Two of the world’s leading veterinary organisations have announced 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 individualised healthcare plans.
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.
In addition, it combines 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,” task force co-chair Jessica Quimby said.
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 check-ups at a minimum of every six months for senior cats,” AAHA chief medical officer Heather Loenser said.
“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, behaviour, 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.