New Life Stage Guidelines Published for Cats

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Mar 28, 2011
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Pets age differently than do people, and their medical needs change as they enter each stage of their lives. Vets have often had to fly by the seat of their pants when it came to making recommendations based on an animal’s age.

For example, when exactly should we consider a cat to be a "senior citizen" and begin more rigorous diagnostic testing for diseases associated with old age? Which then begs the question, which tests should we be running?

Thankfully, help is now at hand. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practioners (AAFP) have recently published comprehensive guidelines for the veterinary care of cats throughout their lives.

In order to provide easy to comprehend information about age-appropriate health care for cats, the guidelines first had to answer the question "how old is my cat in 'human' years?"

You have probably heard or used formulas that go something like "every cat year is equal to five human years," but these are inaccurate primarily because cats go through their entire infancy, childhood, and even a good chunk of their adolescence in their first year of life. The new guidelines present a chart that finally answers this question in an authoritative manner.


Age of cat Human equivalent
0-1 month 0-1 year
2-3 months 2-4 years
4 months 6-8 years
6 months 10 years


Age of cat Human equivalent
7 months 12 years
12 months 15 years
12 months 21 years
2 years 24 years


Age of cat Human equivalent
3 28
4 32
5 36
6 40


Age of cat Human equivalent
7 44
8 48
9 52
10 56


Age of cat Human equivalent
11 60
12 64
13 68
14 72


Age of cat Human equivalent
15 76
16 80
17 84
18 88
19 92
20 96

Continue to add four years for every year your cat is fortunate enough to live past the age of twenty.

I won’t go into all the details of what is included in the guidelines, but it talks about the importance of wellness exams, nutrition and weight management, diagnostic testing (e.g., blood work, urinalysis, blood pressure checks, and fecal testing), behavior and environmental issues, parasite control, vaccinations, and dental care.

One interesting tidbit that I took away from reading the report is that "41% of people looking for their lost cats considered them to be indoor-only pets," and that "only about 2% of lost cats ever find their way back from shelters, a major reason being the lack of tag or microchip identification." I had no idea these statistics were this dismal.
The guidelines are aimed primarily at veterinarians, but take a look at them yourself if you want to know the reasoning behind your vet’s recommendations or even more importantly, to make sure your cat is getting the care that he or she deserves.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Pic of the day: HELP !!! I'm On My Back and I Can't Get UP !!!! by rainy city

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