How to Answer: How Old Is My Cat?
If you've ever asked yourself, "How old is my cat?" the answer might be right in front of you.
If you've adopted a cat, whether it's a kitten or an older cat, you probably have asked yourself at one point, "How old is my cat?" Since your cat can't tell you how many birthdays she's celebrated, you have to be a bit more creative to find out her exact age.
Why Is Your Cat's Age Important to Know?
"While it's not imperative to know your cat's exact age, it's good to have an idea whether your cat is a kitten, adult, or senior cat," says Dr. Mary Beth Leininger, the vice president of veterinary relations at the Hartville Pet Insurance Group and the past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
That's because your cat's needs and behaviors can change based on the stage in life he's at, more so than his exact age. For instance, younger cats may have different dietary requirements than senior cats since they're typically more active. Knowing what stage of life your cat is in can help you provide better care for her and ensure she's happy and healthy.
How Can You Figure Out How Old Your Cat Is?
"While it's not especially accurate, pet parents can try to judge a cat's age by size, behaviors, or features," shares Dr. Leininger. Certain characteristics are present in your pet's age range, she adds. For example, kittens tend to weigh less than older cats, and younger cats have a lot of energy and tend to get into trouble a lot, which is why it is more common to see pet parents hiring pet sitters for kittens than for more mature cats. Senior cats have their own characteristics, according to Dr. Leininger, who says they "groom less frequently, have reduced muscle tone and show changes in their eyes, like cloudy irises."
But looking in your cat's mouth may be the best way to help you answer, "How old is my cat?" "One of the more accurate ways to determine a cat's age is through a dental exam at your veterinarian's office," says Dr. Leininger. By counting your cat's teeth and checking to see which ones he has present in his mouth, your veterinarian can get a pretty accurate read on your cat's age. The vet can also look at the color of your cat's teeth, keeping in mind that older cats tend to have more yellowing as well as wear and tear.
Is the "Seven Cat Years for Every Human Year" Myth True?
"You could say cats grow up faster than humans, with their earlier 'child' years being more compressed," says Dr. Leininger. She also says, however, that doesn't always mean one human year to seven cat years. "For instance, cats may be considered babies or children up to a year old, teenagers from around one to two and then adults or seniors in the years ahead," she continues. "With good care, many cats can live into their mid to late teens, which you could compare to humans in their 80s or 90s these days."
While knowing your cat's age isn't always important, by narrowing down her age range, you and your veterinarian can provide great care for your cat.
Do you want to know other things eccentric cat behaviors could be telling you? Take a look at Kooky Cat Behavior Finally Explained.
Devan McGuinness is a Toronto-based freelance writer who specializes in parenting and lifestyle topics. Keep up to date with her on Twitter.
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