2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners released the 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines to the veterinary community, which are published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery and the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association.
The AAHA and AAFP convened a Task Force of experts in feline clinical medicine to update the 2010 Feline Life Stage Guidelines. The release defines distinct feline life stages and provides a framework for individualized healthcare plans. Understanding a cat’s life stage and lifestyle greatly impacts healthcare strategies. Veterinary professionals have a responsibility to stress the need for ongoing care to feline patients at every stage of their lives. The updated Guidelines detail the evolution of feline biology and lifestyle over time, requiring different approaches to healthcare for kittens and senior cats. The Guidelines combine feline-friendly care approaches with a lifelong healthcare plan to improve health and wellbeing. “A cat-friendly approach tailored to the individual patient creates a more positive experience for the patient, client, and care provider, and promotes more frequent visits and improved compliance,” stated Task Force Co-Chair, Jessica Quimby, DVM, PhD, DACVIM.
A noteworthy change from the earlier guidelines is the division of the cat’s lifespan into a five-stage grouping with four distinct age-related stages (kitten, young adult, mature adult, and senior) as well as an end-of-life stage, instead of the previous six. This simplified grouping is consistent with how pet owners generally perceive their cat’s maturation and aging process, and provides a readily understood basis for an evolving individualized, lifelong feline healthcare strategy.
Feline Life Stages
- Kitten: Birth 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
Quick reference tables are included in the Guidelines to aid veterinary professionals in managing the most critical health-related factors in relation to a cat’s life stage.
Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, Dechra Veterinary Products, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis Petcare supported the development of the 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines and resources through an educational grant to AAHA.
The Task Force included Jessica Quimby, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Co-Chair, Shannon Gowland, DVM, DABVP, Co-Chair, Hazel C. Carney, DVM, MS, DABVP, Theresa DePorter, DVM, MRCVS, DACVB, DECAWBM, Paula Plummer, LVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM), and Jodi Westropp, DVM, PhD, DACVIM.