Domestic cats as every other living organism have a life cycle. Cats are known to advance through a number of stages in their lifetime, and as a cat owner, it is important to learn about these stages of your cat’s life. This knowledge is important as it will help you understand why your cat behaves the way she does at certain stages of her life; it will also guide you on how to care for your cat at each stage she enters.
A whole lot of people make the mistake of thinking the life cycle of cat’s consist only of three stages namely; kittenhood – adulthood – old age. But there’s more to that.
What is the life cycle of a cat?
There are at least 5 life cycles of a normal cat. Stage 1 is kittenhood, stage 2 is junior or adolescent, stage 3 is adulthood, stage 4 is mature cat and stage 5 is geriatric or senior cat.
According to a report put forward by International CatCare, felines go through no less than six life stages and each of these stages are distinct in themselves. Enough said, let’s explore the incredible life cycle of a cat and all six unique stages of its life starting with the youngest stage – kittenhood.
- Kittenhood (0 – 6 months)
The first stage in the life cycle of cat is the kitten stage. This is the period from when a cat is born till it is six months old. A cat at this stage is equivalent to a child within the age range of 1 – 10 years. Five weeks following the birth of a cat, and all her senses are fully developed.
For a more in depth look at this life cycle, check out The First Life Cycle Of A Cat, also on our blog.
Kittens look exactly as they should – baby cats. Their body isn’t developed yet so they are very small at this stage of their life.
In this video, The Kitten Lady walk us through how to identify what age a kitten is with baby kittens to illustrate their physical characteristics.
If you own a kitten, you may have noticed how playful she is. Now that’s because every kitten has got a strong play drive. It is important to note that kittens learn a great deal about life through playing so try not to deprive your young feline of quality play time. Kittens that don’t get to play may end up becoming aggressive to other cats and even people later in life.
As a cat owner, this period in your cat’s life is when you should get her acquainted with tooth and coat brushing, nail trimming, traveling in a car, and also instill certain good behaviours in her as litter box habit.
Kittens who have been fully weaned from their mother’s milk can be fed solid food. They should be given a protein-based diet as this is necessary to help them grow properly and stay healthy. Felines at this stage have a rapid metabolism, so it is important that cat owners provide their kitten(s) with enough good kitten food.
Just as human children, kittens are very fragile and should be treated with utmost care. Cats in this phase require adequate supervision as they are overly curious about their surroundings. In a bid to keep a kitten safe, it is important to cover window openings, block off vents and secure doors to prevent her from leaving the house. In addition to that, Kitten-proofing your home is also important to ensure she doesn’t go walking into electric cables or any other thing that may harm her.
For the sake of her health, it is important she gets her first vaccination at this stage of life.
- The Junior Cat (7 months – 2 years)
The second stage in the life cycle of a cat is known as the junior phase. As a cat moves from kittenhood to this stage, a lot changes in the feline. A cat enters this stage when it turns 7 months old, and it remains in this stage till it clocks 2 years. A feline in this phase of its life is equivalent in age to a human within the age range of 12 – 24 years.
For a more in depth look at this life cycle, check out The Second Life Cycle Of A Cat, also on our blog.
A junior cat looks quite different from a kitten. Her body looks long and lanky. This is the look her body takes before it eventually puffs up.
As the bubbly kitten, a cat in the junior stage still plays, but not as much as she used to during kittenhood. She slowly begins to act like an adult cat as she reaches sexual maturity. At the age of one, female cats can go into heat and even get pregnant. Other behaviours exhibited by cats in this phase are boundary testing and exertion of dominance. This is really a difficult time if you’re a cat owner, so it’s best to be patient with your young cat when she begins to display excessive naughty behaviours.
Cats should be introduced to adult cat food at this stage. Feline owners with junior cats should endeavor to provide their furry friend with a meal rich in protein. This will keep her healthy.
Cats in their junior phase require less supervision than they did when they were kittens. Feline owners with cats in this stage of their life cycle should endeavor to engage their kitty with physical and mental enrichment. Get her toys that do well to sharpen her primal instincts. In addition to that, junior cats should be taken for regular medical checkups and vaccination.
- The Prime Cat (3 – 6 years)
The third stage in the life cycle of a cat is referred to as the prime phase. A feline at this phase has finally entered into full adulthood. This is the stage where she is most vigorous and radiant. A prime cat is equivalent in age to a human within 28 – 40 years of age.
As adult cats, they're strong, tall and long as they'll ever be. Their body is full and well developed, and their coat shiny.
