Often, when you adopt a cat or find a stray, you won’t be exactly sure how old the cat is. If you have just gotten a new cat and are curious about your cat’s age, there are a few ways to tell. While your veterinarian will be able to provide a closer guess, these are the clues to look for when trying to tell a cat’s approximate age:
- Teeth on kittens. The number of teeth is a good indicator of a kitten’s age. Between the ages of two and four weeks, their “baby teeth” will first appear. All of their adult teeth are usually in by the time they are 7 or 8 weeks old. At the age of three or four months, their permanent teeth will replace them, in a similar manner to the way adult teeth replace baby teeth in humans.
- Teeth on adult cats. For adult cats, the condition of the teeth can be an indicator of age. Older cats are more likely to have dental problems like staining or tartar buildup. Very old cats may also have missing teeth. However, this depends greatly on the amount of dental care provided to the cat in the past. Pet toothbrushes and other cleaning products are readily available today, which can make this an unreliable indicator of a cat’s age.
- Body weight. Low body weight can indicate either a younger cat or one that was not well cared for.
- Sexual maturity. Most cats become sexually mature by the time they are five or six months old. Signs of this include territorial urine spraying, particularly in male cats. Often, male cats’ testicles will become more prominent at this age. Female cats will have their first “heat,” or estrus cycle, somewhere between the ages of five and twelve months. During this time, the cat will become very vocal.
- Coat. A young cat’s fur starts off baby-fine and very soft. As a cat ages, the coat will become thicker and a little coarser. This is a gradual change over time, but it can help you determine whether the cat is fairly young or fairly old.
- Eyes. Healthy kittens and adult cats should have eyes that are bright and clear, with no cloudiness. Cats with glossy, clear eyes are generally under five years old. The eyes of older cats often develop a cloudy appearance, as well as other symptoms such as tearing or discharge.
- Young kittens. During the first few weeks of life, a kitten’s appearance changes rapidly, making it fairly easy to pinpoint their age. Their eyes open around 7-10 days old, and the kitten can stand when it is around 2-3 weeks old. At 4 weeks, the young kitten will begin playing and exploring their environment. If you find a litter or an abandoned kitten, these tips can help you determine the kitten’s age.
These general guidelines may not be enough for you to determine your cat’s approximate age without veterinary expertise. Most vets can pinpoint a cat’s age fairly accurately after a full examination. Determining your cat’s age is important not only to satisfy your curiosity, but also in planning a preventive care program to ensure that your cat has the longest and healthiest life possible.