Is Your 7 Year Old Cat Considered a Senior? The Answer May Surprise You

What is Considered a Senior Cat?

A senior cat is generally defined as a cat that is 7 years of age or older. Though cats reach maturity around 1-2 years old, they are still considered middle aged up until around age 7. At age 7, health and behavior changes associated with aging may start to become noticeable. According to PetMD, many veterinarians start to classify cats as seniors and begin doing wellness exams every 6 months instead of annually starting at age 7

The typical age range for a senior cat is between 7-10 years old. By age 10-12, a cat would be considered a mature adult, and by 15 years old and beyond, it would be referred to as a geriatric or “super senior” cat. Some of the most noticeable signs of aging in senior cats include decreased activity levels, increased sleeping, weight changes, decreased grooming habits, cognitive changes, and issues with mobility or arthritis.


Life Stages of Cats

Cats go through different life stages as they age. Each stage is defined by the cat’s age and comes with distinct characteristics. According to sources like The Four Life Stages of a Cat, The ages and stages of a cat’s life, and Feline Life Stages – The Cat Doctor, the main life stages of cats are:

Kitten – From birth to under 1 year old. Kittens are highly energetic, playful, and curious as they develop motor skills and learn about their environment.

Adult – From around 1 year to 6 years old. Adult cats are fully grown and more independent. Their energy levels start to stabilize during this stage.

Mature – From 7 to 10 years old. Physical capabilities start decreasing in mature cats. Sleep patterns may change and cats are less active.

Senior – 11 years old and above. Senior cats experience many changes. Physical and mental abilities continue declining but cats remain affectionate companions.

Signs of Aging in Senior Cats

There are several common signs of aging that indicate your cat is entering their senior years. These changes typically start showing up around 7-10 years of age.

One of the most noticeable signs is a decrease in activity levels. Senior cats tend to sleep more during the day and are less energetic overall. They may have a harder time jumping up to their favorite spots. Increased sleeping and rest is natural as cats age.

You may also notice changes in your cat’s coat and grooming habits. Their fur may become duller, thinner, or more matted. This is due to decreased self-grooming. Cats begin to groom themselves less as they get older.

Weight loss or gain can signify aging as well. Some cats lose weight as their metabolism slows down. Others gain weight more easily due to inactivity. Bringing your senior cat in for regular vet checkups helps monitor their weight.

Increased vocalization like meowing or yowling is common in older cats too. This could indicate your cat is in pain, cognitively declining, or feeling anxious or disoriented. Senior cats also experience some cognitive changes like confusion or memory issues.

These signs of aging typically come on gradually. Be observant of any changes in your mature cat’s health, behavior, or appearance so you can notify your vet. Getting acquainted with the signs of aging helps you identify when your cat is entering their golden years. (Source)

Senior Cat Healthcare

As cats age, their healthcare needs change and they require more frequent veterinary visits for preventative care and to monitor for age-related diseases. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, senior cats should visit the veterinarian twice yearly instead of just once for annual exams1. These visits allow the vet to detect any emerging health issues early on when they are most treatable.

Preventative care becomes especially critical for senior cats. Vets will recommend screening tests like bloodwork, urinalysis, blood pressure checks, and imaging to look for common age-related conditions such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Catching and managing these chronic diseases can significantly improve quality of life in a cat’s golden years.

Your vet may also recommend specialized senior cat food formulated with ingredients to support organ health, digestion, and mobility. Senior cats burn fewer calories andtend to gain weight, so your vet can tailor a nutritional plan to keep your aging kitty at a healthy weight.

With attentive veterinary care and preventative health screenings, owners can maximize their senior cat’s wellness and help them continue to lead an active, enriched life.

Making a Senior Cat Comfortable

As cats age, their mobility and flexibility decrease. This makes it more difficult for senior cats to easily access essential things like food, water, litter, beds, and furniture. There are several adjustments you can make to your home environment to help keep your aging feline comfortable:

Provide easy access to food and water by placing bowls in easy-to-reach locations. Consider elevating food and water bowls to reduce strain on the neck while eating and drinking. You can purchase bowls with lower sides or consider using a plate for wet food to make it easier to access. (Source)

Ensure litter boxes are located on the main living level, not in basements or upstairs. Provide extra litter boxes on each level of the home if your cat has difficulty climbing or descending stairs. Use low-entry litter boxes without lids for easier access. (Source)

Keep living spaces clean and clutter-free to avoid tripping hazards. Remove area rugs and runners that could cause slips and falls.

Provide pet steps, ramps, or stairs to allow easy access to beds, windowsills, and furniture. This helps take pressure off aging joints for jumping up or down.

Offer soft beds and warm places for your senior cat to comfortably rest as desired. Orthopedic beds with high walls can aid getting in and out. Heated cat beds help soothe arthritis pain.

Keeping a Senior Cat Mentally Stimulated

As cats age, it’s important to keep their minds active and engaged through playtime and mental stimulation. Interactive toys such as wand toys and food puzzles are great ways to provide exercise and mental challenges for senior cats.

Wand toys with feathers, strings, or other attachments allow you to engage your senior cat in play while accommodating any decreased mobility. Be sure to move the toy slowly and keep play low to the ground, with occasional small jumps or climbs as your cat is able (Zoetis). Food puzzle toys stimulate your cat’s natural foraging instincts while providing cognitive exercise. Start with easy puzzles, then increase the difficulty as your cat masters each level.

