AAHA and AAFP release updated feline life stage guidelines to the veterinary community
The joint release provides an extension of the heavily referenced 2010 Feline Life Stage Guidelines.
[LAKEWOOD, CO; BRIDGEWATER, NJ; March 2, 2021] Two of the world’s leading veterinary organizations are proud to announce updated recommendations in the 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) convened a Task Force of experts in feline medicine to define distinct feline life stages and provide 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 for 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 outline four age-related life stages, with the fifth, end-of-life stage, occurring at any age.
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
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, Ph.D., DACVIM.
Quick reference tables are included in the Guidelines to aid veterinary professionals in developing evolving care plans that grow with cats as they 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,” said AAHA Chief Medical Officer Heather Loenser, DVM. “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.”
Additionally, for veterinary teams, the Feline Lifestyle Assessment Form helps gather a deeper history for each cat. This form makes it easier to tailor the physical examination and to identify specific questions and discussions based on the client’s feedback.
Supplemental client resources accompanying the Guidelines include the new Your Cat’s Life Stages brochure, and an updated Feline Life Stages chart, which are useful educational tools to set clients up for success in managing their cat’s wellbeing.
The 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines are online at aaha.org/felinelifestage and catvets.com/life-stage. Cat owner resources are available at catfriendly.com/life-stages.
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.
Heather Loenser, DVM