Have you implemented the AAFP-AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines?


Have you implemented the AAFP-AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines?

Pointers for cat owners permeate this handy resource and help ensure that all your feline patients are receiving the best care.
Oct 01, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

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Cats currently are the most popular pet in North America and are considered family members by many cat owners.1,2 Despite these facts, cats generally receive less veterinary care than dogs do. For example, a 2006 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that owners took dogs to veterinarians more than twice as often as they took cats.3 Reasons for this difference include the stress and fear associated with the carrier, car, and veterinary visit; the misconception that cats can take care of themselves; and the fact that signs of illness can be difficult to detect in cats. Owners also state that they do not know what care is necessary because veterinarians do not recommend it or the need or benefit was not well explained.

In light of this information, the CATalyst Council (a national initiative to champion the cat), the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) identified the need for wellness guidelines to improve cat health. The goals of the AAFP-AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines, published in the January/February 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and available at http://aahanet.org/PublicDocuments/FelineLifeStageGuidelines.pdf, are to

1. Provide optimal healthcare recommendations for cats throughout the different stages of life.

2. Provide practical suggestions and tools to facilitate improved veterinary visits.

3. Promote more effective client communication and education about the benefits of regular veterinary care.

4. Enhance the client-veterinarian clinical encounter.


The life stages chosen are intended to focus attention on the physical and behavioral changes that occur during a cat's lifespan, recognizing that individual cats and body systems can age at different rates and that any individual can have a condition not common to that life stage. The life stage classification was developed by the Feline Advisory Bureau and adopted in the 2008 AAFP Senior Care Guidelines.4,5 The stages are

  • Kitten—birth through 6 months
  • Junior—7 months through 2 years
  • Adult—3 through 6 years
  • Mature—7 through 10 years
  • Senior—11 through 14 years
  • Geriatric—15 or more years

Client education for owners of cats of any age includes the value of a microchip for the cat; ways to prevent and to recognize early and subtle signs of stress, pain, or illness; consideration of healthcare financial planning; and inclusion of pets in home disaster preparedness and estate plans.