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To get our bearings straight on the issue of cat growth, it makes sense to draw a comparison between cat growth and our own growth as humans.
First of all, just like humans, cat growth is more noticeable during infancy and becomes more subtle as the cat reaches adulthood.
It is probably towards the end of the junior stage (or the beginning of the prime stage) that a cat reaches full maturity. When a cat reaches two years of age, she fully settles into her personality and appearance.
Overview: Human Vs Cat Growth
You can easily tell apart a kitten from a cat at any other age, right? This is because kittens have very distinctive qualities in their appearances.
For instance, they have huge ears and eyes compared to the size of their face as a whole.
It is the same with humans too. As babies, we appear very different from our adult selves in terms of size, the ratio of our body parts, the presence of bodily hair, etc.
Besides these drastic differences in appearance, another significant distinction between human babies and adults lies within their capabilities of surviving on their own.
This depends on certain abilities like mobility, communication and accessing food.
Kittens also depend on their mothers for survival. However, the main difference between cat and human growth rate is that cats grow much faster. In fact, human babies are the slowest within all mammals in reaching a stage at which they can survive on their own.
Think about it: human infants are completely helpless until they’ve reached about 5-6 years of age.
On the other hand, a 5-year-old cat would be considered a fully developed adult cat that can easily take care of itself.
However, this also means that cats have a shorter life span than humans. In ideal conditions, cats can typically live up to 15 to 20 years, whereas humans nowadays can reach 80 to 90 years.
Life Stages of Cats
So, while we are on the topic of how many years cats live on average, let’s look at some facts about the life stages of cats one by one.
It is possible to divide cats by their age into six stages:
- kitten (0-6 months)
- junior (7 months – 2 years)
- prime (3-6 years)
- mature (7-10 years)
- senior (11-14 years)
- geriatric (15+ years).
Let’s look at each of them in a bit more detail.
1. The Kitten Stage
This stage lasts from when a cat is born to 6 months of age.
During this stage, the kitten learns basic skills of survival. First, the kitten feeds on her mother’s milk and later starts eating solid food. She gradually learns to keep balance on her feet and to walk.
An important thing is that kittens are not yet sexually active. The kitten stage is equivalent to a human transitioning from infancy to about the age of a child going to preschool.
This stage is ideal for having your cat get used to some things like nail trimming, using the litterbox, and transportation with its carrier.
Also, you can easily introduce kittens to other animals and cats. For tips on how to introduce two cats, you can read my earlier article called how to introduce cats.
Kittens are driven by curiosity and they are motivated to discover things around them.
The kitten stage is a period in which cats are extremely active and playful. This is why they require constant monitoring and a safe environment.
You will definitely need to kitten-proof your house if you are thinking of adopting one. They can crawl into dangerous spaces like air vents or try to eat things that are harmful to them.
Since we are on the topic of food, I should mention that kittens require a special diet that needs to be rich in protein. Many quality food brands have special kitten food available for this purpose.
Kittens have a very high metabolism so they need to be fed smaller portions of food more frequently throughout the day.
Another thing to remember when you adopt a kitten is to take her to the vet for a general medical examination and to administer her necessary vaccinations.
This will also be the time to get started on internal and external parasite medications for your kitten. Since these medications differ in intensity based on cat size and age, you should make sure to consult your vet and get the right medications for your cat.
2. The Junior Stage
This stage lasts from 7 months to 2 years of age.
Just like human adolescents, cats in the junior stage are kind of awkward-looking, settled more into their personality, and a bit calmer compared to their former kitten selves.
As they are still in the process of growing up physically, junior stage cats can appear kind of skinny and disproportionate. They will gradually settle into their skin towards the end of this stage.
In the middle of the junior stage (at about 12 months), your cat should transition from eating kitten food to eating normal adult cat food. The kind of adult food you should choose also depends on whether or not your cat is neutered.
It is wise to get your cat neutered towards the beginning of the junior stage because this is when cats start becoming sexually mature and active. Of course, this is unless you want your cat to breed. However, if you are not planning on this, I would highly recommend neutering because it is much more comfortable for your cat too.
You should be wary that when cats are neutered, they are prone to gaining a little bit of weight. You should monitor your cat’s diet carefully in order to avoid any unhealthy weight gain.
3. The Prime Stage
This stage lasts from 3 years to 6 years of age.
These are the years in which your cat is at its peak in terms of physical strength, health, and appearance. Your cat will definitely cease growing at this point.
Cats at this stage are quite active, energetic, and playful, although not as relentless as their former kitten selves when it comes to mischief.
