Feline aging isn't as simple as a quick formula of cat years to human years. Cats age at a different rate, depending on the life stage they are experiencing.
The Major Life Periods of a Cat
The juvenile portion or kitten years account for more growth and development than the young adult stage. Although cats of ten years or older can be considered elderly, this senior segment of life can sometimes span out until the cat is twenty years of age. There are many factors that will affect your cat's aging, so it is difficult to theoretically chart out the exact aging rate of an individual cat.
Your cat's kittenhood represents the fastest stage of its development. In the first twelve months of a kitten's life, the animal will achieve a state of physical and intellectual development that would be comparable to a 15 to 20-year-old human. Naturally, these figures are not precise since it becomes complicated to compare two very different species, but even a ballpark estimate serves to drive home the point that this juvenile period marks a phase of rapid growth.
This development will slow after the kitten's first year. The young adult stage is marked by more physical maturity, but most of the mental and physical growth has already played out.
Towards the fourth or fifth year, a cat is no longer truly maturing. Aging is a word that is more appropriate once a cat hits this stage. This doesn't mean that your cat is geriatric at five years of age, but somewhere around the fifth year of a cat's life, it has reached a time that would be roughly equivalent to a late thirties/early forties human being. This phase marks a slowing of the metabolism which leads to a slowed regeneration of cells.
Around the ninth or tenth year of your cat's life, your animal may begin to show visible signs of aging. Age-related diseases and health conditions may begin to appear, and your cat's general zeal for life may decline if these issues aren't properly addressed. Although these last years may mark the longest period of your cat's life, they could represent the least healthy. Providing your cat with good nutrition, regular vet care and a generally healthy lifestyle from the day it enters your home is fundamental to the animal's longevity and health during this final geriatric phase.
Although most cats age at the same rapid rate during their kitten years, the following phases of their lives are influenced by a variety of factors. To begin, genetics do play a role in how quickly and healthily a cat ages. Some cats are equipped with strong survival genes, and their hearty constitutions help their bodies detoxify free radicals and thrive longer than other cats. Some breeds stand out as far more formidable in the cat world. British Shorthair cats are large, sturdy and relatively healthy cats that are known to live until twenty years of age. In contrast, the Persian cat carries many health issues throughout its ancestry, and these felines are not hailed for their longevity.
Preventative and Healthy Lifestyle Measures
Genetics aside, your cat's fate does not completely rely on its DNA. There are several accompanying factors that may make a world of difference when it comes to your cat's aging process. Diet is at the top of this list. Cats that are fed healthy, enzyme-rich, nutrition-packed diets have a great advantage over felines who eat commercially processed foods that are often devitalized during processing. Your cat needs a steady intake of proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins in balanced amounts. Providing your pet with the best nutrition possible is the first step in helping him down the path to a long life.
Cat food can be a confusing territory since there are so many brands of food available. Moreover, many feeding philosophies from raw whole foods to intricate homemade mixes permeate the world of feline diets, so feeding your cat correctly can become an area of controversy amongst breeders and pet owners. Supplementing your cat's diet with healthy foods and choosing organic, premade formulas that do not contain chemicals and toxic ingredients can help make a difference without plunging pet owners into the difficult task of making balanced, homemade cat food
Keeping your cat indoors as opposed to free outdoor roaming can also affect your cat's health. Indoor cats are statistically proven to live considerably longer. Remaining indoors keeps the animal safe from all sorts of pests and communicable diseases, not to mention other environmental stresses such as cars and large dogs.
Although a cat's longevity cannot be guaranteed, even when supported by a healthy lifestyle, pet owners should not feel entirely disconnected from a responsibility for their cat's vitality. These simple efforts can help prevent unnaturally rapid aging that can occur from a less healthy diet and lifestyle. At the end of the day, regardless of an animal's lifespan, pet owners can at least feel as though they did everything that could be done to extend their cats' lives.