If you adopted your feline friend from a shelter or rescued a stray from the streets, you may have no idea how old he is. But knowing your kitty’s life stage can help you and your vet decide on diet, exercise, and treatment plans.
Cat-year-to-human-year conversions are not as straightforward as you might have heard, though. The familiar adage that one human year compares to seven cat years doesn’t ring true. Scott, the administrator at Seven Hills Animal Hospital, reveals the challenges of answering the age-old question: how old is my cat in human years? He says a cat’s longevity relies on factors such as size, breed, sex, and whether they live indoors or out. (Indoor cats live about twice as long as their outdoor peers).
Determining a cat’s age is complicated. You can try a tool such as this online cat age to human age calculator for converting calendar years to cat years. Like most other feline age calculators, it acts on the hypothesis that the first year of your cat’s life is equal to 15 years of human development. The second year covers roughly nine human years, and each successive year equals four human years. If the cat lives long enough, the ratio drops still lower.
Even these more scientific cat-to-human-year calculators, however, don’t consider all the variables. It’s not easy to work out a formulaic answer to the question: How many cat years are in one human year?
We can deal with other questions more definitively though. For instance ...
What’s the average cat’s lifespan?
Most indoor cats live 15-20 years. Burmese, Siamese, Manx, Sphynx, and Ragdolls are some of the longest-lived cats by breed. If you are caring for one of these sweet guys, your relationship could last in the 18-20 year range. If you’re a tabby’s companion, though, don’t lose heart. Most of the world’s oldest cats have been of mixed-breed origin.
Why do cats live longer than dogs?
Science Magazine theorizes that cats’ wild ancestors may avoided predators better than dogs’ forbears did. For sure, small dogs and cats live longer than large dogs. All kinds of pets—cats and dogs alike—are living longer than ever thanks to improved diets and better veterinary care. Still, no pet’s lifespan seems quite long enough.
What criteria does a vet use to estimate my cat’s age?
To determine a cat’s approximate age, a vet first studies the animal’s teeth. In How to Estimate the Age of Your Cat, Dr. Wendy Zimmerman says that kittens under eight weeks of age have fewer baby teeth. That lets vets pinpoint the animals’ date of birth almost exactly. By six months, adult teeth replace baby ones, so from that point on, tartar buildup can be a clue to your cat’s age. With these and other criteria, a vet can estimate your cat’s maturity.
Why does my pet’s age even matter?
As cats grow older, it’s important that we care for them in age-appropriate ways. Nutrition, exercise regimens, and sleep patterns change. Activity levels naturally decrease. And veterinary care becomes more important than ever. If you carry pet insurance, your agency will likely base their fees and coverage in part on your cat’s age.
What is it like to care for an elderly cat?
Cats need love and good care at every age and stage. Senior cats require a human companion’s touch at least as much as their younger, friskier companions. That’s why adopting a senior cat may be among the most rewarding decisions you make. Take Cinnamon, a 17-year old cat in Greece, for instance. Cinnamon’s caregivers passed away, leaving her behind. Her new family treated Cinnamon cruelly, and eventually the elderly cat went to an animal shelter. Cinnamon’s story on YouTube has inspired hundreds of thousands of people to consider taking in a senior cat. If you are one of those, check out our 9 Tips for Living with Older Cats to help keep your senior cat healthy and happy every day.