How to work out a cat or kitten’s age

How to work out a cat or kitten’s age


Unless you buy or adopt your cat when they are of kitten age and have a known record of their history, it can be hard to know exactly how old your cat or kitten actually is, and knowing this as accurately as possible is important so that you can tailor your cat’s diet, care and management to fit their age and life stage.

With adult cats and even older kittens, working out exactly how old they are without having records can be hard, and even your vet will be unlikely to be able to tell you with precise accuracy how old your cat really is. If the cat has been microchipped at some point before you got them, having your cat scanned and following up with the microchipping database to see what date of birth they have recorded can be a good shortcut, but if this does not help, you will have to employ a method of deduction and a little detective work to find a likely figure!

In this article, we will share some tips and tricks for how to work out the age of both kittens and adult cats as closely as possible. Read on to learn more.

Size and build

Being able to tell a kitten or juvenile cat from an adult is something that most people can manage, and it is usually fairly easy to tell a young cat from a fully grown but small adult. Young kittens up to around 16 weeks old will have a decidedly kittenish appearance, with a shorter tail and generally smaller build than an adult cat. From there up to about a year old, the kitten will tend to grow taller and longer, but remain light and slender and have a youthful, rangy appearance.

Generally at around the age of two to three, cats will become slightly more rounded and filled out than juvenile cats.

Adult cats up until the age of at least seven or eight will tend to be muscular and well proportioned, but once they reach their senior years, will tend to lose muscle tone. This can either manifest with a slight loss of condition and a leaner appearance than before, or by your cat becoming slightly fatter and rounder due to less activity and loss of muscle whilst still maintaining their appetite. Older cats will also tend to sleep more, exercise less, and tend to be slower about things than younger cats, although many cats remain very fit and active well into old age, so there are always exceptions!

The coat

Looking for grey hairs in the coat might seem like an obvious indicator of age, but this is not always the case! Many cats of all colours including those that are otherwise pure black will have a few white or grey strands of fur from a very young age, and so grey or white hairs alone are not enough to indicate seniority.

However, if your cat is developing grey hairs that they did not have previously, it is likely fair to say that they are around six to eight years old or older.

It is unusual for young cats to have a dull or poorly conditioned coat, and it is not a given that older cats will lose condition where their coats are concerned either-the quality of the coat depends on a lot of things, including what you feed them and their general health.

What the teeth can tell you

The teeth and general dentition of your cat can give you a lot of clues to their potential age, and often with more accuracy than most other methods.

Kittens begin to develop their first teeth from around two weeks old, beginning with the incisors, and then a week or two later, the canines. Premolars descend at between a month to a month and a half old, and at eight weeks old, kittens should have all of their first set of teeth.

By four months of age, kittens will begin to get their adult teeth, and by seven months, they will have lost all of their baby teeth and got their full adult set. A cat with a full set of adult teeth that are all clean, healthy and in good condition will almost certainly be aged between seven months and two years old.

Between two and five years old, your cat’s teeth will begin to develop tartar, which will give their previously white teeth a slightly yellow appearance. Over the age of five years old you will likely begin to see signs of plaque, a deepening of the yellow shade of the teeth, and visible wear on the rear teeth that are used to grind food.

If your cat has had a dental cleaning at the vet, tartar and plaque may not be present afterwards, but this procedure will allow your vet to get a thorough look at your cat’s teeth too, and let you know about signs of wear that can further pinpoint their age.

Tooth loss in cats can happen at any age due to an injury or accident, but past the age of around seven, the wear and tear on the teeth will become more obvious, and your cat may have lost a tooth or two to decay. Cats approaching seniority also sometimes develop black pigmentation on their gums from this age onwards too.

Generally, the yellower, more worn and heavily plaqued up your cat’s teeth are, the older they are likely to be.

Other indicators

Juvenile and young cats tend to have soft paws that are not worn, cracked or tough, and so this is often an indicator of a juvenile or young adult cat.

A range of age-related issues such as clouding of the lens of the eyes, arthritis or loss of condition also often present in cats over the age of seven, and as older cats become less active, their claws are likely to grow longer and sharper too, from lack of wear.

The older your cat is, the harder it can be to tell their age with much accuracy-you may find that you are out by anything up to a few years in your predictions! Your vet can likely give you a clearer idea of your cat’s age than you can find out on your own, but it is important to understand that there is no fool proof way to age your older cat for sure!

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