It’s a funny thing to think about, but contrary to common belief, the life cycle of a cat isn’t just “eat, sleep, play, and chase mice.” No, cats are capable of so much more. While it won’t apply to the career of everyone who works with cats (definitely not those working at Cat Fancy), we can all learn from cats’ unique lives. So without further ado, let jump right into the bandwagon
We speak of the life cycle of a cat in terms of stages such as kitten, adult cat, senior cat, and geriatric cat. There is also a separate category of stray and feral cats. The domestic cat is a member of the Felidae family, a clan that includes lions, leopards, pumas, ocelots and fossas. The biggest difference between cats and other animals is its predatory nature. Though they will hunt or scavenge food when hungry they are also known to commit acts of gifts on occasion (moose being the most common).
The life cycle of a cat is fairly simple. Cats are mammals and, like all mammals, they go through the process of growing from an embryo to an adult.
The Life Cycle Of A Cat
- Embryo Stage
- Fetal Development
- Birth (Parturition)
- Neonatal Phase
- Juvenile Phase
The life cycle of a cat is the process by which a cat grows from an embryo to an adult feline.
The first stage of this process is the fertilization of the egg, which occurs inside the female cat’s body. The embryo that has been created inside her uterus will continue to develop within her body for two weeks after fertilization, and then it will begin to grow into a fetus.
The fetus remains in its mother’s womb for approximately 65 days before being born as a neonate. Neonates are tiny versions of adult cats that weigh only one pound when they are born and have not yet grown their fur. They can be born with their eyes closed or open, and they do not have any teeth or claws yet. They depend on their mother for everything during this time because they cannot move around on their own yet.
After about six months, neonates begin to grow into kittens and begin teething at around three months old. By four months old, kittens will have their permanent teeth and may even start eating solid foods like dry food instead of just drinking milk from their mothers’ bodies every day until they are fully weaned at around fourteen weeks old (or more).
The Life Cycle Of A Cat
Cats progress through a number of stages in their lifetime, and as a cat owner, you should learn about these stages of your cat’s development. Knowing about the different stages a cat goes through is important, because it helps you understand why your cat behaves the way it does at certain stages of its life. It is also crucial for knowing how to properly take care of them in each stage.
This AnimalWised article describes the six stages of the cat life cycle, as well as the key care and needs at each stage.
Kittenhood (0-6 months)
The first stage in the life of a cat is called a kittenhood and lasts from birth to 6 months of age, which roughly corresponds to the first 10 years in the life of a human.
- In the first hours of life: It is important for kittens to eat their mother’s colostrum in order to receive antibodies, since their intestines become impermeable to immunoglobulins later in life.
- In the first month: Kittens are fed exclusively with mother’s milk for their first four weeks. After that, kittens can begin weaning by consuming solid food gradually and moving on to wet food or moistened food. If you want to know more about weaning in cats, do not hesitate to read this post on weaning kittens.
During this stage, kittens grow and develop continuously, so the changes are very fast. Cats in this phase are generally more active and mischievous, and they’re constantly alert. During the first three months of life, they should have close contact with their mother, who will teach them many traits by imitation.
The kitten’s socialization period begins during this phase, specifically between 2 and 7 weeks. This is an important phase for the future behavior of the cat. Kittens that are actively socialized are less fearful in unfamiliar situations and adapt better to changes in their environment. On the other hand, kittens that are not properly socialized often develop behavioral problems such as play aggression, inappropriate play behavior, and fear aggression. You can help your kitten during this stage by doing the following things:
- Accustom the cat to moving around: Car rides, carriers, or harnesses.
- Accustom the cat to different situations in the house: using different tools, cleaning, working, music.
- Accustom the cat to contact with other animals and people: the animals should be well socialized and vaccinated.
- Accustom the cat to grooming: cutting nails, brushing teeth, bathing, etc.
At this stage, cats can also be sterilized, especially after 4 months.
In female cats, this should be done before the first heat to reduce the risk of diseases affecting the reproductive organs, such as: Pyometra, cancer, ovarian cysts, uterine cancer, breast cancer.
In male cats, the risk of testicular and prostate tumors and behavioral problems related to sex hormones is also lower with early neutering. In general, neutered cats are more calm and affectionate because they are not under the stress of being confined when they need to reproduce. This stress can lead to frequent meowing, scratching, inappropriate urination and defecation, and other behavior issues.
Your kitten will need two vaccinations at the beginning, the first at nine weeks of age and a second booster at three months of age. After that, kittens and cats usually require booster shots once a year. Until your kitten is fully vaccinated, you should keep him or her indoors. It is extremely important for you and your cat to keep your cat’s annual vaccination appointment.
Check out the vaccination schedule for cats in this AnimalWised article we recommend.
