The fastest and easiest way to determine the age of a cat is to make a trip to the veterinarian’s office. In an adult cat, it’s harder to tell but in a kitten, there are more variables to go by. Even with all the clues, determining the age of a stray cat is a best guess effort.
EyesWhen kittens are born, they are blind. After about a week or so, they open their eyes. At ten days, the eyes should be fully open. Eye color is another indicator for tiny kittens. All kittens are born with blue eyes. The color gradually changes as they grow and at as early as seven weeks (in most breeds and mixed breeds), the color begins to change. Some breeds take longer for eye color to become permanent and sometimes, it’s just hard to tell the color—kittens don’t hold still long enough to get a good look!
TeethThe lower molars begin to come in at four to five weeks while upper molars show up at about eight weeks. Incisors are at three or four weeks. Kittens can eat solid food as early as five weeks. If he’s looking for the food bowl vs. the human putting soft food near his face, it’s a clue that he’s a bit older.
Litter TrainingCats have a natural instinct to dig—that starts when the kitten is mobile or at about four weeks.
Other CluesGenetics and heredity play an important part in a cat’s life. If as a kitten, there was plentiful food and water, indoor living, and veterinary care, a cat will be larger and healthier than a feral kitten whose mother was malnourished and unable to provide proper nutrition for the kittens.
If a cat is past the cutesy kitten stage but is obviously not fully mature, chances are he’s a year or two old. In human terms, a year old cat is comparable to a fifteen year old teenager which explains the bursts of energy followed by long naps. At age twenty, the cat is geriatric and comparable to a ninety-six year old human—even longer naps and rare energy bursts.
As with any other species, cats slow as they age. Jumping is natural for cats so if the cat you’ve adopted isn’t comfortable jumping onto the bed, chances are he’s older than first thought. Pet steps or a footstool will give him the mobility without added stress. With less exercise, comes weight gain as well. A heavier cat can be older too—or being overweight has slowed a normally active cat. Just like with humans, the saying goes, “Before beginning a diet and exercise program, be sure to be examined by your veterinarian to make sure you’re healthy enough to make the changes needed to lose weight, improve health and gain mobility.”
Indoor cats live much longer than feral, outdoor cats—no predators to avoid, good quality food, fresh water, and a family to call their own, extends a cat’s life. The average indoor cat lives twelve to fifteen years but with constantly improved veterinary care, twenty is now an attainable goal.[/float]