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Posted: Jul 22 2017, 10:22 PM
Hello, and welcome to my
The purpose of this guide is to provide an outline of what a feral cat's lifespan and aging might look like. This means we do cover a bit about breeding, but that's hardly the main portion! I'll be doing my best here to combine what I know about cats with what I also know about our lovely warrior cats. My goal here is, for the most part, to try and find us a happy medium where reality and our talking fantasy cats can happily mingle.
My experience comes from years of reading (both medical texts and non), research, and a good amount of real life experience as well. I've bottlefed and currently own a few cats, as well as have lived in a rural farm area my entire life. That means I've gotten to watch barn and semi-feral cats go about their lives, providing me with a decent basis to place this guide on.
Should you have any questions, requests, suggestions, or corrections, feel free to contact me! I don't bite... Usually. I can usually be found on this site, so PMs or even posting here is fine. You can also find me on Discord, and I never mind a message!
Thanks, and happy reading!
And a hello from Nyxie, as well! She'll make an appearance in examples.
This guide is property of Shally and only for use on warriorcatsarpg.com!
Alright, let's get to it!
Your basic feral cat - as make up the bulk of the warrior, alley cat, and feral population - are made up of moggies or mutts. This means that they have no clear lineage, and instead come from a line of random encounters and pairings. And actually, this is a good thing! In the wild, the strong survive - and those that live on to breed happen to usually be the strong. A healthy, robust feral cat with mixed lineage will tend to do far better in their outside environment than any purebred, or even an imported or foreign wildcat species.
This isn't to say that no exceptions can be made. House pets - kittypets - can always escape, throwing the occasional purebred line into the mix. However, these are uncommon, and best used sparingly. Purebreds have their own list of problems, and while not inherently bad, are also not exactly built for survival in the forest, moors, swamps, rivers, and streets that make up our game. Use your discretion!
There are two main classifications of feral or common bred cat - the domestic short-hair and the domestic long-hair. These are both fairly self explanatory, and they can come in any color under the sun. Some, however, are more common. By far the most common color you'll see in a wild colony is a brown tabby (classic or mackeral, usually). This coat color provides ideal camoflauge in many wild environments. Other common colors include blue tabby, red tabby, black, tuxedo, and black and white.
Don't count this as a limit though - you don't need to have kittypet in your background to explain away a color, only breeds! I'll be linking a guide to pelt colors in the links section.
Another thing to consider with these cats is size. As a general rule, feral cats tend to be smaller than their kittypet counterparts. This is largely due to three main factors - health, food availability, and exercise. Your average feral cat might range from 5 lbs to 12 lbs, though this is an average that should be taken with a grain of salt. Smaller cats and larger cats can and will exist, but as usual, they have drawbacks. For example, a smaller cat might be less able - and a larger cat requires more food! And, past a certain size - somewhere around 14 to 15 lbs - any added weight will be pure fat. Not healthy.
Most ferals, however, might remain on the smaller end of the spectrum. This is again largely due to the three above listed factors. Most feral cats will also be lean, and it would be a rare thing indeed to find a chubby or fat cat in the wild. That kind of physique takes a lot of caloric intake, and not much exercise to maintain!
This guide is a good look at what body condition is with cats. Our ferals will most often appear as very thin, thin, or ideal - with very thin being more common during leaf-bare, or winter, and ideal being more common around greenleaf, or summer.
As I'll cover in the next pages, feral cat lives also look very different than their kittypet cousins. They not only live differently, they live hard. And what they say is true - live hard, die young. While I'll write more later, the lifespan of a feral cat can be up to half of what a kittypet might live. The price of the great outdoors!
