How Shelters Determine a Cat’s Age

If you’re thinking about adding a feline companion to your family, you might be wondering, “How on earth do shelters figure out how old their cats are?” Well, grab your detective hat because we’re about to unravel this mystery!

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Dental Detectives

First up, the teeth! Kittens start teething around 2-4 weeks old, just like human babies. By 3-4 months old, voila! They’ve got a shiny new set of adult chompers. Young adult cats have pearly white teeth, while older cats might show some tartar build-up, or even some missing teeth – they didn’t forget to brush, it’s just a part of aging!

image: freepik

Eye-spy with My Little Eye…

Next, let’s gaze into their eyes! Younger cats usually have clear, bright eyes. As they age, a hazy appearance may develop, known as lenticular sclerosis, which generally starts appearing when they hit their “middle-age” years around 6-7. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t hurt them and they can still see that laser pointer just fine!

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Fur-tastic Clues

Now, onto the fur! Soft, fine fur is a signature of kittenhood, but as they grow up, their coat gets coarser. In their golden years, you might notice some cats sporting a distinguished greying coat – just like us humans!

Don’t Forget Behavior

Behavior can also provide clues. Kittens are typically the life of the party – playful and energetic. Older cats, on the other hand, tend to be the cool, calm ones who prefer a good nap.


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Calling in the Vet

For a more accurate estimate, shelters often call upon the expertise of veterinarians. They can examine things like bone structure using radiographs to help pinpoint a cat’s age.



So there you have it! Determining a cat’s age is a bit like solving a fun puzzle. Remember though, whether they’re a spry kitten or a serene senior, every cat has its own charm and plenty of love to give! Happy adopting!


Sources: Shelter Animals Count, Embarkvet, Kabo, Animal Humane Society, 24PetWatch, Shelter Medicine.

About the Author:
Wyatt Baggett is the Marketing Associate at Young-Williams Animal Center. With over five years of experience working with shelter pets and a passion for animal welfare, he enjoys creating informative content for pet parents. When he’s not working, Wyatt enjoys hanging out with his three rescue dogs, thrifting, and hunting down the best eats around Knoxville.