At the prime stage, aside from settling into her skin physically, your cat also fully grows into her personality. Unless your cat is in a situation that may cause psychological problems or serious trauma, your cat’s natural temperament and personality will stay the same from this stage on.
At this stage, your cat should be very well used to her living space and have well-established routines. For instance, you should most likely not be experiencing any litterbox “mishaps” when your cat is over 3 years old – unless there is an underlying psychological issue causing this kind of behavior.
Your cat should be very familiar and comfortable with her living arrangement and should have embraced well-established territorial boundaries. By this, I mean that your cat should have her favorite hide-out spaces and play areas, as well as spaces that she graces less such as kitchen counters or tabletops.
Your cat’s diet, health check-ups, and regular medication administration should also be in a reliable routine.
4. The Mature Stage
This stage lasts from 7 years to 10 years of age.
Let’s compare it to us: If kittenhood is infancy, it is safe to say that the junior stage is equivalent to our teenage years, and the prime stage is about ages 20-40 in human years.
Therefore, the mature stage is like a human being at ages between 40-60. In other words, a cat at its mature stage is like a middle-aged human being.
At this stage, if healthy, your cat will not exhibit any drastic changes in appearance. It may, however, become calmer and less active. This causes mature stage cats to be more prone to weight gain and obesity. If this is the case with your cat, make sure you monitor her weight gain closely and take necessary actions to stop it from getting out of hand in order to avoid the possible development of diabetes.
The necessary actions may include slightly altering your cat’s portions so she consumes fewer calories per day. Or you might get a recommendation from your vet for low-calorie alternatives for the food your cat eats.
Make sure to take your cat to the vet for routine check-ups. Just like humans, cats need more frequent check-ups as they get older in order to spot things out of the ordinary.
Another good idea is to give your cat vitamin supplements to boost her immune system. You should talk to your vet about what kind of supplements are suitable for your cat.
5. The Senior Stage
This stage lasts from 11 years to 14 years of age.
As with humans, when cats get older they may start developing a number of medical problems.
This is normal but you should still continue regular check-ups to avoid or detect any major health problems and to keep your cat comfortable and happy in her senior years.
Some of the more common medical issues that your cat may have are;
- kidney disease
- urinary tract disease
- high blood pressure.
Watch out for signs of these illnesses.
For instance, if your cat has problems using the litterbox, this may be a sign of arthritis or dementia. If you spot unusual things in your cat’s litter like blood, it is a good idea to take her to the vet for a check-up of her urinary tract and kidneys.
Always pay attention to your cat’s appetite and eating habits. I’ve always warned you about over-eating, however, an older cat eating a lot less than usual is a common symptom of a number of illnesses.
Your cat will also need some assistance in doing things she once did perfectly well on her own. For instance, she may have trouble climbing stairs or going into her litterbox. You should make changes around the house that will help her have the least difficulty in her daily activities.
6. The Geriatric Stage
This stage covers cats that are 15 or older.
At the geriatric stage, cats will show definite physical signs of aging such as growing more white fur and a significant loss of shimmer in their coats. Their actions will become a lot slower and they might forget a part of their training.
At this stage, you should try to make sure your cat is as comfortable as possible with its medical setbacks. For instance, if she has severe arthritis, you can improve her quality of life by arranging her space to suit her limited movement.
It is very important to keep her food and water in easy and visible locations. If your cat becomes senile, she may forget to eat or drink water, so you should remind her of these things during the day.
Continue with regular health check-ups and spend as much time with her as possible.
Caring for a geriatric cat can be difficult but you can do a lot of things that will make her life easier.
Male Vs. Female Cat Growth
We all know that girls start developing earlier than boys, right?
Around ages 12-13, girls appear taller and larger than boys. Boys start catching up at about 15 years and then usually surpass girls in terms of size.
So, is it the same with male and female cats?
Well, there is no distinct pattern which indicates that female cats grow earlier than males. However, once fully grown, male cats are usually larger in size and weight than females.
Of course, this also depends on the breed. A female Bengal cat can be larger than a male Siamese cat. But within the same breed, male cats are usually a few pounds heavier than females.
Neutered Vs. Unneutered Cat Growth
It is a popular misconception that cat growth can be stunted by neutering at a young age.
Although it is true that neutering cats when they are too young can cause urethral blockage, this is for when they are younger than 3 months – and it has nothing to do with the growth of your cat.
In any case, neutering should ideally be done before a cat is six months of age. It is advised by medical professionals that it is best to neuter your cat before it reaches sexual maturity.
Of course, neutering will cause changes in your cat’s body, but this has nothing to do with growth problems. It may affect your cat’s metabolic rates, which causes your cat to be a little bit more prone to weight gain.
