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Aging cats: When Is a Cat Considered a Senior?

Aging cats: When Is a Cat Considered a Senior?

As your cat grows older and begins to move more slowly, you might be curious about when your cat reaches senior status. Our veterinarians at Pets on Broadway Animal Hospital are here to guide you in recognizing the aging signs and identifying the point at which your cat becomes 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 often think that one "cat year" is equivalent to 7 "human years," but this isn't quite accurate. Instead, it's generally accepted that a cat's first year is similar to the development that would occur in a human by the time they reach 16 years old. So, a cat at 2 years old is more similar to a human between 21 and 24 years old. 

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 hits 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 go through various behavioral and physical changes as they get older, similar to how we do. Although aging isn't an illness for cats, keeping your veterinarian informed about shifts in your senior cat's body and behavior is essential. This helps ensure your cat gets the best possible wellness care. Watch out for changes such as:

Physical Changes 

Grooming & Appearance

As cats age, they might also not groom themselves, leading to tangled or greasy fur. This can cause painful mats in their hair, which can make their skin red and smelly. Older cats' claws can also become thick and long, needing more care from their caregivers.

An elderly cat's eyes may change too. They might seem a bit cloudy, and the colored part of their eye could have a lacy look. However, it's not clear if these changes affect their vision a lot.

Yet, some diseases, especially those linked to high blood pressure, can seriously harm a cat's eyesight in a way that can't be fixed.

Unintentional Weight Loss or Gain

If your older cat is getting thinner, it might be due to various issues like diabetes, kidney problems, or heart disease. Older cats often have dental problems too, which can affect their eating, lead to weight loss, and cause pain in their mouths.

Physical Activity & Abilities 

Older cats often face problems with arthritis or joint disease, making it hard for them to reach their food, water, beds, and litter boxes. This is especially true if they need to climb stairs or jump.

While changes in sleep are normal as cats age, if you see a big increase in sleep or deep sleep, let your vet know. If your senior cat suddenly becomes more energetic, it might have hyperthyroidism, so a vet check is recommended.

Geriatric cats often lose their hearing due to various reasons. If your cat experiences this, it's another reason to take them to the vet.

Behavioral Changes

Cognitive Issues

If you notice that your cat has started being confused by tasks or objects that are part of their daily routine, this may be a sign of issues with memory or cognition. Behavioral changes such as litterbox accidents or avoidance, new or increased human avoidance, wandering, excessive meowing, and seeming disorientated are also potential signs of mental confusion or feline senility and should be examined by your vet.

Issues Caused by Disease

Cats might act out if they're in pain due to issues like dental problems or arthritis. It's crucial to keep an eye on your cat's behavior because they tend to hide their discomfort. Health conditions like diabetes or kidney problems can make cats use their litter boxes more often, sometimes in the wrong places.

If your cat has trouble moving due to joint issues, they might struggle to reach their litter box, especially if it's on higher ground. This could also lead older cats to go potty where they shouldn't. If you notice this, it's best to consult a vet.

How Can I Help Keep My Senior Cat Healthy?

Watching your senior cat closely is a vital way to ensure their happiness and health. You can easily spot any changes as they age by making small adjustments to how you groom, feed, and interact with them. This will enable your vet to offer personalized care tailored to your cat's requirements.


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

Senior cats might feel more uneasy when their daily routine or surroundings change, causing stress. Being patient and making adjustments, like offering extra love, a cherished toy, or a cozy spot, can greatly help your older cat adapt to these changes. Remember, spending time playing with your cat remains important as they grow older, as it keeps them mentally and physically active, which is good for their overall health.

Vet Care

Cats can conceal illnesses well, so it's crucial to schedule regular vet visits for check-ups, even if your cat appears fine. Your vet can also watch for health problems in older cats and catch any possible concerns early when they're easier to treat. This benefits both their well-being and behavior.

How Can A Veterinarian Help?

Understanding your cat's behavior, well-being, and temperament, along with your own insights, will help your vet tremendously. Regular check-ups are also crucial. Based on your senior cat's age, lifestyle, health, and specific medical requirements, your vet will advise how often you should bring your cat for visits and might suggest more frequent health check-ups.

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

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