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At What Age Is a Cat Considered a Senior? Facts & Care Tips

old calico cat
Image Credit: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 23, 2023 by Catster Editorial Team

Watching our cats grow from kittens into adults and beyond is full of challenges, laughs, and lots of love. But as your cat ages and enters their senior years is when you need to really start paying attention to their health. After all, you want to keep your cat with you for as long as possible.

In most cases, cats are considered seniors by the time they are about 11 to 14 years of age and geriatric when they are 14 years and older.

We’ll go through the aging process that cats go through and the ways you can keep them healthy throughout their golden years.

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Cats Age in Human Years

Sometimes it’s a little easier to understand your cat’s life stages when you think of it in human years.

The general rule is that the first two years of your cat are equivalent to 25 years for us, and following this, you add four cat years for each human year. For example, a four-year-old cat would be about 33 human years old.

Life StageAge of CatEquivalent Human Years

Birth – 6 months

0 – 1 month0 – 1 year
2 months2 years
3 months4 years
4 months6 years
5 months8 years
6 months10 years

7 months – 2 years

7 months12 years
12 months15 years
18 months21 years
2 years24 years

3 years – 6 years

3 years28 years
4 years32 years
5 years36 years
6 years40 years

7 years – 10 years

7 years44 years
8 years48 years
9 years52 years
10 years56 years

11 years – 14 years

11 years60 years
12 years64 years
13 years68 years
14 years72 years

15+ years

15 years76 years
16 years80 years
17 years84 years
18 years88 years
19 years92 years
20 years96 years
21 years100 years
22 years104 years
23 years108 years
24 years112 years
25 years116 years
old cat_Georgii Shipin, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Georgii Shipin, Shutterstock

Signs of An Aging Cat

While 11 to 14 years of age are considered the senior years, many cats start to show signs of aging by about seven years old. And keep in mind that the cat’s weight, breed, and health will greatly impact how they age.

Many of the signs of an aging cat are relatively equivalent to the signs of aging in humans. There are initial signs that can be harder to spot, but they can be as follows:

  • Sleeping longer
  • Less energy
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Less interest in playing
  • Change in vocalization
  • Decreased hearing and/or vision
  • Changes in coat – excess matting, dandruff, hair loss, and oil
  • Changes in behavior
  • Increased urination
  • Increase in water intake
  • Signs of anxiety or aggression
  • Issues with the litter box – defecating and urinating outside of the box.

Caring for 10 Year Old Cats

Even though you can see signs of ageing in a cat from as early as 7 years, you are almost definitely going to notice the signs around 10 years. This is when you can begin to prepare your cat for his transition from adulthood into senior adulthood.

Annual check ups become more necessary. These annual senior checkups may include blood work to check for anemia or other underlying medical issues, along with a complete examination of your cat’s physical body. Your veterinarian may ask questions about your cat’s behavior to help pinpoint other medical conditions.

You can also take steps at home to help your cat adjust to any limitations caused by his advancing years. We discuss this in depth below, but it is important to remember that even a 10 year old cat may need special care.

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Common Health Conditions of Senior Cats

There are also symptoms of underlying illnesses that might present as your cat ages. Some of the more common conditions senior cats might experience are:


senior tabby cat sitting on person
Image Credit: Debra Anderson, Shutterstock

Osteoarthritis will cause pain and stiffness in the joints, so they will slow down and might have some trouble jumping onto surfaces and walking stiffer than usual. This can also lead to more mats in the coat as they have trouble grooming themselves.

Changes in Behavior

As cats age, some might start acting quite differently than they did before. This might include vocalizing with much more frequency but for no apparent reason or inappropriate elimination outside the litter box.

You should have a talk with your vet regarding these behaviors, as they could indicate an underlying health problem.


Many senior cats experience hyperthyroidism, which is typically caused by a benign tumor developing in the thyroid gland. It affects the cat’s metabolic rate, which causes weight loss despite a voracious appetite.

Other signs include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Increased thirst
  • Increase in urination

Without treatment, it can lead to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and high blood pressure.

Kidney Issues

Senior cats are also prone to kidney problems, like kidney disease.