You can control this by monitoring your cat’s food intake and physical activity.
Other than that, neutering has many advantages.
It will eliminate health risks such as womb infections in female cats and being infected by FIV (which is the feline version of HIV).
Neutering will also prevent unwanted kittens, sexual frustrations in domestic cats if they do not have the chance to mate, unpleasant odors and sounds around cycles of mating, etc.
So, neutering has no effect on the growth of your cat and you should have no worries about getting your cat neutered if it is performed by a professional and you take good care of her in recovery.
Growth Differences Based on Breed
Although the specific number is not agreed upon by all sources, there are between 20 to 70 cat breeds out there.
The reason why this is such a large range is that this number depends on varying parameters of classification. Some sources do not accept certain breeds lacking the necessary amount of pedigree information or group a few similar breeds together under one name.
The generally accepted number of cat breeds is around 40-45.
Cat breeds are not as different from each other as dog breeds are. Consider a pug and a golden retriever: they hardly seem like they belong to the same species, right?
This is because cats were never bred for pragmatic reasons like performing specific hunting tasks, unlike dogs. Therefore the differences among cat breeds are way more subtle than they are in dogs.
This means that the majority of cats, no matter their breed, will end up weighing between 6-12 pounds (2.5-5.5 kg). Their tallness will most likely range between 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) from the ground.
Of course, this is just genetics. Size and weight also depend heavily on their diet, living conditions, and medical issues. I should say, I’ve seen more adult cats that are heavier than 12 pounds than those that are not. This actually indicates an issue of overfeeding.
As much as I adore overweight cats, it is very important to keep cats as close to their ideal weight as much as possible in order to avoid other medical issues.
With all this being said, although it may be more subtle when compared to dogs, breed does affect a cat’s size.
Let’s mention a few breeds that exhibit the most drastic changes in size.
Some Larger Cats
The Maine Coon is one of the largest cat breeds out there.
This breed has originated from North America and has been discovered in Maine, as the name suggests. Maine Coon males range between 13-18 pounds and females between 9-13 pounds. In addition to being very large in size, they typically have a fluffy mane like a lion, so they appear even grander!
The Ragdoll breed is even larger than the Maine Coon!
They get their name from the way they relax completely when you hold them in your arms. The male Ragdolls range between 15-20 pounds while females range between 10-20 pounds. They are also quite fluffy with long fur, which adds to their largeness.
The Chausie breed is actually a cross between a Jungle Cat and a domestic cat.
This explains why they are especially huge. They can weigh up to 30 pounds! In addition, they are extremely active and playful, which when combined with their size can make them kind of hard to care for in a confined indoor space.
Some Smaller Cats
The Munchkin is a very popular cat breed because it has unusually short, stout legs which set them apart from all other breeds.
Although their body size is only a little bit smaller than other breeds, their short legs make them appear much smaller. The Munchkin male typically weighs between 6-9 pounds and the female between 4-8 pounds.
The Singapura is known as the smallest cat breed out there.
It originated almost 300 years ago from Singapore and is most likely a cross between cats that have been brought from all over the world and local feral ones in Singapore. Although very small, it is actually muscular and can be quite plump. The average Singapura male weighs between 6-8 pounds and the female between 4-6 pounds.
Siamese cats are not especially small like the Munchkin or Singapura but are long and lean, which makes them very lightweight and appear small.
Their distinctive trait is the dark patch of fur in the middle of their faces. I find this especially adorable because it looks like they accidentally burnt their nose while smelling a candle. Anyways, Siamese cats usually weigh around 6-10 pounds.
Can You Tell How Big a Cat Will Get?
If you have just adopted a kitten, it is very natural for you to wonder how big your cat will get when it becomes an adult.
Although all domestic cats are very easy to look after indoors, you may still want to make some adjustments based on what your cat’s size will be once she becomes an adult. For instance, you may want to choose a larger litterbox if you have a larger breed of cat.
As I’ve mentioned before, cats do not vary in size as drastically as dogs do, so you can expect most cats to be around 6-12 pounds when they grow up.
However, you should keep in mind that there are certain breeds that can be outside this range by a couple of pounds.
As the breed of a cat is the number one factor in determining her size, the breed of your cat is really all you need to know if you want to know how big your cat will get. However, if you do not know your cat’s breed exactly or have adopted a mixed breed cat, you may rely on a few things to foresee how big your cat will get.
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot tell how big a cat will get by looking at its paws. This only works with dogs. For cats, looking at the hind legs can be a useful clue. This will not tell you exactly how big your cat will get, but you will be able to determine if your kitty will be on the larger or smaller end of the spectrum.
