by Michael

My late, great lady cat at aged 19

Quite frequently we are called upon to judge the age of other people. A lot of money is spent by people trying to disguise their age. It invariably fails! This is because cosmetic surgery is always apparent to the observer if not to the person who underwent the surgery. Cats are more sensible. Cats don’t have hang ups about age.

We can usually judge the age of a person within plus or minus ten years unless the person is exceptionally well preserved.

In terms of cat age, can we judge their age with the same reasonable accuracy? And if so how do you judge a cat’s age?

I’ll tell you how I judge a cat’s age and then you might like to tell me how you do it. Fair deal?! I will use human years.

Vets often have a look at a cat’s teeth. While gum disease is not necessarily a good indicator of a cats age, teeth discolouration probably is. Teeth are one indicator. Do the teeth look old?

Grey hairs are another good factor. I look for grey hairs around the face, neck and shoulders and indeed elsewhere. You can see them in the same way that you can see grey hairs on humans creeping into the sideburns etc.

Another good indicator for me is the belly. Older cats tend to have a belly flap; loose skin. Even a sort of pot belly is not that unusual for an elderly cat.

Weight tends to go up as a cat gets older as she becomes less active.

Iris blobs are a good sign too. In older cats you might see blobs of brown pigmentation in the iris of the eyes in the same way that you see brown blobs of pigmentation on the hands of older people.

A very old cat (at about 18 years or more of age) will simply look old. The coat will be less well groomed. The coat might look messy (unless groomed regularly by the cat’s human caretaker). A older cat’s face actually looks old even though there are no lines around the eyes!

Movement and agility is much decreased beyond a certain age; about 12-14 years of age. This is a behavioral indicator.

Sleeping increases with age. A cat of about 12 years of age will tend to sleep more than usual – another behavioral indicator.

A visitor refers to “the thinning of the irises”. Apparently this allows you to see the retina more easily. I have not noticed this. Have you?

Associated posts:

Caring for the geriatric cat

Changes in older cats

Elderly cat health problems

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • I honestly wouldn't know what to tell ya, my cat is at least 12 yrs old and hasn't had any noticeable changes in behavior or appearance in the 7+ yrs i've had her. And the one i owned for 10 yrs was 14 yrs old when she died when our house burnt down 11 yrs ago and she never looked older than the day we got her and she was always more active than my current cat, so as you can tell from my personal experiences with cats i can't give you any advice except to say that they're only as old as they think they are

    • Nice comment. I am looking after a sick cat at the moment and she looks about 3 years old but I am told she is about 12 years old. It can be a bit tricky judging a cat's age.

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