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How Your Cat’s Behavior Changes With Age

Just like people, dogs and cats change as they age. If you notice that your cat has started to behave differently since it matured from a small cat to an adult cat, you are not imagining anything: this is just a natural part of growth. Cat behavior continues to change throughout their lives as they age. Here’s how to expect your cat’s behavior to change over time.

Cat’s Behavior Changes With Age

How your cat’s behavior may change with age.
Just like humans, cats change as they get older. While kittens are often manic little balls of energy, rage, and destruction, older cats are calmer and more content to lay in window sills and soak up the sun.

As cats mature from adulthood into the senior status and beyond, they may exhibit some or all of these common behavioral indicators of aging:

  • Incontinent
  • Lethargic
  • Irritable
  • Aggressive
  • Withdrawn
  • Unusual sleep-wake cycle
  • More vocal
  • Needy or demanding behavior
  • Easily confused

With age, many cats will undergo a change in their sleep schedule. Kittens learn to mirror their humans activity patterns, and this sleep-wake cycle continues on through cats’ adult years. Older cats might start to stay up all night and sleep all day. If this happens, try coaxing your cat back toward a more tolerable schedule by wearing it out with play and attention just before bed.

Big cats may be more vulnerable to aggression. This is not because they have become more sinister with age, necessarily. When cats enter their senior years, their eyesight and reputation deteriorate. Their senses simply don’t realize as much as they used to, and are easy to understand and interact with them accordingly. Don’t take it personally, just try to make sure you’re dealing with caution and give your cat plenty of time to interact with changes in its environment.

Unfortunately, older cats may also experience more accidents at home. With age, cats can lose some of their ability to control their bowels and bladder, which can lead to more rest outside the bathroom. If this starts to happen, consider investing in additional litter bins to ensure your cat is always close to a place to go if they wish strikes.

Older cats may suffer from feline cognitive dysfunction.
Feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD) is a condition that cat-owners should be aware of as their furry friend’s age. The condition affects more than 55 percent of cats 11-15 years old and more than 80 percent of cats who are 16-20 years old, according to Doctor Hanen Abdel Rahman. Cats affected with FCD might experience a range of symptoms including memory loss, decreased cognitive abilities, and sight and hearing problems.

Other behavioral changes associated with FCD include confusion and disorientation, increased vocalization, and increased pacing. These side effects come along with the cognitive decline that cats experience during FCD. However, it’s worth noting that there are other potential causes of all of these symptoms and it’s important to talk to your vet to rule out other causes before your chalk changes up to old age or the onset or FCD.

Cat behavior by age
As your cat passes each stage of life, expect signs of aging to increase, and energy levels to decrease.

Kitten (0-6 months): Your cat is a full kitten, not sexually mature, and trying to process the massive amounts of information he’s taking in about the world. It’s a lot to deal with. All your kitten seems to want to do is play.

Teen (6-12 months): The terrible “teens” of cat-hood. During this stage, your kitten is a full-on nightmare, mouthing and grabbing at everything he can, challenging the humans in the house for dominance, and generally trying to show everyone he’s the boss of everything (an attitude he will probably maintain throughout his life, regardless of how dominant he proves to be).

Adult (1-2 years): By one, your cat is entering adulthood and developing all kinds of lifelong cat behaviors, like kneading, hissing, and hiding. He’s calming down a little from his full-on kitten stage, but he’s still got plenty of energy. He’s learning a lot right now and settling into his cat life.

Prime maturity (3-6 years): From ages 3-6, your cat is in his prime. He’s learned the basics of catting and he’s settled into the personality and energy level that feel right for him.

Middle age (7-10 years): At this point, your cat has entered the kitty equivalent of middle age. He’s still got energy, but not quite as much as he did in his prime. You may notice that your cat starts to become particularly set in his ways—he might be much more resistant to any changes and might experience anxiety more often than he did in the past.

Senior (11-14 years): Now, your cat is officially a senior citizen. He will likely start to experience a decline in health, including deteriorating vision and hearing and possibly cognitive decline. Like older humans, your cat might be prone to “grumpiness,” and you might notice he gets irritated more easily than he used to.

Geriatric (15+ years): After 15, cats are categorized as geriatric and need a lot more attention. Any behavioral changes will warrant a vet trip at this point and you can expect extreme lethargy and lots of naps.

What is considered old age for cats:
Around age 11, cats enter what is considered the senior stage of their lives. From 11-14, cats are comparable to humans in their 60s and 70s. Although cats become “old” at around 11 years old, they don’t become officially geriatric until the ripe old age of 15. At this point, they’re comparable to humans in their 80s. Many cats live to be geriatric and not all experience extreme health issues. It’s important to keep an eye out for changes and discuss them with your vet, especially with geriatric cats.