From about the age of ten to twelve years, a cat may begin to show signs of growing old. This may not be immediately apparent as the slowing down process is very gradual. Internal organs may not work as well as they once did and joints may become that little bit stiffer. Over time the cat seems to restrict its activities, is far less playful and becomes a creature of sedentary habits. Particular health conditions such as diabetes or arthritis require constant supervision and medical intervention.
The oldest cat recorded was a tabby that was said to have lives for thirty six years. The oldest pedigreed cat on record is a Siamese who dies in 1989, at the age of thirty one years. These are exceptional ages, however. Most cats live for about fourteen to sixteen years and a few may reach twenty years. With pedigreed cats there is a very accurate means of determining age, as they are normally registered with an exact date of birth and registration number.
When you first get a twelve week old kitten, it is very likely that its lifespan will be something between ten and fifteen years. This could mean that the cat will become a companion to your children as well as to yourself. A longer life is not unusual; in which case it may well live to see your grandchildren as well. To borrow from the dog world, a cat is for life, not just for Christmas. This has to be thoroughly understood before a kitten joins the household.
Neutered or altered cats have a slightly longer lifespan than those which remain unaltered. This is particularly true of male cats. An unaltered tom will fight to defend territory and the resulting injuries and infections may shorten his life. Females lead a much quieter life, and a career spent having kittens, in an environment in which her condition is well maintained, appears to have little effect on the female’s longevity.
Apart from differing nutritional requirements at various stages of its life, a cat’s physical responses slow down as it gets older and joints become stiff. This not only has the effect of reducing suppleness and agility, but has implications for the daily care of the cat such as grooming. The start of a long relationship, the kitten will probably live long enough to be a companion for its young owner throughout her childhood and teenage years.