Typical symptoms can include:
  • Dehydration
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Bad breath
  • Sporadic vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Lethargic
  • Fever
  • Lower back pain
  • Urinary issues – incontinence or unable to urinate
  • Edema – swelling in the limbs from fluid

Again, cats will need immediate treatment. Some of these signs could also indicate hormonal problems or diabetes.


Sometimes older cats might develop growths or lumps, which should be checked by your vet. Chances are they are harmless, but you will want your vet to rule out any potential serious diseases, like cancer.


Eye discharge in old brown cat.Feline Upper Respiratory Infections
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Cataracts cause a cloudy appearance on the eye and can lead to vision loss and, eventually, blindness if not treated. Most cataracts are inherited and are more prone in specific breeds like Himalayans and Persians. But they can also occur if a cat has diabetes and if they are 10 years or older.

Respiratory and Heart Issues

Heart disease can also cause respiratory issues, so if you see your cat panting, this could be potentially serious. This is even more important if your cat is lethargic and struggling to breathe.

Other symptoms can include:
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Increased effort to breathe
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fainting
  • Death

Needless to say, if you see any of these signs, particularly if your cat is struggling to breathe, see your vet immediately.

Dental Issues

Some senior cats could encounter dental issues, which can be helped at home unless it turns into gum disease. If you routinely check your cat’s mouth, it should be easier to spot problems before they occur.

Look for tartar and plaque buildup and any lumps or bleeding gums. This is where your cat will need an appointment with the vet.

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How Should I Take Care of My Senior Cat?

The most important part of taking care of a senior cat is being more aware of how your cat will be slowing down and watching out for any health problems is a start. But you’ll need to readjust your cat’s diet and watch out for any pain your cat might be handling.


You’ll need to start by replacing your cat’s adult cat food with senior food. Senior food is formulated with the right nutrients to support your cat’s aging body. You’ll likely be able to use the same brand you’ve been feeding your cat all along, making the transition easier.

Some older cats will need help with their weight, as well as some of the issues we’ve discussed, including dental, kidney, and joint support. Speak with your vet about the best food that will benefit your cat at this point in time.


Since older cats tend to slow down both physically and mentally, it’s important to continue encouraging your cat to play. This is also vital if your cat is additionally arthritic or has gained too much weight.

Use toys your cat responds to – if their favorite is a feather wand, then ensure you use one every day for a few minutes at the very least. You can also try puzzle feeders, which will make your cat work a little harder for treats and food. This can help with both physical and mental exercise.

close up of an old calico cat
Image Credit: Sonja-Kalee, Pixabay

Work With Your Veterinarian

You’ll need to work closely with your vet as your cat ages. You’ll want to make an annual checkup every year – sometimes, twice a year might be necessary. This will include bloodwork, urinalysis, and other lab work to rule out any potential conditions that might be cropping up.

And if your cat develops a health condition, it might be necessary to see the vet multiple times over the course of the year. They will also want to stay on top of your cat’s dental health since their teeth can go downhill rapidly as they age.

Respect Your Cat

As we mentioned earlier, their behavior starts to change as they age. This could be due in part to pain from things like arthritis, or they might not be as cuddly as they once were.

You’ll need to respect your cat’s boundaries – if they don’t want to play or be held, let them be. In many cases, they just want to sleep. But see your vet if you suspect the behavior changes might be caused by pain.

Keep Things Calm

As they get older, most cats will want a calmer environment. This could partly be because they spend a lot of their time sleeping, but they also just need more privacy, peace, and quiet.

Find your cat a space in your home where they can be away from where most of the noisy activity takes place. It should be easy to access and comfortable.

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Caring for any pet means going through all the life stages with them – the good, the bad, and the ugly. And owning a senior cat does entail more frequent vet visits and preparing yourself for the possibility of some health issues cropping up.

The most important thing is for you to stay on top of your cat’s needs and give them all the space, care, and love they need.

Featured Image Credit: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock

About the Author

Kathryn Copeland
Kathryn Copeland
Kathryn was a librarian in a previous lifetime and is currently a writer about all things pets. When she was a child, she hoped to work in zoos or with wildlife in some way, thanks to her all-consuming love for animals. Unfortunately, she's not strong in the sciences, so she fills her days with researching and writing about all kinds of animals and spends time playing with her adorable but terribly naughty tabby cat, Bella. Kathryn is hoping to add to her family in the near future – maybe another cat and a dog.

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