Expect your cat to have a life expectancy of roughly 12 to 15 years. Some may survive much longer than this with cat’s making it into their twenties not unheard of. The world record age for a cat is 43 years!
Domestic cats are more fortunate in this respect than their feral cousins, whose typical lifespan is about half as long. Accidents, poisoning, exposure, viral epidemics, dog fights, poor diet and human intervention all take their toll on cats living day to day in the wild… or the city
Getting a cat is no small decision – a cat is for life.
Domestic cats, especially neutered males and spayed females tend to live longer perhaps because they tend to roam less and so are less vulnerable to accidents. In general, cats live longer if they enjoy happy and stable lives in homes where they are cared for, played with and loved.
Cats outlive many childhoods, and even many marriages When the excited nine-year-old with her first kitten has grown up and left home, who will take on the responsibility? Who will care for the cat if its elderly owner dies? Does the owner’s lifestyle or career involve frequent moves or spells away from many unwanted cats are unceremoniously dumped or abandoned, only the fortunate few finding new homes or sanctuary in an animal shelter, for such questions to be taken lightly.
Kittens are born in litters of between two and six but more usually three or four. At birth, they are blind and without teeth. After about a week their eyes open – all kittens’ eyes are blue – and a week or so later the kitten begins to use its eyes as well as its sense of smell to find its way about. It is now equipped to explore its immediate surroundings.
At this stage the mother starts to train her kittens, hauling them back if they stray too far or get lost, teaching them to play, and combining fierce protection with total care. This is a very rapid stage in the kittens’ development.
At about three weeks they start to play, encouraged by the mother’s flicking of her tail as a plaything. Mock fights and chases follow, chaser and chased often abruptly exchanging roles in mid-game. This looks like fun because it is, but more importantly, it’s preparation for your kitten’s adult life. The fact that it may never have to catch prey for food or fight with a neighbours cat is irrelevant. Play serves a deeper emotional need, and kittens which have been orphaned and miss out on play in their young lives usually grow up to be fearful or aggressive cats.
Cats reach independency at a Young Age
At 3 months kittens are fully weaned and ready for independent lives although they will continue to enjoy the company of their siblings and, to the delight of young owners, still appear very kittenish despite being already equipped with the essential skills they will need in life. The adult teeth appear at 4-6 months, and by 12 months the kitten is fully grown. From about six months, females are sexually mature, and males follow a month or so later.
From this, it can be seen that the first year of a kitten’s life corresponds with about the first 15 of a human child’s. The next five or so equate with the prime of a human life, and by six years a cat is approaching middle age. By eight, there may be definite signs of slowing down, although some cats retain their sprightliness, eagerness to hunt, and young mode of life for much longer.
Cats between 9 -15 months are called ‘Adolescents’. ‘Juniors’ are under, and ‘Seniors’ over two years of age. Cats seven years and older are known as ‘Veterans’.
The elderly Cat
Cats over the age of 9 may be regarded as old. It may lose interest in hunting, or take on only the least challenging prey. Sight and hearing may become less acute(though your hard of hearing cat may inexplicably still be able to hear the sound of meat being dropped on the floor), and the cat may be more ready to seek home comforts such as a warm fire or a soft cushion.
Obvious physical signs of age include the greying of the muzzle, cloudiness in the eyes, a dulled coat, slackening of the skin, and more prominent hips and spine. But cats are remarkably adaptable, even to the loss of clear sight and hearing. From 12 years on, a cat should be regarded as elderly, although some defy nature and continue to lead active lives until they die.
Be careful with your elderly cats outside that may wish to continue to scrap with the neighbourhood cats over territory. Their minds might be willing, their bodies less able.