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AAHA, AAFP Release Feline Life Stage Guidelines

Supporting the health and longevity of every cat is the focus of free advice for veterinary professionals.

AAHA, AAFP Release Feline Life Stage Guidelines

Senior cats should see a veterinarian at least every six months and the subject of pet health insurance might be appropriate during cost-of-care discussions, according to the newly released 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines.

A task force assembled by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners produced the document, an update of the 2010 edition.

“The guidelines provide discussion items and medical history questions for all life stages, as well as life stage-specific focal points for physical examinations, claw care, litter-box management, nutrition, behavior, oral health, enrichment and vaccinations,” said Heather Loenser, DVM, AAHA’s chief medical officer.

The guidelines divide cats into five stages:

  • Kitten: Up to 1 year
  • Young adult: 1 to 6 years
  • Mature adult: 7 to 10 years
  • Senior: 10 years and older
  • End of life: Any age

“All cats of every life stage need full, thorough physical examinations at least annually for the best lifelong care, and we recommend checkups at a minimum of every six months for senior cats,” Dr. Loenser said.

The guidelines include:

  • Reference tables to develop “evolving care plans that grow with cats.”
  • A Feline Lifestyle Assessment Form to assist with history-gathering.
  • Client resources such as the “Your Cat’s Life Stages” brochure, available at bit.ly/3rrQXcV.

On other matters, the guidelines address:

  • Exams: “Because a cat can transition from one life stage to another in a short period of time, each examination should include a life stage assessment.”
  • Expenses: “Discussions regarding anticipated costs of care and presentation of pet insurance options can help clients to plan ahead for future care needs.”
  • Discipline: “Cats should not be punished. Yelling at or startling the cat, spraying the cat with water or other physical forms of punishment only serve to scare the cat and may lead to cats running away or responding aggressively. … Punishment impairs the human-animal bond. Instead, desirable behaviors should be rewarded.”

The 2021 guidelines and other information are available from AAHA at bit.ly/307bE1y and from AAFP at bit.ly/3uRiPJg.


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