Do you REALLY know how old your cat is? Unless you’ve had your cat since kitten-hood, do you REALLY know? One piece of advice I can give is not to trust a shelter on the true age of your cat. The shelter may be going by what an owner told them. Or an inexperienced vet may give the wrong age.
So how is a cat’s age determined? I used to think teeth were the only indication in determining a cats age. I tend to take in cats who are toothless, so other methods must be used. Here are a few other ways to tell.
- Reaction to toys. The younger the cat, the more interested in the toy
- Body definition. Older cats may have more skin hanging or shoulder blades protruding.
- Sleeping habits. Older cats tend to sleep more. Personally I find this one unreliable as cats are known for napping their lives away.
- Look at the teeth. A vet will look at a cats teeth for a pattern or wear, tartar accumulation and tooth loss.
- Coat. A kitten has a baby fine coat, which coarsens and thickens as a cat ages. An older cat may develop patches of gray or white as humans do.
- Eyes. A young cat has bright, clear eyes. An older cat may develop cloudy eyes and also some tearing or discharge.
- Michael wrote a page some time ago: Judging a cat’s age.
The following are also signs that you have an older cat. Many can be corrected if caught in time to improve both the cats overall health and the time it has left. Most cats near the end of their life span will have failure of one or more of the following organs and/or conditions
- Hormone, kidney, liver, connective tissue and cardiac disorders
- Impaired nutrient absorption
- Impaired immunity
- Dental problems
Veterinarians stress it’s almost impossible to narrow down a cat’s age to within a certain year. Factors such as heredity, vet care, diet and environment play a major role in how well a cat ages.
Cat lovers with adult cats, PLEASE don’t assume you know the age of your cat solely by what someone told you! And don’t just give your cat’s age on the vet paperwork without asking your vet how old he believes your cat to be. If you just walk in their office and say you have a three year old cat, your vet will assume he’s examining a three year old cat. This could jeopardize your cats health by not checking for age related conditions.
I’ve experienced this personally many times over the past year. Our cat Mia was adopted out through a rescue group and then returned when the new owner’s vet stated she was 7 instead of 3 as the shelter had told us.
Our Cocoa had been listed as 2 on his paperwork. The vet determined Cocoa to be closer to 7 on his first vet visit a week after we rescued him.
And our darling Sealy was said to be 2 (does seem to be a popular age to put on the paperwork) and his vet believes him closer to 7-8. Sealy even has some strange coloring in the fur around his mouth which tends to back up the assumption he’s an older cat.
Tom has been our greatest tragedy. He was rescued at the age of (you guessed it!) 2 last January. He was euthanized a week ago at the age of 15. I’ll live with the guilt for the rest of my life in not knowing he was a VERY senior cat. As I cautioned, if you don’t bring up the subject to your vet, the vet will assume you know how old your cat is.
Readers, have any of you been told your cats are a certain age and later found their true age way off the mark? Do any of you have tips to add to tell the true age of a cat other than what I’ve outlined here? And who should we hold responsible for these errors in age?
Your comments are welcome.