AAHA, AAFP release updated Feline Life Stage Guidelines

March 5, 2021
dvm360 Staff
dvm360, dvm360 April 2021, Volume 54,

The guidelines outline lifetime care and cat-friendly approaches to improve feline health and well-being.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) have updated their guidelines on feline health care. Authored by a task force of feline medicine experts, the 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines define the feline life stages and provide a framework for tailoring treatment plans for individual cats. The guidelines were first published in 2010.

To create a tailored healthcare strategy, veterinarians must understand the feline life stages. The updated guidelines reflect this responsibility by including a detailed evolution of feline physiology over time, noting that approaches to healthcare are quite different for kittens than for senior cats. The updated guidelines include 5 age-related life stages—instead of the previous 6—and note that the end-of-life stage may occur at any age:

  • 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

Recommendations are included for managing the most critical health-related factors related to specific life stages.

“All cats of every life stage need full, thorough physical examinations at least annually for the best lifelong care; and we recommend checkups every 6 months for senior cats,” says Heather Loenser, DVM, AAHA chief medical officer, in an association press release. “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, parasite control, and vaccinations.”

Additionally, the guidelines include educational client resources, including a brochure and chart that explain the feline life stages. Also included are quick reference tables and a Feline Lifestyle Assessment Form ­to aid veterinary teams in gathering a thorough history more efficiently.

Because one of the most challenging aspects of delivering regular feline healthcare is that many cat owners don't bring their cat in regularly, the guidelines also include practical strategies for encouraging more feline veterinary visits.

Boehringer Ingelheim, CareCredit, Dechra Veterinary Products, Idexx Laboratories, Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis Petcare supported the development of the new guidelines through an educational grant to AAHA.

To download the updated guidelines, go here.

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