Last updated: October 3, 2016
Just like us, cats go through various life stages from birth to death. And just like us, when they’re born they’re helpless without the constant attendance of a devoted mother. The life cycle of a cat is fascinating. At birth their eyes are gummed shut and their ears folded closed. They can’t even walk. It takes about a month before they get to resemble anything that we would recognize as a kitten .
In her first few months she will still be very close to Mommy, brothers and sisters, but don’t be fooled. By the age of six to eight months your little female will be ready to mate and have kittens of her own. This is akin to a pubescent girl having a baby, so it’s time to spay her, and neuter any little boys, before your entire house smells of Eau De Tomcat! It’s also important for them to have their first vaccination. Be aware that neutered kitties are often in danger of putting on weight, so if you see those trim waistlines expanding it’s time to see the vet and have their diet amended accordingly.
From six months onwards your kitten starts to grow into the second part of the life cycle of a cat, the equivalent of kindergarten to high school, but he always acts as though he’s trying to be a tough guy, like a kid who’s trying to get a beer with fake ID! He may always look very devil-may–care, but the minute a thunderstorm comes along he’ll be up in your lap like a terrified toddler.
This is the time in the life cycle of a cat for their first booster shots, which they should have yearly from now on. Deadly diseases like FIV (Feline AIDS) and rabies don’t easily give up! This stage lasts till they’re about three years old. It’s also the stage at which a lot of brain growth and development takes place, but don’t worry, they’re not planning world domination – just how to steal the tuna out of the fridge! Different breeds grow up at different rates with big, thickset cats taking the longest of all.
This is the best time of a cat’s life. She’s fully grown, more muscular, faster, and is capable of the most amazing feats of athleticism. Her brain also needs to be stimulated, since it has now reached its full potential. Take a tip from me and get a laser pointer – it fascinates cats! Don’t forget the ongoing veterinary checkups – she may be sleek, shiny and athletic, but that can change. You go for an annual seeing-to, so why shouldn’t she? Dental problems can often rear their ugly heads now, so keep an eye on those gnashers.
They’re not slowing down much yet, but they’re set in their routines and may start developing a few health problems. Mine is eight years old and has had bladder problems and constipation. You need to watch your cats very carefully – they can’t just walk up and tell you: ‘take me to the vet – my tummy hurts!’ Things to watch out for at this stage are the onset of diabetes, particularly in cats that have become overweight, high blood pressure and heart disease. As they get towards the upper end of this age group they may start to slow down a bit, but there’s still a lot of that tiny kitten left!
The funny thing about moggies is that no matter how mature they become they never look old, but don’t be deceived. Cats of this age do slow down, sometimes quite a lot, and things like arthritis and feline dementia can show up at this stage. They may have longer nap times and be less active. They can still have a happy and fulfilling life, though. Playtime with an older cat will be gentler and not quite so boisterous, and that’s OK, because if you were an elderly human you wouldn’t wrestle on the floor with a five year old! So be respectful.
This is the last stage in the life of your cat. He can still be very contented as long as he’s treated with dignity. He needs slower and softer handling now, just as he did when he was a kitten. He won’t enjoy loud noises. Things will slow down even more, but some cats can live for a long time – past their twentieth year – and still have quite a good quality of life. It’s been suggested by some cat experts that a pair of younger cats in the house will be good for him since they will play with each other, keep each other company, and be quite a bit less sensible than he is. This may make him feel very superior indeed!
This is the most painful part of any cat owner’s life. Because pets don’t live as long as we do, we’re going to have to cope with losing them at least a few times during our life. Before I had my cat, and one of my friends’ pets died I would think ‘it’s only a pet – what’s all the fuss about? It’s not one of your children!’ And ‘you can always get another one!’ But of course, for many, many people, a pet is a child. Maybe – for whatever reason – they find themselves alone with no one else around to care about them. Their cat is their only companion and they love each other unconditionally. A cat won’t judge or condemn. So there is an enormous emotional hole in the life of someone who has just lost their friend. Often there are other pets in the house who are mourning too. Cats are often perceived as being cold and unfeeling, but they can miss a lost friend to the extent that they will stop eating, cry and follow their owners everywhere. There are pet bereavement counselors who can help you, or even a sympathetic friend who can give you a shoulder to cry on. Gradually your other pets will come to accept their loss too. Extra petting and attention may help.
So those are the stages in the life cycle of your cat. And even if he’s not your child – love him with all your heart!