As cats age, they tend to slow down, and you might be curious to know when your cat is officially considered a senior. Our Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital veterinarians are here to guide you on how to identify the signs of aging and determine when your feline friend has reached senior status.

How Old Is A Senior Cat?

As a cat owner, it can be difficult to recognize when your feline friend is becoming a senior because you spend so much time with them. However, like humans, cats experience physical changes as they age that are unique to each individual. Typically, cats between the ages of 7 and 10 will start to show signs of aging, with most cats experiencing these changes by the age of 12.

Many people believe that one "cat year" is equal to seven "human years," but this is not entirely accurate. In reality, a cat's first year is equivalent to a human's development at 16 years old. After that, one "cat year" is similar to four human years. So, a 10-year-old cat is comparable to a 53-year-old human, a 12-year-old cat is like a 61-year-old human, and a 15-year-old cat is similar to a 73-year-old human.

When your cat reaches 11 years old, they are considered a senior, and if they live beyond 15 years, they are considered a "super-senior." To properly care for your aging cat, it can be helpful to think of their age in human terms.

What Happens As My Senior Cat Ages?

Cats go through various changes in their behavior and body as they grow old, just like humans. Although aging isn't a disease, it's essential to inform your veterinarian of any changes in your senior cat's personality and physical health to ensure they receive the best possible care. Look out for changes like:

Physical Changes 

Grooming & Appearance

As cats get older, they may not be able to groom themselves as well, which can cause their fur to become matted or oily. This can be painful for them and can lead to inflammation and bad smells on their skin. Older cats' claws may also become thick, brittle, and overgrown, so they need more attention from their caretakers. 

An aging cat's eyes may change, and their lens may become slightly cloudy and their iris may look different, but this usually doesn't affect their vision much. However, some diseases, especially those related to high blood pressure, can seriously harm their eyesight and may be irreversible.

Unintentional Weight Loss or Gain

If your older cat is getting thinner, it could mean they have various health problems, such as diabetes, kidney or heart disease. Dental issues are also very common among senior cats, which can make it difficult for them to eat, leading to weight loss and malnutrition. Dental problems can also be painful for them, causing discomfort in their mouths.

Physical Activity & Abilities 

Arthritis, a joint disease, often affects older cats and makes it tough for them to reach their food, water, bed, and litter box, especially if they need to climb stairs or jump. 

If your senior cat starts sleeping much more or much deeper than usual, it could be a problem and you should let your vet know. Additionally, if your cat suddenly becomes more energetic, it might be a sign of hyperthyroidism and should be checked by a vet.

As cats get older, they often lose their hearing for various reasons. If you notice your cat experiencing hearing loss, it's important to take them to the vet.

Behavioral Changes

Cognitive Issues

If your cat seems confused or forgetful with things they normally do, it might mean they have memory or thinking problems. Watch out for changes like going outside their litterbox, avoiding people more, wandering around a lot, meowing too much, or looking lost. These could also mean your cat is experiencing mental confusion or getting older. It's important to take them to the vet to get checked out.

Issues Caused by Disease

If your cat is in pain from dental issues or arthritis, it may become aggressive. Keep an eye on your cat's behavior because they tend to hide their discomfort. Health issues like diabetes or kidney failure can cause cats to use the litterbox more often and potentially eliminate in the wrong spot. 

If your cat has trouble moving around due to joint inflammation, it may be difficult for them to use the litterbox, especially if there are stairs involved. This can also cause senior cats to be eliminated in the wrong places, so taking them to the vet is important.

How Can I Help Keep My Senior Cat Healthy?

As an owner of a senior cat, paying attention to your cat's behavior and habits can be very helpful in keeping them happy and healthy. Making small adjustments to your cat's grooming, feeding, and daily interactions can be an easy way to notice any changes in their health as they age. This will allow your vet to provide personalized geriatric care for your beloved feline. 


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

Older cats can be more sensitive to changes in routine or household, which can lead to stress. Patience and accommodations (extra affection, a favorite toy or blanket, a quiet room for them to stay in) go a long way to helping your senior cat adjust to upsetting changes. Don't forget to keep playing with your cat as they age; mental and physical stimulation is beneficial for their well-being.

Vet Care

Because cats are adept at hiding illness until it is advanced or severe, it's important to take them regularly to the vet for wellness checks even if they seem perfectly healthy. Your veterinarian will also be able to monitor any conditions that your senior cat may have, and catch any potential or emerging issues early when they're more treatable. their behavior and health.

How Can A Veterinarian Help?

As a cat owner, it's important to keep track of your furry friend's behavior, health, and personality. This information will help your vet understand your cat better and guide them in providing appropriate care. Along with regular checkups, your vet may recommend more frequent visits based on your cat's age, lifestyle, health, and any ongoing medical conditions. So, make sure to stay observant and communicate any observations you have to your vet to ensure your senior cat stays healthy and happy. Do you have questions about caring for your senior cat?

Contact our O’Fallon veterinarian to book a wellness check for your feline friend.