Junior or adolescent (7 months – 2 years)
This stage of your cat’s life includes the first 7 months and 2 years of its life, which corresponds to about 11 to 27 years of a human, that is, adolescence and early youth.
At 7 months, the cat is practically an adult and sexually mature, especially in precocious short-haired breeds like the Siamese. Due to their young age, cats at this stage are strong and playful, with lots of energy and a desire to explore. Without sterilization, hormones will affect their behavior, and cats will display signs of jealousy with shrill meowing, scuffles, and attempts to escape, as well as territorial markings and behavioral problems.
Most health issues occur at this stage of life due to infectious diseases, which are particularly common in young cats, especially in male cats that go outside and come into contact or conflict with strange cats. Also, cats at this age are sometimes run over and injured because they tend to run away from home and go “crazy” due to their excess energy. This is why it is imperative that cat owners with cats in this phase of their life cycle engage their kitty with physical and mental enrichment. Get your cat toys that lead them to sharpen their primal instincts.
Cat owners with junior cats should introduce them to adult cat food at this stage, and provide them with a protein-rich meal. This will help to keep their cats healthy.
If you wish to know more about what kind of games you can play to stimulate their mental and physical health at this stage, keep reading this article on 10 games to entertain my cat.
Young adult (3-6 years)
For comparison, cats aged 3 to 6 years are equivalent to a human aged 30 to 45 years. Cats at this age already have strongly developed personalities and habits. So if they have not been properly socialized and accustomed to change, they will have a hard time adapting to new routines.
At this age, cats continue to suffer from infectious diseases, especially if they have not been vaccinated. They may also suffer from parasite infestations, digestive problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, food hypersensitivity, and dental diseases such as periodontitis or gingivostomatitis feline chronicle. For this reason, a check-up with the vet never hurts, even if we see that our cat is healthy and strong.
Behavioral problems due to sex hormones will continue to occur as long as they have not been sterilized. Even though they are calmer than before, they will continue to want to play very often. Their energy is also high, so daily play should not be neglected.
If you want to know more about the dental issues a cat can have at this stage, do not miss our article about the most common dental problems in cats.
Mature (7-10 years)
This stage corresponds to the age between 45 and 60 years in humans. Cats in this stage gradually reduce their playfulness and energy and spend a little more time resting and watching us. For this reason, cats can gain weight if we do not continue to adjust the daily food. But just because your cat has turned 7 does not mean they do not want to play anymore. Many of them will often continue to ask you for playtime, which you must provide them with in order to keep them happy and healthy.
During this stage, it is essential that they see a vet at least once a year to check on their health, as they are becoming mature and older, and are at increased risk of many diseases, such as:
If possible, cats should always have access to water via a cat fountain when away from home to promote their water intake and protect their kidneys. Chronic kidney disease is more common after 7 years of age and can be very serious if not detected early. If you notice that your cat is drinking more, urinating more, or vomiting occasionally, you should take them to the vet and have their kidneys checked.
If you want to know more about what kind of food you should give your cat if it suffers from kidney disease, do not miss this other article about feeding cats with kidney stones.
Senior (11-14 years)
A cat’s 11 to 14 years are equivalent to 60-75 human years. At this age, cats tend to rest a lot and play a lot less, although they may still ask for it sometimes. Chronic conditions such as kidney disease, feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), diabetes mellitus, and hyperthyroidism often worsen or develop.
Hyperthyroidism is the most common endocrine pathology in older cats and may be suspected if your cat has more appetite but loses weight, increases activity, is vocal and vomits.
It is important that older cats have a veterinary exam at least once a year, and anytime there is a change in their behavior, no matter how subtle. In addition, tumors are much more common from this age than in young cats, which can affect their quality of life and life expectancy, especially if they are not diagnosed in time.
FLUTD is characterized by several symptoms, but most often we first notice it when the cat has difficulty urinating. If you want to learn more about this disease and how to detect it early, do not miss our article on what is FLUTD in cats?
Geriatric (+15 years)
A cat that is 15 years old or older is already considered a geriatric cat, which is similar to an adult human being who is 80 years old or older. At this age, cats may suffer from bone and joint diseases such as osteoarthritis. They may also be reluctant to climb heights, spend a lot of time resting, or meow when certain areas of their bodies are petted.
It is also common for them to develop diseases such as senile dementia, which is similar to that of humans. Symptoms include meowing at night and behavioral problems such as urinating and defecating outside the litter box and hiding for long periods of time.
In addition, it increases the risk of suffering from all feline diseases, especially those of older cats, such as:
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Checkups at the veterinarian should be performed frequently, especially for sick cats, and food should be adapted to the new requirements of geriatric cats.
It is very rare for geriatric cats to play, but if they do not have joint damage or arthritis, they may occasionally need to. Due to their low energy levels and many years of living together, they can be calmer and can tolerate petting and manipulation better.