Redefining the Senior Cat

February 19, 2024

By Sarah Griffiths, DCH

I was recently reviewing some statistics on the age at which a cat is considered a senior and I began to get emotional. Cats are such a misunderstood species. I have studied and worked with them and their wild counterparts for over 20 years. I also hold CE credits in caring for exotic cats from the largest to the smallest. I have worked directly with over a dozen species of wild felids and spent years under veterinary mentorship studying diagnostics and the most common pathological processes in wild and domestic cats. Not to mention, I have had 8 of my own cats over the past 25 years, the oldest living until 23 years of age. I would like to share what I have learned so far about cat longevity.

What is the definition of a senior cat?

According to veterinary associations across the world, the definition of a senior cat is as follows:

  • The VCA (owned by Royal Canin pet feeds): 11-14 years with 15 and above being a “super senior”
  • Purina UK says that cats generally decline between 10 and 15 years of age.
  • Hill’s Pet Inc. says that the general age of senior cats is 11+ years old.
  • Banfield Pet Hospitals Consider an 11-12 year old cat to be a senior.

What are the most common disease of aging in cats?

The most common diseases of aging cats are:

  • Kidney Disease
  • Cardiac Disease
  • Cancer

Other common diseases include:

  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Liver disease
  • Irritable Bowel Disease
  • Hyperthyroidism

While genetics do play a role in these diseases, I believe they are affecting cats prematurely through mismanagement of their diet and lifestyle. Keep reading to learn why!

What is the record for the oldest cat?

What if I were to tell you the cat that holds the Guinness World Records title for oldest cat ever is….. 38 years old! Cream Puff was a cat rescued by a man named Jake Perry in Texas. Jake also had a Guinness Record-confirmed cat named Grandpa who lived to the age of 34. The oldest living cats are Flossie and Corduroy both 26 years old.

Other senior cats have been recorded at the verified ages of 28, 30, 32, 34 and 36

Is this some freak occurrence in the cat population or are there more cats living to these phenomenal ages? How did these cat parents end up with these amazing elder cats? Is it just a coincidence? Why is there such a huge discrepancy between conventional age estimates and the longest living cats in the word?

I believe the answer lies primarily in how cats are being cared for.

The Diets and Lifestyle of Record Holding Senior Cats

Jake Perry’s cats (38 and 34) had dry food but also had home-cooked food as well. Interestingly, his cats were also given coffee with cream and the occasional dropper full of red wine.

Corduroy (27), while having dry food available, lived an inside/outside life catching live prey for the majority of his life.

Unfortunately, there is no public record about the lifestyles and diets of the other cats listed above. However, cats are being cared for in some pretty inappropriate ways and I believe it could be shortening their lives by 50% or more. Cats need more than a bowl of dry food and an indoor space to be healthy. They are an extremely specialized species and they are actually considered only semi-domesticated.

I believe that cats may routinely live to much older ages if they are cared for as the obligate carnivores they are. To read more about why cats should never eat commercial food and how to avoid early signs of the common diseases listed above, check out my blog Feline Nutrition: What Makes Cats So Unique?

My Mission to Raise Very Old Cats

I am currently on a mission to raise some very old senior cats. Currently, I have 3. Their names are Dexter, Leo and Frodo. Two of them (Dexter and Leo) are headed towards “Senior-dome” in the next few years. They do not show any signs of aging. They are vibrant, happy, athletic and intelligent little beings. They have medical records to document their ages and health status as they live their lives. This year, I’ll be checking in on their health by collecting blood samples to assess their kidney, liver, immune and thyroid health. I will share these results as we receive them.

I’ll also share the stories of these 3 special cats and all of the methods I’ve employed to keep them as healthy and happy as possible through diet, lifestyle and enrichment. Follow me on our social media platforms to see them living their best lives.

Instagram & Facebook: @theanimalsynergist

My Cats

Dexter: Male, domestic short-haired tabby cat

Born: September 2015 (8 years old)

Neutered: at 9 months old.

Diet: Home-made and commercial raw-meat based diet from 8 weeks of age. Hunts rodents during his outside time.

Lifestyle: indoor/outdoor barn cat

Leo: Male, Bengal/Maine Coon mix

Born: July 2016 (7 years old)

Neutered: at 9 months old.

Diet: Home-made and commercial raw-meat based diet from 8 weeks of age. Hunts rodents during his outside time.

Lifestyle: indoor/outdoor barn cat

Frodo: Male, Siberian Forest Cat, orange tabby

Born: November 2019 (5 years old)

Neutered: at 10 months old

Diet: Home-made and commercial raw-meat based diet from 10 weeks of age

Lifestyle: Previously indoor but soon to be integrated to indoor/outdoor life at our new location!

Don’t forget to follow me on social and on the blog to learn more about these special cats & tips for providing feline-specific care for your kitties.