Another thing you might try is weighing your kitten at 4-5 months of age and doubling this number. This will give you a very rough estimate of how much your cat will weigh once it becomes an adult.
With all this said, your cat’s growth depends on her diet and exercise as well. In order to make sure your kitten grows into a healthy adult cat that is in the normal weight/height range for its breed, you need to take very diligent care of its nurture.
Is Your Cat Growing Properly?
Stunted growth in cats is a very serious issue.
It is very understandable for you to be checking on your kitten for signs of stunted growth so that you can take the necessary actions to prevent or deal with this issue.
Here are some of the reasons why a cat may be experiencing a stunt in growth:
One of the reasons a cat may not be growing properly is a genetic condition called feline dwarfism.
Feline dwarfism is a rare genetic mutation leading to unnaturally small adult cats with disproportionate bodies. Feline dwarfism is associated with health issues such as bone and joint problems, as wells as lung and heart problems.
I have mentioned the Munchkin cat breed above, while on the topic of smaller cat breeds. Well, the very cute but unusually short legs of Munchkin cats are the result of a gene mutation similar to feline dwarfism. This mutation was selectively encouraged while breeding, resulting in the Munchkins of today.
Cats suffering from an extreme version of feline dwarfism are called perma-kittens. As the name suggests, these adult cats are permanently kitten-sized.
A very famous example of a perma-kitten is the internet sensation Grumpy Cat. Unfortunately, Grumpy Cat died of a urinary tract infection in 2019. Rest in peace, Grumpy Cat.
This is pretty obvious but one of the biggest factors in stunted growth in cats is malnourishment. Any organism will suffer without getting the necessary nutrients in the needed amount.
In order to avoid malnourishment, you should feed your kitten a suitable kitten-food until she reaches 12 months of age. Kittens need more protein in their diet and kitten-food is specially developed to address this need.
If your kitten is showing signs of stunted growth although you are very diligent in maintaining an adequate diet for her, this might be due to premature weaning. If you do not know the history of your kitten before you adopted her, you can definitely consider this as a possibility.
Ideally, kittens should be weaned at around 8-10 weeks. Unfortunately, sometimes they may be weaned sooner and this might cause malnourishment.
A mother’s milk provides essential nutrients that cannot be replaced.
If you suspect that premature weaning is the case with your kitten, consult your vet about this concern. Ask them for suggestions on extra food supplements or alternative food choices you can make for your kitten.
Having Internal Parasites in Kittenhood
Internal parasites such as worms cause very serious health issues for cats.
This is why you must adhere to a strict internal parasite medication routine from the day you first get your cat.
Two types of worms are especially detrimental to the healthy growth of kittens. These nuisances are called roundworms and tapeworms.
Roundworms live in a cat’s intestines. Unfortunately, they are very easy to contract and very common in cats. Most cats are infected by roundworms at least once in their life.
Cats usually get roundworms through ingesting the larvae by eating small animals that may be hosting them. They can also get it from sharing a litterbox with an already infected cat.
Kittens may sometimes get roundworms from their mother’s milk. It is therefore very important to keep your cat’s living area clean and knowing what your cat eats if she goes outdoors.
If a cat is majorly infected with roundworms, you will see symptoms such as vomiting, hair loss, and a pot-bellied appearance. The pot-belly is due to excessive gas caused by the irritation of the digestive system.
If your kitten is infected by roundworms, it should be treated immediately. You can spot roundworms in your cat’s litter. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, take your cat to the vet immediately and get treatment. Once you have gotten rid of the roundworms, make sure you take the necessary preventative actions (internal parasite medication!) so that your cat doesn’t get infected again.
Tapeworms also live in cat intestines. However, they need an intermediate host in order to infect your cat, unlike roundworms.
The most common intermediate host for tapeworms is fleas. So make sure that your cat is administered both her internal and external parasite medication regularly.
For more detailed information about flea prevention, you can read my article called cat flea infestation.
You may spot tapeworms as tiny, white worms resembling rice in your cat’s litter, on her bottom, or where she usually sits or sleeps. These tiny white worms you find are actually not the whole tapeworm but segments of it. Disgusting!
If growing kittens get tapeworms, this again poses a problem for their growth. Therefore, be very diligent in preventative measures. If your kitten is infected, be very prompt in treatment.
Unless your cat has a genetic mutation that causes dwarfism, all other things I’ve mentioned can be overcome by prompt treatment.
Watching your kitten grow into an adult cat is amazing. Enjoy this journey and spend as much time with her as possible because kittenhood goes by very fast.
If you know you are taking good care of her, there is no need to worry about growth problems.
…And remember, cats are amazing in all shapes and sizes!