Cat Age - Human Equivalent
Newborn - Newborn
1 - 2 weeks - 1 year
3 - 4 weeks - 3 years
5 - 6 weeks - 5 years
7 - 8 weeks - 7 years
3 months - 8 years
4 months - 9 years
5 months - 10 years
6 months - 11 years
7 months - 12 years
8 months - 13 years
9 months - 14 years
10 months - 15 years
11 months - 16 years
12 months - 17 years
13 months - 18 years
14 months - 19 years
15 months - 20 years
16 months - 21 years
17 months - 22 years
18 months - 23 years
20 months - 24 years
22 months - 25 years
24 months - 26 years
2 - 3 years - 27 - 33 years
3 - 4 years - 33 - 39 years
4 - 5 years - 39 - 45 years
5 - 6 years - 45 - 51 years
6 - 7 years - 51 - 57 years
7 - 8 years - 57 - 63 years
8 - 9 years - 63 - 69 years
9 - 10 years - 69 - 75 years
10 + years - 75 +
Just a few notes here to explain things!
After they hit one and a half years, aging slows a bit - cats grow up fast at first, which is largely for survival. So after that of age, add on one human year for every two months, at least if you choose to follow this chart.
Firstly, this is an age guide aimed at feral cats, and kittypets play by different rules. Feral cats live hard and die hard. The average lifespan of a domestic cat in the wild is 4 to 5 years. You might notice that in the books, few make it to the age of elders. Kittypets play by their own rules, with healthy ones usually living anywhere from 10 to 20 years. And some of those 15 or 16 year old cats will act as spry as a kitten.
Another question might be in regards to puberty and breeding age. While technically female cats can reach puberty as early as 5 months, and usually do somewhere from 5 to 10 months of age, this does not mean that having kits is healthy. There have been cases of young human girls having children at as young an age as 5 years. (Note - the youngest age allowed for a queen to kit is 12 months as per site rules requiring a female to be 10 months before breeding.)
The emphasized point in this case is that while it is possible for them to have a child so soon after puberty, it is not healthy. The same as goes for cats as well as humans. I'll cover more in the next section on this topic.
And, also, a disclaimer! These are all approximate, though educated, guesses. Make your own decisions how this effects your RP.
For the most part, both male and female cats reach puberty somewhere between 5 and 10 months of age. However, as noted previously, just because they can reproduce, this does not mean they should.
Litters born to young mothers have a high mortality rate. Reasons for this include a lack of nutrition or space in the womb, birthing troubles, and even failure to mother. At such a young age, much like in humans, a cat simply often won't have developed the instincts to carry through with birthing and raising a litter. In feral populations, it happens fairly often - there's a good chance a queen's first one or even two litters may be entirely a loss.
But look to the bright side, dear reader! Unlike in the wild, where cats enter estrus and follow the biological need to reproduce, our characters are sentient. This means that concepts such as consent and choice exist for them, and this makes bearing kits into something that is most often a conscious choice. This is especially true as cats are not a type of animal driven by pleasure in the act, but by reproducing. In the lives of our warriors, unless something terrible happens, they can make a choice to have children.
Gotta love the bright side. So, you might wonder, what is a healthy breeding age? Going by our live fast, die young rule, kittens at a young age will happen. The most easy comparison to draw is the age women often had children in ancient times - they died young, and so they had their children young, as well. From 12 months on up is a good rule of thumb, though a queen will still tend towards having smaller kits until she is 24 months of age. The ideal window for a she-cat to have a healthy litter is between 2 and 4 years. Just because they're technically an adult in their world, though, does not mean they are mentally prepared for parenthood.
And, much as with humans, there will be outliers. While the health of litters declines, it is possible for a cat to bear kits from ages 4 to 6 years. From there, you're dealing with a very rapid decline in fertility, and so a cat bearing kittens from age 7 and on up would be both incredibly difficult on the mother and kittens, not to mention the unlikeliness of an actual pregnancy occuring. It may happen - but it is both rare and often unpleasant.
As far as males go, their ideal range for fathering a litter is anywhere from puberty to 7 years. This is only the ideal, though - they can father a litter at any age, though fertility becomes lower and it becomes more unlikely. I also feel like I should mention that, due to our characters being sentient, a 6 month old cat fathering a litter might be possible, but perhaps not healthy for his mental state.
On this site, litters can be anywhere from 1 to 3 kits. With a StarClan blessing in effect, you may have 4 kits. And, should you wish, you can purchase a 5 kit litter from the store.
And, of course, I'd like to make a note - while characters flirting and showing affection are fine, explicit breeding acts are Not. Keep to the rules, folks, and keep that off screen! And, of course, if your cat has a mate, be sure to communicate with them before making a litter happen.
