What To Expect As Our Cats Age
18 August, 2014
We love our pets dearly and it is so hard to see our cats getting older and less active. But, as in humans, these changes are inevitable. While we have taken our kitties once a year to the vet during their younger lives, as our cats’ age, they sometimes require more attention. Below are some normal signs of our ageing cats and what you can do to help your cats’ age with grace.
Changes in diet
While most younger and middle aged cats can get a little chunky at times, our older cats tend to lose some of that fat. Studies have shown that senior cats do not digest, and thus absorb fat, as well as younger cats. This means that older cats may need to consume either more fat or fat that is more digestible to get the same amount of energy. It’s important to monitor the weight of your cat and adjust your cat’s diet accordingly. Your vet, as always, can help make recommendations.
Skin and fur changes
As our cats age, their fur can become matted or more abrasive. Brushing your cat is a great way to give your kitty extra attention and our older cats need to be groomed more often. Our cats will probably love the extra attention. You will also be helping to prevent hairballs, which can be more of a problem in older cats. While grooming, check for any lumps, bumps, or non-healing sores and contact your veterinarian immediately if any are found.
Brittle nails and thickened foot pads
Just as there are see changes in your cat’s fur, our aging cats tend to have thicker foot pads and changes in the nails as they tend to become brittle. It’s important to clip the nails of older cats and they may need to be clipped more often since older cats may not use scratching posts as often as younger cats. Therefore, they have no way of ‘trimming’ their nails on their own.
Decreased mobility and arthritis
Encourage your cat to get more exercise; make high places more accessible to your kitty.
Arthritis can occur in older cats, especially in cats who have had injured joints earlier in their life. As in people, arthritis in cats may only cause a slight stiffness or it can become debilitating. Cats may have difficulty jumping onto favorite perches or going up and down stairs.
Glucosamine can be beneficial to support healthy joints. Cats have a distinct sensitivity to many anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and acetaminophen. Don’t give your cat an anti-inflammatory or pain relief medication unless prescribed by your veterinarian; if prescribed, follow dosage instructions very carefully as it can be dangerous to your cat.
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.
Decrease in kidney function
As our cats age, the risk of kidney disease increases. This may be due to 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. Kidney disease is very common in older cats.
Increased sensitivity to temperature changes
As our cats age, their ability to regulate their body temperature decreases. Cats who could handle cold temperatures when they were young, may not be able to as they age. Monitoring the environmental temperature around your cat and making adjustments will help your older cat be more comfortable. You may need to move your cat’s bed closer to a heating outlet or purchase a heated bed to make your kitty comfortable.
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.
Changes in the eye and vision loss
Cats may experience vision loss as they age. You may notice that your cat no longer follows a toy with her eyes as you move it across the floor or might may have difficulty finding his or her food dish. Any sudden changes in vision or appearance of the eyes should prompt a visit to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Eye exams should be part of the regular physical exam in older cats.
As always, if you see any sudden medical or physical changes in your cat or anything unusual, call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment.