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When is a cat considered a senior?

If your cat is getting older and starting to slow done, you may be wondering when your cat is considered a senior. Today our Aurora Veterinary Hospital vets explain how to spot the signs of aging and when your cat is considered a senior.

How Old Is A Senior Cat?

If like most cat owners, you spend every day with your kitty it can be challenging to tell when they become a senior. But make no mistake - your cat's body goes through changes as it ages, much like a person's body does. 

In another similarity to humans, aging cats experience these changes uniquely. Many cats begin to show age-related physical changes by the time they are between 7 and 10 years old, and most will have by about 12 years old. 

People frequently believe that one "cat year" is equivalent to seven "human years," but this is not entirely correct. Instead, it's widely assumed that a cat's first year is comparable to human development by the time they're 16 years old. So, at two years old, a cat is more similar to a human between the ages of 21 and 24.

After that point, one "cat year" is equal to roughly four human years (for example, a 10-year-old cat = 53-year-old human; a 12-year-old cat = 61-year-old human; a 15-year-old cat = 73-year-old human, etc.)

You'll be the proud owner of a senior cat by the time it hit about 11 years old. If a cat lives beyond 15 years of age, it'd be a "super-senior". When caring for older cats, it sometimes helps to think of their age in human terms. 

What Happens As My Senior Cat Ages?

Cats, like humans, go through a variety of behavioral and physical changes as they age. While aging in cats is not a disease in and of itself, keeping your vet informed of changes in your senior cat's body and personality will go a long way toward ensuring they receive the most comprehensive wellness care possible. Changes to look out for include:

Physical Changes 

Grooming & Appearance

Aging cats may be less effective at grooming, which can lead to matted or oily fur. Painful hair matting can result in inflammation and skin odor. Senior cats' claws also often become thick, brittle, and overgrown, and will need more attention from caretakers. 

An old cat's eyes and vision may also change - they commonly have a slightly hazy lens and 'lacy' appearance to the iris (the colorful part of the eye), but there is little evidence that their sight is significantly impacted by this alone.

However, numerous diseases, especially those related to high blood pressure, can seriously and irreversibly affect a cat's ability to see.

Unintentional Weight Loss or Gain

If your senior cat is losing weight, this can point to any number of problems, from diabetes to kidney and heart disease. Dental disease is also extremely common in senior cats. As they age, dental issues can impair eating, causing malnutrition and weight loss along with causing significant pain in their mouths.

Physical Activity & Abilities 

Arthritis or degenerative joint disease often becomes a problem for older cats. This condition makes it difficult to access food and water bowls, beds, and litter boxes. This fact is especially true for a cat that needs to climb stairs or jump. 

While changes in sleep are a normal aspect of aging, a significant increase in sleep or depth of sleep is a concern and your vet should be notified. If you notice your senior cat's energy has suddenly increased, this may indicate hyperthyroidism and should be checked by a vet. 

Geriatric cats also commonly lose hearing for several reasons. If this happens to your cat, it's another reason to visit your veterinarian. 

Behavioral Changes

Cognitive Issues

If you notice your cat becoming confused by tasks or objects that are part of their daily routine, this could be an indication of memory or cognition issues. Litterbox accidents or avoidance, new or increased human avoidance, wandering, excessive meowing, and appearing disoriented are all signs of mental confusion or feline senility that should be evaluated by your veterinarian.

Issues Caused by Disease

A cat may become aggressive due to pain from health issues like dental disease or arthritis, so keeping an eye on your cat's mood is important because cats tend to hide discomfort. Diseases and disorders affecting urination (e.g. diabetes, kidney failure) can cause an increase in litterbox usage, which may lead to cats eliminating in inappropriate areas.

Cats that are experiencing mobility problems due to joint inflammation may have challenges accessing or even climbing into their litterbox, especially if stairs are involved. This may also lead to your senior cat eliminating in inappropriate places and should be addressed by a vet.

How Can I Help Keep My Senior Cat Healthy?

Your observations are some of the most important tools available to help keep your senior cat happy and healthy. Incorporating simple changes to your grooming, feeding and general interactions with your cat can be a low-pressure way to watch for any changes in your aging pet so your vet can provide geriatric care geared to your pet's needs.


Brushing your cat's fur, trimming their claws, and brushing their teeth are great ways to keep older cats clean and healthy, while also checking for changes in their fur, skin, nose, eyes, ears, and claws.


A lot of senior cats get heavy or even obese as they age, which can be controlled with diet and activity if the weight gain is non-medical. Other weight issues include elderly cats being underweight, which may be caused by a variety of medical conditions and should be assessed by a veterinarian.

Home Life

Older cats might be more sensitive to routine or household changes, which could cause stress. Your senior cat will benefit greatly from your patience and considerations, such as extra love, a special toy or blanket, and a quiet place to stay. As your cat ages, don't forget to play with them; mental and physical exercise is good for their wellbeing.

Vet Care

Because cats are adept at hiding illness until it is advanced or severe, it's important to take them regularly to the vet for wellness checks even if they seem perfectly healthy. Your veterinarian will also be able to monitor any conditions that your senior cat may have, and catch any potential or emerging issues early when they're more treatable. their behavior and health.

How Can A Veterinarian Help?

Your veterinarian will benefit greatly from your understanding of your cat's habits, health, and personality as well as any observations you may have. These ought to be used in conjunction with regularly scheduled routine exams.Your vet can advise you on how frequently to bring in your senior cat and may even suggest increasing the frequency of physical examinations, depending on their age, lifestyle, health, and a few other factors, such as any ongoing needs they may have in terms of medical conditions.

Do you have questions about caring for your senior cat? Contact us to book a wellness check for your feline friend.

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