Providing climbing and perching areas also gives senior cats mental stimulation. Place climbing shelves, cat trees, cardboard boxes, or other platforms around your home at easily accessible heights. This allows senior cats to observe their surroundings from different vantage points.

With interactive play, food puzzles, and climbing areas, you can keep your senior cat’s mind engaged and support healthy mental activity well into their golden years.

Common Health Problems in Senior Cats

Senior cats are prone to a variety of health issues that become more common as they age. Some of the most prevalent health problems in older cats include:

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney disease (CKD), is very common in senior cats. As cats age, their kidneys gradually become less efficient at removing toxins from the blood. Early kidney disease usually has no obvious symptoms, but as it progresses cats may show increased thirst, weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, and other signs. Kidney disease is diagnosed through blood tests and urinalysis. Treatment focuses on hydration, nutrition, and slowing the progression of kidney damage. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, kidney disease affects more than half of cats over 15 years old [1].


Hyperthyroidism results from overproduction of thyroid hormones and is another common ailment in senior cats. An overactive thyroid can cause weight loss, increased appetite, hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. Diagnosis is made through blood tests measuring thyroid hormone levels. Hyperthyroidism is usually treated with medication, radioactive iodine therapy, or surgical removal of the thyroid gland. According to PetMD, hyperthyroidism affects up to 10% of cats over 10 years old [2].


Degenerative joint disease, or arthritis, is common in older cats. Arthritis causes joint pain, inflammation, stiffness, and loss of mobility. It is diagnosed based on physical exam findings, radiographs, and ruling out other joint problems. Arthritis treatment involves weight management, joint supplements, anti-inflammatories, pain medication, and gentle exercise. Keeping arthritic cats active and at a healthy weight can help maintain joint health. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, more than 60% of cats over 12 years old have radiographic evidence of arthritis [3].


Cancer is a leading cause of death in older cats. Some common cancers in senior cats include lymphoma, mammary gland tumors, skin tumors, and others. Warning signs of cancer can include lumps, swelling, abnormal discharge, weight loss, or other changes. Cancer is diagnosed via biopsy. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and palliative care. According to VCA Hospitals, cats over the age of 10 have a greater than 50% chance of developing cancer [4].

Cognitive Dysfunction

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people. It causes brain aging that leads to behavioral changes like disorientation, decreased social interaction, disrupted sleep cycles, house soiling, and anxiety. There are no tests for CDS – it is diagnosed based on ruling out other causes. Treatment involves medications, nutritional supplements, environmental enrichment, and routine. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, more than 55% of cats over 15 years old develop at least one sign of CDS [5].

How Long Do Senior Cats Live?

The average lifespan of an indoor cat is 12-18 years, with some cats living into their early 20s. According to the ASPCA, senior cats are generally considered 7 years of age or older.1 However, there are many factors that impact longevity.

Cats who are spayed/neutered, kept indoors, fed a healthy diet, and receive regular veterinary care tend to live longer than cats without these advantages. Outdoor cats face hazards like cars, predators, contagious diseases, poisons, and extreme weather that dramatically reduce lifespan. Indoor cats are protected from many of these risks.

Providing excellent nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising the mind and body, addressing any medical issues promptly, and giving ample love and attention are all ways to potentially prolong your senior cat’s life. But eventually, despite the best care, senior cats succumb to the effects of aging.

While genetics play a role, attentive pet parents can maximize longevity by partnering with their veterinarian and making their senior cat’s quality of life a priority.

Caring for a Senior Cat

Caring for an aging cat requires extra patience, attention, and care. As cats grow older, their needs change and they require more assistance to maintain a good quality of life. Some tips for caring for senior cats include:

Have extra patience – Older cats may move slower, sleep more, or become more vocal. Understanding these changes comes with compassion and patience. Allow them to set their own pace.

Manage health conditions – Take cats to the veterinarian regularly to monitor health and treat any medical issues early. Conditions like arthritis, dental disease, cancer, and kidney disease often arise in older cats. Manage these proactively.

Improve their quality of life – Make them comfortable by providing soft beds, ramps, litter boxes on each floor, food/water bowls close by, and massage or gentle brushing. Keep their environment calm and consistent.

Consider their abilities – Adjust play time for decreased mobility or energy. Provide mental stimulation with puzzles, cat TV shows, window perches, and interactive toys. Supervise outdoor time.

Prepare for saying goodbye – Determining when to euthanize a beloved senior cat is difficult. Focus on their quality of life and ability to participate in activities. Consult a vet for their opinion. Saying goodbye is a loving final act.

Is Your Cat Considered Senior at 7?

There’s no definitive age when a cat is considered senior, but many sources suggest 7 years old is a common benchmark. According to Purina, cats are generally thought to be old or senior once they reach 7 years. However, Chewy notes that veterinarians often consider cats senior around 7-10 years old.

While 7 years old is on the younger end of the senior range, each cat ages differently. A 7-year-old cat may still be quite active and playful, while a 10-year-old cat could act senior. Breed, health status, and individual factors determine when a cat becomes senior. So while many sources cite 7 as the beginning of senior age, not all cats act elderly at that point.

The transition to senior status occurs gradually. Knowing the signs of aging can help identify when your cat is entering their golden years. But age itself does not definitively make a cat senior. With good care and genetics, some cats remain youthful and active well into their teens.

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