Measuring cat and dog years – how old is your pet?

cats, dogs -

Measuring cat and dog years – how old is your pet?

Have you ever tried to work out your pet’s age in cat or dog years? Do they act their ‘age’?

Until very recently people have used the same ‘multiply by 7’ formula for both - but now scientists reckon we’ve been doing it all wrong…

A new way to measure dog years

Based on average lifespans we tend to assume that a dog ages 7 years for each of our 1. So a 1-year-old puppy is like a 7-year-old child and a 14-year-old dog is a 98-year-old pensioner. However, scientists in California have just debunked the dog-year theory with new evidence that dogs age at different speeds throughout their lives.

The groundbreaking study by researchers from the University of California examined how dogs age by looking at the DNA markers of 104 Labradors, ageing between 4 weeks and 16 years old. As the dogs cells matured, their DNA changed over time and scientists used this to track the dog’s biological progress. They then compared this to DNA information from 300 humans. 

They found that by the age of 2, the Labrador DNA was equivalent to a human in their early 40s - rather than a 14-year-old human, which the traditional ‘multiply by 7’ formula would imply - but they do not continue to age at this speed and they actually mature more slowly in later life.

This means the dog’s age progression compared to humans follows a curve, so it can still be calculated – but you probably won’t be able to work it out in your head! Luckily we have a link here to an article containing a dog age calculator that can do the maths for you.

Old dog and puppy Photo by Jametlene Reskp on UnsplashOld dog and puppy Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

Scientists have found that all dogs - no matter what their breed – follow a similar ageing process and this new research seems to tally up better with human years to provide a more accurate way of measuring dog years. For example a 7-week-old puppy is around the same as 9-month-old human baby – and both start to get their teeth at this age. However, the doggy ageing process does slow down over time, so that by the age of 10, they are similar in DNA function to a human aged 68 – and the average life span of a Labrador (12 years) matches the global life expectancy of humans (70 years).

What does this mean for cat years?

According to Purina, cat ages can be worked out in a similar way.

Like dogs, cat ages have also traditionally been calculated by multiplying their age by 7, but it seems this isn’t true either. 

A 1-year-old cat is more like a teenager and they suggest that – like dogs – the first two years of a feline’s life are roughly equivalent to the first 25 years of a human’s. After this, every year is equal to about 4 human years (it doesn’t say if they arrived at this conclusion scientifically or if it is just based on observation of cat behaviour). So if your cat is 6 years old then they are actually around 41, in human terms. 

There’s a useful cat age calculator here if you want to work out how old your kitty is.

Kitten Photo by Kim Davies on UnsplashKitten Photo by Kim Davies on Unsplash

So there we have it your best friend may be younger (or older) than you think. The scientists in the dog study hope to use the information to better understand the ageing process in humans and dogs in order to be able to address some of the negative effects of getting old.

The more you think about how your pet behaves and the age that they are supposed to be, it becomes clear that when it comes to ageing, once we have this information we are better equipped to be able to take look after our pets and give them the best level of care. What do you make of the research? Does your dog or cat act their age? Let us know in the comments section below.

(Main Photo: Labrador by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash)

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