How Long Do Cats Grow For? What You Need to Know
Kittens are so adorable that most cat owners would never want them to grow. Like all creatures, however, kittens grow into adult cats. Some of them will grow so fast that you’d have a big kitty on your lap instead of a pint-sized cat. The question remains, nonetheless, how long do kittens and cats grow? When do they stop growing? Here are the things every devoted cat owner needs to know.
When Does a Kitten Become an Adult Cat
Like puppies and dogs, there is no definite age that can define the transition from a kitten to an adult cat. In many literatures, any kitten that reaches 1 year of age is already considered an adult cat. For us humans, this is still like a baby. In the feline world, however, 1 year in human terms is the equivalent of 15 years in cats.
The age of a cat is one of several parameters that can help pet owners determine if their cats are already mature or not. However, this is not a very accurate measurement. For example, some kittens can achieve a weight and height that is close to adult cat proportions by the time they reach the age of 9 months. Some may achieve these proportions a bit longer, often 12 to 14 months.
By the time they reach this age, their growth begins to slow down. Small to medium sized cats can continue to grow until they reach the age of 18 months. Large-sized cats like the Maine Coon can continue to grow until they reach 24 months. There are also cases of Maine Coons reaching their full-grown size in 4 years.
So, when can you start calling a kitten a cat? Everything depends on the breed of your cat and its genes. Nutrition can also play an important role in the growth of your pet cat.
A Kitten’s Growth Spurt
The first 6 months of a kitten’s life are often seen as a very critical period. This is the stage where there is rapid growth and development. The different organs of the kitty are already formed by the time it is born. However, they will have to be ready for the growing needs of the kitty.
All feline organs increase in size to accommodate the physiologic requirements of a full-grown cat. For instance, an adult kitty will need strong muscles for it to perform the different activities. Strength allows it to run, jump, hop, and walk. Strong muscles also allow the cat to go on a hunt or to evade its predators. As such, the different muscles of the cat will also have to grow to adult proportions. Can you imagine an adult kitty that has the muscles of a 1-month old kitten? It will not be a happy cat.
Not only is there an increase in the size of the different organs of the cat. There is also a rapid development in terms of the functions of these organs. The kidneys become more efficient in the production of urine. The heart is able to beat at a more normal pace. The lungs can expand with greater capacity, allowing the cat to breathe in air.
All of these critical changes occur in a kitten’s first 6 months of life. After this period, the growth spurt whittles down to a gentler pace until the kitten reaches near-adult cat proportions.
How Big Can Your Kitty Grow?
Since growth is always equated with an increase in size of a particular organism, the logical question that cat parents will have is how big their respective kitties will grow. How will they know that their beloved feline has already reached its optimum height and weight?
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteeing how big or heavy your kitty will grow. There are breed standards that you can check to see if your pet has already achieved its full growth capacity. For example, Maine Coons can grow as heavy as 18 lbs, as tall as 16 inches, and as long as 48 inches. Bengal cats, on the other hand, can weigh up to 17 lbs.
Other breeds of cats do not have very detailed body measurements. Most only classify them as either medium or large size of cats. A veterinarian can help you determine the approximate full-grown size of your kitty. We said ‘approximate’ because there are a few factors that can affect a cat’s height and weight.
Genetics is one of the main factors that can affect the final size of a cat. While not everyone is knowledgeable about Mendelian Laws of Inheritance, you can make a good estimate by looking at the parents of the kitten. If both parents are large, then you can expect the kitten to be large as well. Unfortunately, if one parent is smaller than the other, then there is a chance that the kitten will get the height of either of its parents.
Genetics can also play a role in a cat’s weight. However, nutrition can amplify such effects. Many of the cats in US homes today are obese. This is not because of genetics. The main reason for feline obesity today is poor feeding practices by pet parents. Many tend to overfeed their cats and do not engage them in physical activities.
There are also genetic disorders that can limit the full size of the cat. For instance, osteochondrodysplasia can result in a cat that has a normal size body yet with very short legs. This is a condition that is due to a genetic mutation. There is also pituitary dwarfism in cats, also known as congenital hypothyroidism. If your cat has this disorder, then you may not be able to know when it will stop growing.
Certain breeds of cats are also born with short legs. Minskins and Munchkins are two examples of these cats. They do not have osteochondrodysplasia; what they do have is pseudoachondroplasia. This results in a cat with short legs, despite having a normal proportion of head and body.
Cats and Sexual Maturation
Aside from the physical growth and development of cats, one also needs to understand their sexual maturity. This is equivalent to puberty in humans. As such, one can say that this occurs in kittens from 6 to 9 months old.
Female kittens can already get pregnant around this time. However, because their body is still growing and developing, it may turn into a difficult pregnancy. The uterus of the young cat is not yet mature to accommodate several embryos that will turn into kittens.
Male kittens, on the other hand, can already start fathering kittens around this time. It would be a good idea to keep your male kitten indoors so that it does not come in contact with female kittens or cats. If you are not in the business of breeding cats, it’s best to have your pet neutered or spayed. However, timing is critical. Spaying and neutering should always be performed before the animal reaches its full reproductive maturity.
Feline Growth and the Role of Nutrition
Kittens grow the fastest in the first 6 months of their lives. It is critical to provide them with the correct nutrition at this time in their lives. When we say “correct” nutrition, we mean the kind of nutrition that is right for their breed, age, life stage, and health status.
Protein is a very important macronutrient for the growth of the kitten. It promotes the formation of tissues, while also facilitating the production of substances in the cat’s body. Protein plays an important role in the maturation of organs, so that your kitten will grow at a normal rate.
One has to keep in mind not to provide too much protein, however. This can tax the kitten’s still-developing kidneys. The same is true with calcium and other minerals necessary for bone development. If you give the cat too much calcium, then there is a chance that the kitten will have very dense bones at an earlier age. This can contribute to weight issues and add pressure to its joints.
Different cats have different growth rates. From one breed to another and from one cat to another within the same breed, they often grow at varying rates. That is why it is important to always work with your veterinarian when it comes to the optimum nutrition of your kitten. He can determine the exact number of calories that your kitten should get.
In the first 8 weeks of the kitten’s life, however, its mother’s milk is the best food. In case the kitten gets separated from its littermates at a young age, then the appropriate milk substitute should be given. A veterinary nutritionist can help you identify a suitable milk replacement. You should always adhere to these feeding recommendations if you want your kitten to grow and develop into a healthy cat.
Kittens can have a very rapid growth and development during the first 6 months of their life. This growth continues until they reach the 12th month. The rate of growth decreases until about 18 months to 4 years, depending on the breed of the cat. By then, your kitty has already achieved its full growth potential.