Most kitten behaviours are long gone by now and they tend to exhibit only adult temperaments. Whatever trait they have now is what they'll have for rest of their life. It doesn't end there as those same traits will be passed down to their offspring. Cats in this stage of life are very territorial.
It's still normal to see cats in their prime get into a playful mood from time to time.
A cat in her prime should be fed adult cat food as was the case in her junior stage. Protein based diets are a healthy choice for such cats.
A fully trained cat in her prime understands her environment and is able to look after herself with little or no supervision. The only care necessary for a cat in this stage is taking her for routine check-ups. A regular trip to the vet is important as cats around this age are prone to such dental health problems as periodontal disease.
- The Mature Cat (7 – 10 years)
The third stage in the life cycle of a cat is known as the mature cat stage. A kitty at this stage in life is slowly getting old. She is equivalent in age to a human within the age range of 44 - 56.
In the area of looks, there isn't much difference between a mature cat and a prime cat. This is the stage in life where cats tend to gain extra weight and start to lose the brilliance of their coat.
A few mature cats still exhibit playful behaviours occasionally, but most cats in this stage seldom engage in such activities. This might be as a result of weight gain or the fact that they aren't as agile as they used to be.
The body of mature cats require a lot of vitamins to keep it healthy and functioning. Vitamins C and E are very necessary at this point as they help strengthen their immune system. You might also need to reduce the food rations if you notice your mature cat has begun gaining extra pounds.
Cats within this stage are known to have a tendency to suffer such health problems as cancer, thyroid disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The only way to care for a mature cat is to constantly take her for check-ups and get her exercising a lot. Her health depends on it. A mature cat should also be closely watched for even the slightest sign of an illness.
- The Senior and Geriatric Cat (11 years and Over)
How long do cats live? Each kitty is different and different cat breeds can vary too. That being said, they can live to be up to 10 years old and even 20 years old in some cases.
The final stages in the life cycle of a cat are the senior cat stage and geriatric cat stage. Cats in the senior stage fall within the age range of 11 - 14 years; on the other hand, cats in the geriatric stage are 15 years of age and above. Now the geriatric phase is the most advanced stage a feline can ever attain during its lifetime.
It may shock you to learn a senior cat is equivalent in age to a human within the age of 60 - 72 years; and a geriatric cat is equivalent in age to a human who's within the age bracket of 76 - 116.
Senior and Geriatric cats are more prone to show signs of old age. One can easily notice the hairs on their fur going white.
Senior cats and Geriatric cats are known to be super lazy. They may spend the entirety of their day sleeping and have difficulty performing even the simplest cat task. If your cat within this age range stops using her litter box, that shouldn't get you mad at her. You should understand that at this point in her life, she is becoming weak as her joints and muscles begin to terribly wear out.
A senior cat food formula should do just fine for cats in this stage, but it is important to first consult your vet and make enquiries regarding what diet is best for your heavily advanced cat.
Senior and Geriatric cats should be shown utmost care by their owners. Rather than scold her for not using the litter box, make sure the litter box is as close to her as can be and within easy reach. Care for these set of cats by regularly taking them for health check-ups and keeping them under close watch.
Cats at these life stages may even forget to have a meal or drink water, you should be there to ensure they eat when they should to avoid starvation, and that they drink when they should to avoid dehydration. Also endeavor to provide your senior or geriatric cat with a warm place to nestle in, her body needs to be kept warm more than ever.
What age does a cat mature?
The mature cat (7-10 years old) is considered mature for an adult. This age can be compared to a human in their forties. A cat who is entering into sexual maturity and leaving kitten hood is as young as 1 year old. A cat will start to calm down as it reaches 2 years old, and be much more mellow, settling down even more as it approaches 7 years old.
The opportunity to see your kitty grow from kittenhood to the senior or geriatric stage is indeed a blessing. I have experience adopting adult cats, and adopting a kitten, raising him into his senior years. Both are wonderful experiences. Understanding the different stages took some research on my part, but because of my experience with both, I am now glad to add to the content on these topics.
So be grateful for that and show extra care for your cat even when it seems she’s reached the end of her life cycle.
If you are considering adopting, or would like more information on the cat stages, we also have these on our blog:
Lisa is the Founder of Kritter Kommunity and the Inventor of the Kritter Kondo, an outdoor portable catio. She also designed the Pet Lodge, an outdoor pet pen for traveling cats and dogs. Lisa writes for Kritter Kommunity frequently and is also a regular contributor at Catington Post. Lisa is owned by her Tuxedo male cat Finnegan who also has his own Facebook page.