Life Stages & Needs of Cats and Dogs


Icon of a book Different Stages of Your Pet’s Life

The nutritional and environmental needs of cats and dogs change throughout their life and will affect growth as well as performance and breeding capabilities.  

Life Stages & Needs of Dogs

Dogs go through different stages of aging. Their nutrition needs, activity levels and veterinary care will vary during these stages. 

Dogs are puppies from birth to one year. After a puppy is born, they cannot walk, hear or see. However, their sense of smell is already fully developed. In the first three weeks, the mother’s milk will provide puppies with all the nutrition they need. Beginning of the third week, puppies can start to see and hear. Puppies start to eat solid food from 4-6 weeks of age. 

Sexual maturity starts to occur when the puppy is about six months old which results in different types of behaviours. Some dogs may become suddenly shy, fearful, or more independent so that they are less motivated to respond to training. It is important that positive and consistent training is followed during this adolescent phase. 

Male puppies that have reached sexual maturity may start to lift their leg to urinate when scent marking their territory with urine. Female dogs between the ages of 6 months and one year will have their first estrus cycle.

By the 1st year of age, dogs are considered adults. However, they continue to grow and develop up to 2-3 years of age depending on the breed. Small breeds finish development earlier than large breeds. 

Dogs are generally considered seniors at 8 years of age. Veterinary care becomes increasingly important, in order to detect early symptoms of diseases which target older dogs. Weight gain, arthritis and cancers are common in older dogs. Maintaining an age-appropriate diet and regular veterinary care will help ensure that a senior dog experiences good welfare into old age.  

Life Stages & Needs of Cats

Cats go through three main stages of aging. Their nutrition needs, activity levels and veterinary care will vary during these three stages.

Kittenhood lasts from birth to one year. In this first year, the cat will go through steady growth and development. A diet of kitten food – at least for the first nine months – regular veterinary care, and training provide the basis for adult health and well-being. 

The maintenance years occur from 1 to approximately 7 years of age. In this stage, cats stop growing and activity levels may decrease. A nutritious diet of appropriate food, opportunities for exercise and interaction, and regular veterinary care help maintain good health.

Cats are generally considered seniors at the age of 7 years. Veterinary care becomes increasingly important in order to detect early symptoms of diseases which target older cats.


Icon of a graded written submission Animal Life Stages (Activity)

Take a few minutes to complete the following activity. 

Activity Instructions

  1. Open your copy of the activities booklet for this module which you saved on your computer at the beginning of the module.
  2. Scroll down to the “Animal Life Stages” activity item in the booklet.
  3. Complete each of the activities outlined in the instructions.
  4. SAVE your work.

When you are done, proceed to the next item here in the online course. 

Are you sure you want to log out?