Don't worry, Caboose. Fortunately or unfortunately - however you view it - pregnancy is a field reserved for those biologically female. Sorry guys, you get to sit this one out.
After mating, assuming it was successful, a female becomes pregnant. Pregnancy in domestic cats lasts usually from 65 to 69 days. So, about two months. And, once they are pregnant, a she-cat or female is now known as a queen. (And, of course, she should be treated like a queen!) For the first two or three weeks, the pregnancy will not be very noticeable, much like a human in the first trimester. Signs will be there, but subtle. As the pregnancy progresses, they'll begin to show visibly.
Pregnant queens - especially late into the pregnancy - will eat far more than your regular cat. After all, she could be eating for as many as five! This is why a conscious kitty cat will try to avoid having a litter in the depths of leaf-bare/winter. (And, even in the wild, cats often do not go into estrus until the days are longer in spring and summer.)
Just like people, symptoms of pregnancy will vary. While the swollen belly is almost universal, there are other signs as well! A queen's nipples will darken and become more visible, and the cat might also experience morning sickness. Not all cats will experience this, but it's not uncommon. They might also experience changes in mood - in fact, it's quite likely!
A queen in the last two weeks of her pregnancy may feel an urge to nest. Nesting is a common behavior in queens, where they seek somewhere safe, enclosed, and dark as a place to have their kits. They may find things to bring to their nest to make it more comfortable. In our warrior clans, it is quite likely a queen might begin building her nest in the nursery at this stage, and probably would begin to sleep there as well.
When a cat has reached the end of their pregnancy, they progress into labor. This can be a quick process, or an extended one, and will vary queen to queen. An hour to a few is quite common. There is even the possibility of interrupted labor, where a queen who has birthed one or two kittens may have their labor halt for as long as 24 or even 36 hours. And, most often, from there the labor will resume quite normally and the rest of the litter will be born without issue.
With our feral cats, unless the queen is quite young or old, problems in birthing will be rare. They can happen, but it is uncommon. Where issues will arise is in a pregnancy fathered by a larger (or wild) cat, or the aforementioned old or young queen. Problems can include malpositioned kittens, malformed kittens, or kittens with heads that are too large. Another thing worth mention is that with purebred cats involved, the likelihood of problems is higher.
There will be a link to a more detailed guide to labor in the links, if you are interested, but this about covers what we need for RP! Another thing worth mention is that, after birth, it is approximately two months before a queen can bear another litter.
Ah, there she is! This example is my sweet cat Nyxie, a little less than a day after she was born. She was orphaned, and will make up the rest of my examples, as well. Don't worry, she has a happy ending! In this picture, she weighed about 2.4 oz - extra teeny!
Newborn kittens are helpless, fuzzy jellybeans. They average in size from 3 to 4 oz, though this will vary. Their eyes are tightly sealed shut, and so are their ears - for now, they hear nothing and see nothing! They navigate entirely by smell, touch, and taste - though this navigation is very limited. At this age, they are incredibly weak, and move at a very slow crawl for short distances. This is almost always used to locate their mother's belly so they can eat!
There are a few things that are vital to a kitten's survival at this age. Capable of nothing on their own, they will need warmth and food provided for them. At this age, they cannot even eliminate on their own - not that we need to RP that!
At this age, the kittens need to eat at an astounding rate - every 1 to 2 hours! This means their mother won't be able to go very far, or for very long. If they get cold, their metabolism can slow down and this can cause incredible harm to the little ones.
Mortality rate at this age is high, but this is a game - let's not worry about that. For the first week of life, they qualify as a newborn - fairly similar to the first month of a human baby's life.
(A side note - I don't recommend bottle feeding at this age, but it is possible, just very difficult. Feel free to message me for more details!)
Here we have Nyxie at about 9 days old! Getting a bit chubbier, and here her ears are just starting to uncurl a bit.
Alright, so the kittens got past the first week! The worst is over mama - though it doesn't get much better just yet. Instead of every 1 to 2 hours, it's now every 2 to 3 hours for feedings. (No, I didn't get much sleep at this stage, either!) On the up side, they're growing. During that first week, they should have hopefully doubled their weight. They're still small, but they're making progress!
