How to Help Our Senior Cats Age Gracefully
21 July, 2015
As our cats enter their senior years, we pet owners need to help them with the transition by recognizing their special needs and changes. It is important for our cats to have the correct food, plenty of water, a litterbox they can easily access and a nice bed to relax. Jumping up and running around is no longer an option (for some senior cats) so we need to make sure they have easy access to whatever they need to function on a day-to-day basis.
Cats have a very long life span
For the most part, cats that are older than eleven are considered senior and this is the time when you can expect to see some changing. Each cat is different, but you will notice that your cat isn’t as spry as he used to be and might have some age-related medical issues that could affect them. Indoor cats, for the most part, tend to live longer than outdoor cats. However, if you make sure to feed your cats a healthy diet and keep up with their vet visits, a cat can live up to his or her twenties!
As our cats age, there are some physical issues that you can expect
Arthritis is a common physical problem in older cats as you will see that your kitties’ won’t jump on the high places they used to. But the change is subtle and can take place over time. Some cats may also have problems jumping into and out of the litter box. When cats get older, you don’t want a tall litter box that’s hard for them to get in and out of but purchase one with lower sides and easy access.
Our older cats tend to have more kidney- related issues
Some of the common medical issues in older cats are overactive thyroid, intestinal problems, sometimes cancer, pancreatitis, diabetes, and renal disease. Most are a result of changes in the kidney itself or result from the dysfunction of other organs such as the heart, which if not functioning properly, will decrease blood flow to the kidneys. Kidney function can be measured through blood tests and a urinalysis. These tests can identify a kidney problem well before there are any physical signs of disease. The most frequent sign of kidney disease is usually an increase in water consumption and urination.
As cats age, they sometimes cry in the middle of the night or at unusual times
As cats age, you will sometimes here them cry in the middle of the night but it’s usually not due to pain, just a yelp. It’s their way of releasing. Sometimes your kitty will act confused or won’t relate to family members in the usual way. These also can be signs of aging. But they can also be signs of arthritis or dental disease or kidney disease, so you don’t want to write them off as just old age and have your cat checked out.
As our cats enter their senior years, try to take them to the vet twice a year
As our cats are known for hiding their feelings, you should be on top of anything new that might occur by seeing your vet twice a year. If you catch any change early on, it’s usually less expensive to deal with and the treatment is much more successful. Your vet will conduct routine tests, such as blood tests or urinalysis and they can pick up the very earliest signs of kidney problems, diabetes, hyperthyroid in its early stages, or an elevated white blood cell count and let you know the required treatment sooner rather than later.
Wet food is more preferable than dry in a kitty’s older age and water is key
Make sure that your aging cat (or cats of any age) gets plenty of water. If they won’t drink water regularly or if you’ve been on dry food, you may have to go to canned or semi-moist food. If your cat has trouble chewing as they can in older age, wet food can also be digested much more readily.
Make sure to stay on top of your cat’s dental appointments
Dental disease is one of the most common changes we see in older cats. Routine dental care including brushing your cat’s teeth can help minimize dental disease. Cats who have not received proper dental care can develop significant dental disease as they age and may develop life-threatening complications. A dental care program should consist of regular dental checkups and professional cleaning as needed. It is not fun for our kitties but often necessary.
Many of our older cats lose their hearing
Some cats will experience hearing loss as they age. Slight hearing loss is hard to determine in cats. Often hearing loss is severe before an owner becomes aware of the problem. The first sign could be that your cat has seemingly become more aggressive when it really is that your kitty was caught off guard, became startled when touched (due to loss of hearing your approach), and instinctively reacted. Therefore, be kind to them and approach them gently.
If you watch out for the signs of aging and schedule bi-annual vet visits, your cat can live a long, healthy life.