When deciding to adopt a cat, many people immediately think of kittens. Though cute, kittens are bundles of tearaway energy with remarkably little common sense and are prone to getting into scrapes or becoming playfully destructive if bored or unattended. Curiosity combined with a lack of common sense means that many cats are involved in accidents, both indoors and outdoors, during their early years.
If you plan to adopt a cat you must decide whether you and your furnishings can cope with a boisterous young animal or whether a more sedate adult cat would suit your lifestyle better. If you have young children, a small kitten is vulnerable to accidental harm while an older cat is better able to avoid being trampled or mauled. If you are an older person, you will find an older cat calmer and more companionable and less likely to get under your feet or need to be rescued from kittenish scrapes.
Cat care education, neutering, vaccination programs and improved veterinary care mean that cats are now living longer and, barring accidents, spend proportionally more time in middle- and old-age than in kittenhood and youth. The average lifespan of a cat is now reckoned to be 16 years with many cats reaching their late teens or early twenties. There is no hard and fast rule about when a cat is considered “old”. Vets consider cats to be “middle-aged” from about 5 years old, though cats themselves may show few signs of being aged until they reach their teens. Definite age-related changes occur in the cat’s body from about 7 years. Most vets and behaviorists consider cats to be geriatric at the age of 10-12 when the cumulative effect of such changes start to affect the cat’s body and lifestyle.
Cats are longer-lived than most other domestic pets and this longevity means that there is no shortage of adult and older cats needing homes. They also age gracefully and, with a little understanding and care, there is plenty of mileage left in most 10-year-old cats.