Saturday 5 July 2008

Older cat behavior

old cat
Older cat behavior - old cat - photo by Piez under creative commons license

A cat's age is a little hard to determine from looking at the cat but there are signs and these are usually much like the signs of old age for humans. Except older cats generally eat as heartily as when they were young. As we all know cats like their food. This can mask older cat behavior.

Cats are naturally very athletic, particularly with respect to jumping skills. The Chausie (a wildcat hybrid) is a particularly spectacular jumper, achieving an 8 foot vertical jump from standing start.

Old age makes the cat's joints stiffer, which prevents athletic jumping. I can understand the feeling as my joints are getting stiffer. My cat's joints are doing the same. She is about 15 years of age and a little overweight. Her jumping skills are still good by human standards but poor by cat standards. She can jump onto a bed, just, but not much higher and in getting off she slides down the edge and flops the remainder of the distance. Sometimes I pick her up and place her onto a spot she is thinking of getting to.

Our stray boy cat in contrast is young and he jumps up a brick wall about 7 feet tall with complete ease (but the way he is eating that won't last long).

Another aspect of normal cat life and a major part of it that is lost is the ability to groom the parts of the body that are hard to get to. My cat's hind quarters become a little matted as does the area on her shoulders. I groom my cat. I try and make sure that I brush her regularly and I remove matted fur if I fail to keep it at bay by combing and brushing. That said cats don't mind a bit of matting and if the cat is mainly indoors it has no impact on their lives as a well groomed coat is not essential for survival for a domestic cat as it would be in the wild.

old cat
Older cat behavior - old cat - photo by timitalia (creative commons)

Older cat behavior as for humans becomes entrenched in routine and it is unwise to break it as it provides a comfort zone. The usual cat inquisitiveness is there still but to a lesser extent.

My cat is a female and she is defensive so will avoid fights but a warrior cat boy who is old would have difficulty in winning a dispute (this is if he is an outdoor/indoor cat). Some form of human protection may be suitable.

Although the signs of old age are similar between humans and cats they commence later for the domestic cat, starting after 90% of their life has elapsed, while for humans old age begins sooner after about 70% of their lives have been lived. Old age and the discomforts that accompany it are therefore shorter for the domestic cat.

The average age of humans males is about 84 years in the UK. For cats the average age is harder to ascertain as it depends on many variables. Some cats (in the USA for example) are kept indoors all their lives. This makes for a duller and for me an unnatural life but a longer one at about 15 years or more. At the other end of the scale domestic cats turned feral have short tough lives of about 3 years. Scottish wild cats in the wild live for about 6 years and in zoos for about twice that.

The more robust moggie mixed breed cat is liable to live longer too. I see no reason for a moggy's life to be less than 15 years baring serious illness and even much longer into late teens. Some finer quality but more fragile purebred cats with weaker constitutions (brought about on occasions by inbreeding depression or mild forms of it) will have shorter lives of about 10 years or even less. I think the Modern Siamese cat is less healthy than the Traditional Siamese cat for example. I discuss Siamese cat health.

The hybrid vigor enjoyed by mixed breed cats resulting in longer lives is counteracted by a usually less cared for or pampered existence, which can shorten their lives.

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