Right as we hit one week, kittens will start to open their eyes for the first time. This may take a few days, and you may have a kitten that looks more like a pirate than anything! Never pull their eyes open - they will open in their own time. Nyxie actually began to open her eyes after exactly a week, but it can vary by a day or two. At week one, their ears will still be folded over and they will be entirely deaf.
While their eyes might be open, they will not see the world clearly for a few weeks. It will be blurry and out of focus, but they'll make out moving shapes and begin to get an idea of things.
Through this next week, as they move towards and through their second week, their ears will begin to uncurl. At this point they'll begin to hear for the first time - hopefully their mother's voice! This sense, like their vision, won't be fully fledged for a week or two at least, but we all start somewhere.
In addition, those fuzzy jellybeans are starting to be a bit more mobile! Towards the end of their second week, they might even take their first shaky steps.
Most of their time will still be spent eating and cuddling with their mother, or staying in a snuggle pile of their siblings. We're not very adventurous yet, but that will come soon enough!
Nyxie is almost 4 weeks here, and as you can see, she's definitely figured out how to stand up!
As we move into the third week, kits begin to both hear and see more clearly. With this new understanding of their world, they begin to get curious. While very shaky still, they'll begin to stumble out of the nest and perhaps explore just a bit. They'll be very cautious and easily startled, and in the case of warriors, still not allowed out into camp.
By the time we get into week four, they'll actually begin to play! Their playing is not really running and jumping just yet, but they might bat at their mother or father's tail, or one another. At this point, you officially have a toddler on your hands - they'll begin to speak a bit, perhaps not in full sentences yet, but their vocabulary will grow quickly.
However, they are still young, and rely entirely on their mother for nourishment. Between week three and four, they actually begin to generate their own body heat for the first time, and their teeth will begin to emerge. Ouch! Sorry mom, they're not ready for prey just yet. However, they're now eating only every 4 to 6 hours. Mom will finally be able to go on a walk or have a bit of time to herself.
Here we have Nyxie at six weeks. As you can tell, her eyes have changed! No longer that trademark baby blue.
At five and six weeks, kittens start getting actually cute, instead of... Somewhat cute little gremlins. That might be the lack of sleep from back then talking, though.
They're now steady on their feet (though hardly graceful) and are learning to run. Gotta go fast. It's likely that at this age they'll begin taking their first jaunts out of the nursery to go pester everyone else in camp, if they happen to be a warrior kitten! They'll spend almost all of their waking time grooming, playing, and eating. And, by now, have no problem using the dirtplace by themselves. We hope.
Kits now might begin to speak in short sentences. While they still nurse, they can begin to sample prey or solid food, at their mother's discretion. However, not all kittens will want to! (Nyxie, for example, didn't wean until almost eight weeks.)
Up until now, kits have been difficult and perhaps rather boring to play. No longer, say I! Now they can begin to show signs of personality, and interact with others. Let the plotting and life of your young character begin!
Ignore the keyboard, look at those legs.
In weeks 7 and 8, kittens begin to act like, well, kids. They have boundless energy, and will run and play hard until tired. (Though when they crash, they'll crash hard. Kittens need lots of sleep!) They might still nurse on occasion, but hopefully for poor mom, we can get them eating something solid. After all, they have lots and lots of sharp teeth now!
Kittens at this age are brave and curious. They'll fearlessly tackle cats they know, especially their siblings and parents. And they are growing! At this age, they'll weigh from 1.5 to 2.5 lbs if they are healthy. (0.6 to 1.1 kilos, for you metric folks!) And, unless there's something predisposing them to not talk, this is the stage where they'll begin to talk your ear off.
At this age, a human might be ready for preschool - kittens get to entertain themselves, or listen to the elders in the clans. They'll learn the Code from their mothers, and hear stories about the Clans, and other such things. Loners might not have this - but they'll make up their own games, as children usually do!
Here's Nyxie again, demonstrating "are you sure that's a kitten?". And yes. I'm sure.
