Ask Amy

Dear Amy,
    We recently adopted a cat. Now, we are starting to think that she is older than we originally thought. Is there a way to find out her age through any tests?
    Her previous owner didn't know when exactly when she was born. It's not all that big a deal, but I was just wondering.

-- Howie Oldisshe

Dear Howie,
    About that age thing ... there is really no way to accurately judge a cat's age after they lose their baby teeth and all permanent teeth are in (about 6 months.) But a guess of age can be made based on several things. It's not accurate, but if the vet is very experienced, it may be pretty close.
    First, look at the condition of the teeth. Generally, cats with pearly white teeth are younger and cats with lots of tartar, missing teeth or tooth wear are older. But the condition of the teeth depends also on prenatal care, general care during the cat's life and when he or she last saw a vet dentist. So, you can get fooled on age by just looking at the teeth.
    You should also look at the eyes. As cats get older, some of us get cataracts, just like people. So, look to see if the lens looks cloudy. If so, the cat is probably older than 12 years.
    Besides the condition of the lens, also look at the iris of the eye. In a young cat, it looks smooth. As a cat ages, it can get a more crackly look to it. In very old cats, the iris is sometimes very jagged and does not have smooth edges.
    Another clue used to guess at age is body condition. Younger cats are more muscled and in better shape. Very old cats often have a gut but are very bony on top.
    So you see, there are ways to make guesses, but that is all they really are. One of my brothers was in bad shape when he came to live with us. Vets guessed his age between 5 years and 14 years. He's not telling! (But he looks a lot better now!)
   Mainly, just enjoy the time you have with your cat!

Good luck,
-- Amy

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