Feline Life Stages and Age Equivalents

five cats in kitchen cat in drawer
Everyone awaits their turn in the dishtowel drawer.

Now here’s a bunch of life stages all in one photo. This was taken in 2020, Mariposa was probably still 2, Basil was 6, Giuseppe and Jelly Bean were 13 and Mimi was 17. According to the 2010 life stage chart, Mariposa was a Junior, Basil a Prime, the boys Seniors, and Mimi, Geriatric. By the 2021 life stage chart, Mariposa and Basil are both Young Adults, and Mimi and the boys are all Seniors.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) simplifed the chart of feline life stages, reducing it to four, down from six. This is a good thing; though the other life stages did make sense if compared to human life stages, but some were so brief it was hardly worth noticing. One of the reasons for recognizing life stages is to also recognize activities, health issues and needs in that stage, and some stages for felines had no real differences from the stages before or after. For care, rescue, adoption, the new stages are much easier to work with. Most cats’ needs will be met by the recommendations in each new stage, but many cats will also have needs that have nothing to do with the life stage they are in but with their individual health.

Even though Basil and Mariposa are four years apart, their body development and physical and health needs were pretty much the same. Mimi at 17 was in as good a health condition with the same approximate needs as her sons four years younger. If her individual needs show she is lacking and needs help with nutrition, hydration, exercise, pain relief of any sort, we can do that, but there’s no need for an extra category.

The former feline life stages chart

Share the Love.
Share the Love.

Above, young adult and geriatric —Giuseppe at 18 months was a young adult and Peaches at age 20 was considered geriatric. Giuseppe adored her, and stayed close with her in her last months, escorting her around the house and napping with her to keep her warm.

So just how old is a senior cat, and when do cats go from being kittens to being adults? And are there stages in between, and beyond? And do we count five years for every year to equal the human equivalent, or seven? Below is the chart I made up in 2010.

2010 Feline Life Stages Chart

Life Stages of Cats and Human Equivalents
Life Stages of Cats and Human Equivalents

Years ago, though I still hear it sometimes today, we would generalize over the course of a cat’s (or dog’s) life using “7” to multiply to reach a human equivalent, but the result is way off the mark at the beginning and end of life. Consider that cats can reproduce as young as four months old in some circumstances, yet if we multiplied “7” by, say “.5”, we’d get “3.5” which is not a realistic age/development equivalent. To reach a real human equivalent for the ability to reproduce we’d have to figure it out another way.

For most of the years I’ve lived with cats I’ve had representatives in each age category, and even then I felt it was too many categories, especially in those Prime-Mature years, and then in those Senior-Geriatric years. I’ve updated my life stages chart. I revised my 2010 chart to match the 2021 life stages.

2021 Feline Life Stages Chart

Life Stages of Cats and Human Equivalents
Life Stages of Cats and Human Equivalents

So you can see that’s pretty much what they did, combined two stages into the stage next to it. Cats may mature during that stage, but their needs stay basically the same. And that’s where we get to the important part—knowing and meeting their needs at each stage of life. Of course, AAFP has a chart for that too!

AAFP Feline Life Stages Guidelines

The information above is the whole reason for dividing cats into age groups or stages of life—following the general scientific information about cats at different stages of their lives so that you know generally what to provide, and what to anticipate. Each cat is different, but knowing where to start will help you understand your cat’s needs.

Here is the AAFP Feline Life Stages chart. You can find both the chart above and below on the AAFP Cat-friendly website.

AAFP Cat Age to Human Age

And the AVMA has one that has cats and dogs side by side. Cats and dogs are about the same human age equivalent to age 5, then dogs start to age a little faster—though this is based on a medium-sized dog 21-50 pounds. It seems like the larger the dog, the larger the age difference. You can find this poster here.

AVMA Pets Age Fast

Resources:

AAFP Cat-friendly Homes website: https://catfriendly.com/life-stages/

AVMA POSTER: Pets Age Faster: https://ebusiness.avma.org/productcatalog/product.aspx?id=808

 


Download a guide to Feline Life Stages and Human Equivalents

You can right-click and download any of the images above, or click the link to the originals so you can read more information.

The pencil sketches are available as Feline Sketches note cards on my website.

one tortoiseshell and five black cats
Cookie and her minions.

Read more articles about Health and Safety and Veterinary Medicine.


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Great Rescues Day Book

This information is part of what’s available in Great Rescues Day Book!

Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page, and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.

Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.

The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.


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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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