Aging can have an impact on your cat’s personality. The transition from young kitten to adult cat naturally affects cats’ daily routines, socialization, and relationships with their owners. Moreover, some fur-parents also notice their felines becoming more affectionate as they grow older.
Some older cats might become more affectionate due to their weakened cognitive abilities. However, not all cats display the same level of neediness. There are those that might be more affectionate during their “teenage” years, then gradually become independent as they grow old, while others may be the opposite – aloof and playful during their younger years, becoming clingy or affectionate as they become older.
So, does aging really have any influence over how affectionate cats are, or is it just a myth? Let us dive into the details below.
Understanding cat personality and age
If you have just adopted a kitten, you might be wondering whether he will remain energetic and aloof throughout his life, or whether his behavior will change as he grows older.
Although most cats naturally become calmer and more affectionate as they transition into adulthood, there is no specific age at which changes in feline temperament are guaranteed. A lot of factors, such as genetics and how the cat was raised, can still have a huge impact on the cat’s personality.
That caveat notwithstanding, here is a summary of our furry friends’ typical behavioral changes as they age:
1. 0-3 months old
The first few months of a kitten’s life are the most important developmentally. Starting from birth and up to a few weeks of age, most of their muscles are not fully developed and they do not have physical coordination, so you might see them stumbling or falling from time to time as they try to explore their surroundings.
2. 3-6 months old
Kittens at this stage start to become curious and process a lot of information about the world around them. This is the most critical period in a cat’s social development. At this age, make sure your pet is socialized, provided he is weaned and has had his vaccinations. You can also teach him good behavior, how to be on the leash, and maybe even some cool tricks.
Young cats at this age also start chasing and pouncing on any small moving objects that resemble prey. You might notice your cat becoming more playful, energetic and a bit mischievous as his hunting instincts start to emerge.
2. 6-12 months old
Cats in this age bracket are considered teenagers – they tend to be full of energy and a bit bossy. As they mature sexually, you might see them becoming more territorial and aggressive, which manifests through scratching, biting, and spraying. Hence, this is the best time to spay or neuter your cat to prevent future behavioral and health problems.
3. 1-2 years old
Cats enter adulthood after one year of age. Most of their personality traits should start to settle in around now. Unlike in the previous months, cats at this age will be calmer, especially after being spayed or neutered, but will still be full of energy. You will also start to find out whether your cat is the cuddly type or more reserved and independent.
4. 3-10 years old
Cats in this age bracket are fully mature. Your cat will be calmer than before, but will remain active. He will have fully adapted to his environment and adjusted to routines such as eating, sleeping, playing, socializing, and other activities.
Cats that are around 7 to 10 years of age will spend less time playing than before, and will slowly become more passive. They may also be more resistant to changes in their environment, such as moving to a new house. Anxiety also tends to be more common as the cat continues to age.
5. 11 years and older
Senior cats belong in this age group. With old age, expect your feline’s activity to decrease, and also prepare yourself for a decline in his cognitive abilities, such as impaired hearing, loss of vision, and weak motor skills. Veterinary care, proper diet, and monitoring of behavioral changes are extremely important during this phase of your cat’s life, to maximize his well-being.
Cats that reach beyond 15 years of age will demand more attention and affection as they experience weakness and various age-related diseases. Frequent trips to the vet, lethargy, and increased sleeping hours are all to be expected for this age group.
Why is my senior cat so affectionate?
Just like elderly humans, it is quite common for cats to crave attention and care from their human families as they grow older. Your cat might try to get your attention in many ways, such as excessive vocalization, brushing up against you, or kneading on you.
While some of these gestures can be cute and heart-warming, other attention-seeking actions might include destructive ones that are not so welcome.
Older cats whose sensory perceptions are slowly fading might crave more attention as they become more reliant on their humans for safety and security. Cognitive dysfunctions, such as loss of coordination, hearing, and sight, could make your cat more clingy, but in a negative way. This is when your kitty needs your love and patience the most, as he tries to enjoy his remaining years with you.
Are cats more affectionate as they get older?
While some older cats can become clingy or affectionate toward their owners, this is not true for all cats. Senior cats, due to their age, can be weaker and might need more support from their human companions, hence the clingy behavior.
However, if the behavioral change is very sudden, it might also indicate a serious health issue. Older cats tend to show signs of senility that manifest through unusual clinginess, confusion, and anxiety. Cats with failing eyesight or hearing also tend to seek more attention from their human companions.
The best thing you can do is ensure that your cat receives lots of love and proper veterinary care to make him more comfortable.
At what age are cats most affectionate?
Generally, cats’ true temperaments tend to be established when they reach adulthood. So, around the time your furry friend turns two years old, you will start to find out whether he is the cuddly type or not.
However, for some cats, the age might vary. Their clingy behavior might start during their teenage years and gradually fade away as they grow older. Others might be a bit reserved and independent, and then slowly become more affectionate as they grow older. Truly, there is no specific age at which all cats become (or stop becoming) affectionate.
The most affectionate cat breeds
Some cats are naturally more inclined to be affectionate – they strongly perceive their humans’ affection and enjoy being in such a relationship. If you like a cuddly cat, you can opt for certain breeds that have a particularly affectionate character, rather than waiting for your kitten to mature before finding out. You might want to consider one of the following cat breeds:
- Maine Coon
Aside from genetics, cats can also be raised to be affectionate through early training and socialization. Keep them healthy, happy, and content, and they are sure to reciprocate your love.
Additionally, do not forget that some cats might show their affection in more subtle ways than you may be used to. Not all cats are cuddly or lap cats; instead, they may reciprocate your love through loyalty, staying beside you, or kissing you, among other ways.
Why has my cat suddenly turned affectionate and clingy?
If you notice a sudden shift in your cat’s behavior, it often means something is not right.
Depending on the breed and temperament, some felines are naturally clingy or affectionate. However, if your older cat suddenly becomes clingy in a negative way, it is best to have him checked by the vet.
Know that your cat’s sudden clinginess might be due to illness, depression, anxiety, or feelings of insecurity. Cats also tend to experience these behavioral issues if they are abandoned or neglected by their owners.
These are some signs you should watch out for:
- Unusually following you everywhere you go
- Showing anxious behavior
- Crying or hissing whenever you try to leave him alone
- Rubbing himself against you more than usual
- Appearing depressed or afraid of being left alone
Cat tricks to get your attention
As your furry companion grows older, he might use clever tricks to get your attention. These may include heart-warming head bunts or purrs, but some of his actions might be less desirable and should not be rewarded. Responding to these negative behaviors and demands will only reinforce the unwanted behavior. Examples of such attention-seeking tactics include:
- Loud meows or yowls
- Persistent rubbing against you
- Clawing your sofa, carpet, or other furniture
- Sitting on your book or computer keyboard when you are trying to work
- Waking you at night
- Urinating in odd places or outside the litter box
- Pushing objects off the counter or table just to get your attention
Instead of paying attention to these tactics, schedule a play or cuddle session with your cat so that he will learn that incorrect behavior is not rewarded.
It is also best to have your cat checked by the vet to rule out any health problems. Some cats engage in these unusual behaviors when they are sick or in pain. If he comes away with a clean bill of health, then it probably means you just have a velcro kitty. If you are struggling to handle his behavior, you could consider consulting an animal behavior specialist.
Wrapping it up
There is no guarantee that your cat will become more affectionate as he grows older. While some cats (and breeds) are naturally affectionate, others might remain aloof and independent as they reach their senior years. And then there are those that become just too clingy to bear, in which case you will need to take some measures to correct your cat’s unwanted behavior.
Image: istockphoto.com / RAUL RODRIGUEZ