stiffness, limping, or difficulty standing up, which could indicate arthritis
- Being disoriented, anxious, or otherwise unusual
By making sure you visit your vet regularly, you can identify many serious medical conditions early, ensuring the best possible care for your aging cat.