Kittens grow fast, which may surprise some. They don't tend to reflect this in the books well, but that's alright! We'll get it right here.
A healthy, well fed kitten might grow as much as a pound per month at this age - though take it with a grain of salt, as we are talking about feral cats. Food conditions and other factors may weigh in.
If you're following the growth chart, this stage is ages 5 to 8 years old. There is an immense amount of growth in this time, both mentally and physically. This is when they will establish the foundations of their personality and even some of their beliefs. It is a very important, formative time for a kit - we had best hope they learn good behaviors!
By the time a kit is ready for apprenticeship in the Clans - six months - they may be anywhere from 3 to 6 pounds! Your mileage may vary, but at this age they will be approximately 50 to 75% of their full size. And, hilariously, a lot of this size will be legs. While human teenagers go through a gangly stage a bit later, kittens tend to hit it early.
Here's Nyxie at about 7 to 8 months in this picture.
6 to 12 months is a nice big range, but in truth their physical growth will slow down now. By the time a cat hits 12 months, they'll be anywhere from 80 to 90% of their final growth weight - not quite there yet, but nearly.
For each month, you can count it as about one human year. Meaning the time an apprentice is learning is about 11 to 17 years old. This explains a lot of things!
A big thing to remember is that young apprentices - all apprentices, really - are still kids. They still need down time, time to play, and lots of sleep to develop into a healthy adult. Hopefully the adults they're around know this, but it could have an effect on your character in the long term.
Even once they become a warrior, don't think they're all grown up and done maturing! They're not. Somewhere in this range your cat should hit puberty. This does mean they might start taking an interest in the opposite sex, though it's a bit early for anything serious, we hope! (Or the same sex, really. You do you, let your characters do what they do.)
Nothing is a guarantee, though. Just like people, cats will develop at very different rates, both mentally and physically.
As your young adult cat, now effectively a teenager, moves into their second year, aging remains at a steady rate for the first half. After they reach one and a half years, it peters off a bit, lowering to one human year for every two months. That means that by the time your cat hits 2 years old, they are the equivalent of 26 human years - for the most part, a fully fledged adult, both in mentality and physicality.
Through their second year, they will make up that last 10 to 20% of their average body weight, and will change and grow in other ways. Their head will settle into its final shape - female cats have far narrower heads than males, and unaltered toms tend to have a blocky, broader head. Their awkward legginess will even out into a more average physique, at least for the most part! They can still be leggy. Gangliness will now turn into the typical grace cats possess, at least most of the time.
This age range is officially when a feral cat is in their prime. No longer do they have to devote all of their energy and caloric intake to rapid growth, and their eating habits will for the most part settle out. In the second year they will (mostly) finish their mental maturation, going through the 'figuring out who they are' phase that any sentient 'person' goes through. While that doesn't mean that they are finished changing and developing, but mentally, they are mature. Mostly.
Interestingly, years 2 through 4 are the breeding prime for a cat. This means that if they're going to have kits, the most ideal time is from ages 2 to 4. Their kits will be the healthiest and most robust, and queens will have the least difficulties with pregnancy and birth. They'll be more mentally capable of handling the responsibilities of parenthood at this age, as well.
As far as it applies for warriors, these are very important years. A freshly appointed warrior at 12 months has very little experience - through the next years, they will gain that all important experience. What they learned in their apprenticeship will allow them to learn on their own, as they likely take up specialties and discover their particular talents. A very interesting time for RP!
Cats at this age range will, as they progress towards four years, begin to feel their age, but they won't really slow down just yet. They're still young!
Welcome to middle age! If you go by my feral aging chart (which is by no means a hard and fast set of rules), this range covers ages 39 to 57, human equivalent.
This is when a feral cat, should they have survived this long, starts to feel their age a bit. Later in this age range, they may even begin to experience a bit of arthritis or muscle soreness, simply from hard use, hard winters, and aging. Sleep becomes an ever valuable commodity as they age, and not all will make it through this stage.
Feral cats, after all, have an average lifespan of 4 to 5 years. That doesn't mean your cat has to die - it just means that life and survival gets harder! What will help is that a large portion of our felines live in groups that actively work to protect and provide for one another. This both gives them a mission in life as well as a support system. So don't despair!
