It seemed like yesterday when your cat was a helpless kitten in your hands and now a mischievous hunter pouncing at your feet, or maybe the two of you met as adults and now your cat is growing older than you! How come cats age so fast?
A fast metabolic rate, genetics, and other components contribute to maturing a cat’s body and shortening its lifespan.
It makes us a little sad knowing that our cats can’t be with us for a lifetime, but they are with us for their lifetime. In this article, you’ll be learning about why cats age so fast, how long they can live, and what you can do to prolong your cat’s life.
Why Do Cats Age Faster than Humans?
Cats spend a lot of their energy maintaining the demanding functions of their body such as supporting a fast sexual maturity around six months, maintaining body temperature, and…
- Genetics. Certain breeds have a shorter lifespan due to higher risks of having health problems much earlier in their years compared to others. Spruce Pets lists that Manx cats live up to 14 years on average and Munchkins between 12 to 14 years.
- Diet and nutrition. Dr. Jennifer Coates shares with Reader’s Digest that while there isn’t a single diet that is ideal for all cats, most do best when they eat foods that are high in moisture and protein and relatively low in carbohydrates. This includes wet food as the better option than dry kibble.
- Lifestyle. Outdoor cats are at risk of dying from injuries sustained from cat fights, vehicular accidents, and diseases. With the watchful eye of an owner and access to veterinary services, indoor cats can live their lives to the fullest.
- High metabolism. Raymond Pearl has formulated a hypothesis in 1921 that in animals, the higher the metabolism, the longer the lifespan. A hundred years later, studies are showing mixed results, so although it could be a possible factor why cats age faster than humans, it remains a theory.
- Size and growth. The smaller the animal, the faster the growth and the shorter the lifespan. Cats mature sexually between 6 and 12 months and are fully grown around year 2. From there onwards, you can only expect them to grow older.
What Are the Cat Growth Stages?
- Birth. Newborns still have their eyes closed and their ears folded. They are almost blind and deaf and so they rely on their noses to identify their mother’s smell and her warmth.
- Kittenhood. The first six months of a kitten will be the fastest growth in their lifetime. In the first three months, they are very curious and will begin to explore anything anywhere if they are left alone. It’s also the best time to socialize them.
- Junior. This is similar to our teenage development stage where they begin to mature sexually at around six months up to a year. They will be active and cause mischief around the house. You can start to train them during this period.
- Adulthood. Their adult life spans from year 1 to 10 and it can be divided into three stages. For the first 3 years, they are still young and will disobey and challenge your authority, full of energy and fun. In years 4 to 7, your cat is at its best and has finished maturing; they aren’t as playful anymore, preferring to sleep throughout the day and engaging with you in their own terms. From years 8 to 10, expect to see your cat starting to grow old.
- Senior. When your cat has reached over the age of 11, you’ll notice that the body starts to slow down, the mind not as sharp as before, and your cat gets sick more easily than it used to. They meow a lot, forget where the litter box was placed, and lose their balance on counters. Between 11 and 15 years, most cats have lived their full lives.
- Geriatric. It is amazing when you see your cat reach the age of 16 and over. They don’t groom themselves as much as they used to, needing to be supervised around the house. A number of health problems haunt its body, causing your cat to avoid jumping, playing, and hunting. Cats this age need veterinary services throughout the year.
At What Age Is a Cat Considered Old?
Cats are fully mature between 6 and 10 years and are considered seniors over the age of 10, according to PetMD. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) also considers cats between 11 to 14 years of age to be senior.
When they reach 15 years and more, felines are considered geriatric. Depending on which source you seek, this number is equal to 76 years or more in human years. If your cast has reached over the age of 15, the two of you have done well!
How Long Can Cats Live?
Despite a shorter lifespan than humans, cats can still live a long life and some can even reach over 20 years! Licensed Veterinary Technician Adrienne Kruzer writes that the average lifespan of a cat is about 15 years, and yet the oldest living cat in the world is 27 years old Flossie. Crème Puff who lived up to 38 years and 3 days still beat many records up to this day.
However, genetics still play a large role in determining your cat’s final age. As it grows older, expect the body to weaken. The immunity will not be as strong as it was and your cat can get sick more easily.
What Can I Do to Prolong My Cat’s Life?
- Don’t miss out on veterinary appointments. Vet services include yearly vaccination, deworming, and spotting early signs of diseases. It will save you hours of worrying about your cat’s health.
- Keep them fit and active. Provide exercise for your cat especially if it’s an indoor cat, with at least an hour of playtime daily divided into two or three sessions.
- A good and healthy diet. Make sure that your cat maintains an ideal weight. Your veterinarian will let you know if it needs to lose or gain weight. Brittany Carey, a cat specialist advises Reader’s Digest viewers to look for a statement on the food label from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) saying that the food is complete and balanced.
- Keep them inside! Some cats are free wanderers, coming back home anytime they wish but you dread the day they never will. Keeping them inside the house minimizes the risks of them getting into cat fights and sustaining injuries from falling and vehicular accidents. If you must, strap a harness on your cat and train it to go on walks at your preferred time.
Do Male or Female Cats Live Longer?
There are factors suggesting that female cats live longer than their male counterparts such as personality, breed, lifestyle, and diet. Female cats are more likely to live longer than their male counterpart.
Researchers from the UK conducted a study and yielded interesting results from over 12,000 records of deceased cats, and around 4000 randomly selected for the final dataset. Female cats lived longer than male cats by a few months to years (6 months to almost two years).
Causes of early death are stated to be car accidents, heart disease, kidney disease, intestinal blockage, and hyperthyroidism.
What Shortens a Cat’s Life?
- Overfeeding and underfeeding. Food is the number one indicator of what can kill or prolong your cat’s life. Too much of it can lead to weight gain and health risks. Not enough food can cause starvation and loss of nutrients which can trigger anorexia in cats.
- Allowing your cat to roam outside freely for long periods. You trust that your cat comes back whenever it wants to, but cats don’t always outrun vehicles passing by a busy road. They can also pick up ticks and fleas from stray animals and get into fights.
- Skipping veterinary checkups. Your cat may be in distress from a health risk and you aren’t aware of it. Going to the vet regularly increases the chance of preventing a problem from snowballing into something more complicated.
- Regular changes at home. Moving around every year, adding and losing pets, switching partners, and other major changes in your life and the home will stress your cat. You may notice that it has become more aggressive, developed behavioral problems, and doesn’t get along with people and other pets. Cats prefer to stick to a routine.
- Not taking care of yourself properly. A mentally and physically fit owner impacts the cat’s traits as well. If you are going through severe depression and mental battles that result in you neglecting your basic care, then most likely, it’s hard for you to look after your poor cat as well.
The average lifespan of a cat is more or less than 15 years depending on the breed, lifestyle, and diet. Animals that are smaller in size and with higher metabolism rates are linked with a shorter lifespan, which felines possess. Although it’s unfortunate they can’t live long with us, it means we get to cherish them more each passing year.