Changes Seen During a Cat's Main Stages of Life

mother tabby cat with kitten

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Cats go through three main stages of aging. Their nutrition needs, activity levels, and veterinary care will vary during each stages.

  • Kittenhood: Kittenhood lasts from birth to one year (Approximately 15 in human years.) This year, especially the first six weeks, marks the fastest growth of a cat's life. A diet of kitten food (at least for the first nine months), regular veterinary care, and training, all set the standards for future health and well-being.
  • Maintenance Years: During the maintenance years of one to approximately 10 years, growth has ceased, and the activity level may start declining toward the end of this life stage. A nutritious diet of adult food, exercise with interactive toys, and routine veterinary care will help guarantee your adult cat's continuing good health.
  • Senior Years: Cats are generally considered seniors at the age of 10 years. Veterinary care becomes increasingly important, in order to detect early symptoms of diseases which target older cats.


Kittenhood is the first life stage of cats. Kittenhood lasts from birth to one year (approximately 15 years in human age) and marks the fastest growing stage of a cat's life.

All newly-adopted cats of unknown parentage, including kittens, should be immediately examined by your veterinarian.

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Kitten's First Vet Visit

If you have other cats in the home, your kitten should be isolated until his first vet visit. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough "hands-on" physical exam on the kitten. In addition, your kitten will have several lab tests performed, and possibly get his first core vaccines aka "kitten shots."

Adult, aka Maintenance Years

The second life stage of cat years is the adult stage, sometimes known as the "maintenance years." Cats have ceased the rapid growth period of kittenhood and have stabilized their overall size and weight, however, our responsibility for them has not ceased. These years are crucial because it is during this period that the first tendencies toward age-related disease can show up, such as feline diabetes, arthritis, or heart disease.

Gray cat sitting on a chair
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Veterinary Care for Adult Cats

Adult cats should be seen annually for a wellness check and to receive any necessary Core Vaccine booster shots. It is important to routinely examine your cat at home, to spot any potential problems, such as lumps, ear mites, and excessive weight gain. It is also important to know your cat's habits. Be alert for changes such as the following:

  • Limping: Limping or slow gait when climbing stairs can be a symptom of arthritis or injury. In either case, a vet visit is indicated.
  • Change in litter box habits: Peeing outside the box is often a sign of urinary blockage or FLUTD, and is an indication for a vet visit ASAP. Diarrhea, absent a food change or painful constipation also should trigger a vet visit.
  • Change in appetite: Sudden loss of appetite can be an indication of several diseases, and the cat should be seen by a vet for diagnosis and treatment. The same applies to cats who eat constantly but do not gain weight.

Senior Cats and Geriatric Cats

Senior cats suffer from many of the same conditions and diseases as older humans, but careful management can vastly improve both their potential lifespan and their quality of life. Depending on several factors, cats may enter their senior years sometime between eight and ten years of age.

Veterinary care assumes greater importance, and even healthy senior cats should be seen at least twice a year by a veterinarian. If a cat has one or more of the diseases common to seniors, he or she may be seen several times a year for monitoring, as these diseases are considered chronic.

Diseases That Target Senior Cats

Portrait of a senior cat
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If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.