And, for those in clans, your cat officially begins to be considered a senior warrior. They've survived this long, and have obviously learned quite a bit in their lives. This means young cats will hopefully look to them with respect, and your cat very well might have a good bit of wisdom to impart. (Or, perhaps, they might not!)
And now you're an old fart.
Kidding, but the truth hurts! A once spry, young cat is neither spry nor young anymore. By now, they've lived a hard, and fairly long life. That is something they can be proud of, though many might resist the reality that age is setting in. Arthritis, other joint problems, and various issues with age are only par for the course and to be expected. Unfortunate, but this is reality.
However much they may resist it, their bodies simply cannot hold up well to this life. A loner will struggle, and struggle hard. A cat who is a part of a group - such as a clan - will fare better.
Clan cats will, at some point, need to retire to being an elder, as they are no longer able to keep up with the tasks they once did. It's time to retire, kitty cats - and that's okay.
Another thing of note is that breeding - while difficult from ages 4 to 7 - becomes increasingly unlikely, dangerous, and generally a bad idea at this age. Just something to be aware of!
But hey, playing a cranky old fart can be fun, I promise!
After your kitty passes about 10 years, their chances of survival take a steep nosedive. They become more susceptible to heat, cold, and disease. A small wound, should it get infected, could spell their downfall. Or it could be something as simple as a fall. These feral cats live a hard, vicious life, and the wounds and problems they've built up over their life will catch up with them. Health problems are to be expected. Unfortunately, everyone has an end.
Kittypets have their own rules about life.
As the owner of two of my own, well, they definitely play by their own rules. These cats have everything provided to them - usually health care, food, water, shelter, and love. Their life is an easy one, built on playing, naps, snuggles, eating, and generally being a cat. They don't have to worry. (Though they will insist that yes, they do have to worry, because their food bowl only has half left.)
While they grow at about the same rate, reaching full maturity by age 2 years, from there, their aging process is far slower than their feral and wild counterparts. This is simply because of their easy, relaxed life. A feral's average lifespan is 4 to 5 years. By comparison, an indoor cat has a projected average lifespan of 13 to 17 years, with many living until at least 20 or beyond! That is a huge difference, and it all comes down to the way their lives are lived.
There are always exceptions and health issues, but life on the inside has a far better outlook than life on the outside. By comparison to the feral aging chart, a 10 year old cat is only beginning to enter their 50's in a human equivalent. While there are many human to cat age equivalent charts out there for indoor cats, none of them seem to agree - and it's hard to find a good fit to cat behavior.
A cat's behavior at different ages in an indoor situation will largely depend on the cat, and their health. A 15 year old cat with no real health issues might still act like a kitten, or might act cranky and, well, old. There's a lot of flexibility here.
However, if an indoor cat is unaltered, their practical breeding age still ends at 7 or 8 years of age. After this, you still face the risks and challenges that come with breeding past a prime age.
Just one last note here to close on - I want to emphasize that this is just a guide. While it's nice to play by a more realistic style, I'm not going to force you to follow this guide to the letter. RP is meant to be fun, and fun is often had with a little flexibility. I made this as simply a guideline, to look to when you come across questions about how the lifespan of a feral cat might look.
And lastly of note, remember to follow the site rules. The rules can be found here and outline what is important to remember when playing here. Important to remember is that sexual content is not allowed, which is why I tried to be very brief on the topic here. Here is also a link to the breeding rules and regulations, and of note when compared to this guide is that no character under 10 months can breed. While it's physically possible in cat biology, that's a topic this site chooses to avoid, and it should be respected. Thanks!
The rest of this will be filled in as we go! If I recieve any questions, I will answer them here.
Credits and Resources
Source for Body Condition Image
A Detailed Guide to Feline Birth (caution - pictures)
An Awesome and More Detailed Guide to Early Kitten Aging (with pictures!)
Written Guide to Coat Colors
An In-Depth Chart of Cat Coat Colors
The cat photos on the 1-4 Years, 4 - 7 Years, and 7+ Years pages are from sobi.org, and the rest are taken by me and are of the cats I own. Please don't use those!