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) Life Cycle
Cats have a fascinating life cycle that can be broken down into several stages. The first stage is the kitten phase, which lasts from birth to around 6 months of age. During this time, kittens are completely dependent on their mother for food and care.
This first stage in the life cycle of cat, the kitten stage, 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.
The kitten stage is an adorable and exciting time in a cat’s life. As baby cats, kittens look exactly as they should, with their cute and cuddly appearance. At this stage, their bodies are not fully developed, so they are small in size. This is a crucial time in their development, as they learn important skills such as socialization and play. As they grow, they become more independent and develop their own unique personalities. Overall, the kitten stage is a wonderful experience for both cats and their human companions.
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) Life Cycle
The next stage is the junior phase, which lasts from 6 months to around 2 years of age. During this time, cats are still growing and developing, but they are becoming more independent and starting to show their unique personalities.
We consider this the second stage in the life cycle of a cat, aka 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.
The cat life cycle is a fascinating journey that begins with the spirited kitten, a playful and lively stage where feline exuberance is at its peak, though somewhat diminished from their kittenhood. As the cat matures, a gradual transformation takes place, mirroring the transition from adolescence to adulthood. This metamorphosis becomes particularly evident as the cat reaches sexual maturity, typically occurring at around one year of age in females. During this period, various behavioral shifts become apparent, including the onset of heat cycles and the potential for pregnancy.
Furthermore, cats at this stage often engage in boundary-testing behaviors and may exhibit tendencies to assert dominance. For cat owners, navigating this phase can present unique challenges. It is essential to exercise patience and understanding when your young cat starts displaying what may seem like excessive mischievousness. By recognizing and supporting these natural developments in the cat life cycle, owners can better foster a harmonious and rewarding relationship with their feline companions.
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.
Having access to sunshine and fresh air without allowing her to roam freely is ideal! If you cannot build a full catio, consider an outdoor cat enclosure or a window catio.
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)
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.
Understanding Feline Aging: Coping with Litter Box Changes
As our feline companions grow older, it's not uncommon for them to experience changes in behavior and health. One noticeable change that might concern pet owners is when a cat in the senior age range stops using her litter box. However, it's essential to approach this situation with understanding and patience, rather than frustration. In this section, we'll discuss why older cats may develop litter box issues and how you can support them during this stage of life.
The Aging Process
Just like humans, cats go through a natural aging process. When they reach their senior years, typically around 7 years and older, they may start to exhibit various age-related changes. These changes can include physical and cognitive alterations that impact their day-to-day routines.
One of the physical changes that older cats may experience is a decline in joint and muscle strength. Their bodies are not as agile as they once were, and they might find it more challenging to jump, climb, or use their litter box with the same ease as before. This can result in accidents or difficulty using the box consistently.
Empathy and Understanding
It's crucial to remember that your aging cat isn't intentionally misbehaving or trying to upset you. Instead, she's navigating the challenges that come with growing older. As a responsible pet owner, it's your role to offer compassion and support during this transition.
How to Help
Here are some steps you can take to help your senior cat manage her litter box issues:
- Choose an Appropriate Litter Box: Consider using a litter box with lower sides to make it easier for your cat to access.
- Frequent Cleaning: Regularly clean the litter box to ensure it remains a hygienic and inviting space for your cat.
- Consult Your Veterinarian: If you notice any sudden changes in your cat's litter box behavior or other signs of distress, it's advisable to consult your veterinarian. There may be underlying medical issues contributing to the problem that need attention.
- Provide Comfort: Ensure your senior cat's environment is comfortable, with easy access to food, water, and cozy resting spots.
In conclusion, when your older cat begins to struggle with her litter box habits, approach the situation with understanding and patience. Recognize that this is a natural part of the aging process, and with your support, your beloved feline companion can continue to enjoy a comfortable and happy life in her senior years.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Age Does A Cat Mature?
The feline classified as mature, typically between the ages of 7 and 10 years, is deemed to have reached adulthood in the feline world. This life stage may be analogously equated to a human in their forties.
Meanwhile, a cat undergoing the transition from sexual immaturity to adulthood typically attains the age of one year. It is around the second year of life that felines begin to exhibit signs of reduced activity and a gradual shift towards a more composed temperament. As they approach their seventh year, cats tend to become even more tranquil and settled in their disposition.
How Long Do Cats Live?
Each kitty is different, and different cat breeds can vary too. In some cases, they can live up to 10 years old and even 20 years old.
Cat Life Cycle Facts
Here are guidelines you can expect with your feline as she develops and ages.
- Cats reach adulthood at about 12 months of age.
- Cats can live up to 20 years or longer with proper care.
- Female cats typically reach sexual maturity between 5-10 months of age and can reproduce as early as 4 months.
- Male cats reach sexual maturity at 6-9 months of age.
- The gestation period (the time between conception and birth) for cats is approximately 63-67 days.
- A female cat can have an average of three to five kittens per litter, but can have as many as seven or eight.
- Kittens are born with their eyes closed and without fur.
- Kittens will typically open their eyes between 7-10 days after birth.
- Kittens start to walk around three weeks of age and will be weaned (no longer nursing from their mother) around 6-7 weeks of age.
- Kittens typically reach their full size by 8-10 months of age.
- Cats can become pregnant again almost immediately after giving birth.
- Cats are most fertile when they are between 1-8 years of age.
- Female cats can have multiple litters each year.
- Cats are considered senior citizens when they reach 11 years of age.
Concluding Thoughts About the Lifecycle of a Cat
Seeing your kitty grow from kittenhood to the senior or geriatric stage is a blessing. I have experience adopting adult cats, and adopting a kitten, raising him into his senior years. Both are beautiful experiences.
Understanding the different stages took some research, 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 a feline, or would like more information on essential cat supplies, like toys your cat will need, we also have a blog post dedicated to feline toys:
Lisa Illman is the Founder of Kritter Kommunity, LLC. She has a tuxedo adult cat and has had him since he was a baby kitten. Before her cat Finnegan, Lisa had had two FIV-positive cats for over a decade. They inspired Lisa to invent a cat enclosure and a portable catio so they could safely sit outside and enjoy fresh air and sunshine. Lisa had a Poodle and a parakeet growing up. She currently loves to pet-sit for her neighbors’ dogs and cats.
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