A long time ago, cats were considered seniors at eight years old.
Today, it's not unusual for veterinarians to have feline patients in their twenties. As technology advances, improved nutrition, living indoors, and veterinary medicine, cats live longer and are now considered older at 12 to 14 years.
While it's true that senior cats are more likely to get different conditions, some older cats live perfectly normal lives and don't change at all.
Older cats tend to be less active and playful. They tend to sleep more during the day, gain or lose weight and have trouble reaching their favorite places.
Not all health or behavior changes are associated with old age, however. Such changes can be signs of common diseases or dental problems that should be addressed by your veterinarian.
How to Care for Senior Cats
1. Schedule Regular Wellness Check-Ups
It's important to develop a close relationship with your cat's veterinarian while they are still healthy. Your veterinarian can get to know your cat and detect subtle changes that may indicate a health condition or disease.
Your precious feline needs to visit their veterinarian more often as they age, usually about every six months, even if your cat appears healthy.
Remember six months in cat years is roughly equivalent to two years for a person and a lot can change in that time.
2. How to Bring Your Cat to the Vet
Cats can become stressed before their veterinary visits. You can reduce the stress by getting your cat comfortable with its carrier. Make the carrier cozy with soft, familiar bedding. This will make it easier to get your cat into the carrier on the appointment days.
Leave plenty of time to arrive so you are calm and prepared. Ask the veterinary office if they have a cat-only waiting area to keep your cat calm.
As you are waiting, prepare a list of questions or concerns to ask your veterinarian at your cat's wellness check-up.
3. Learn Your Cat's Habits and Pay Attention to Changes
Cats are able to hide their illness. The changes in health and behaviors are often subtle and easily missed. If you notice a difference in their routine and behavior, such as sleeping more or hiding, don't ignore it. Contact your veterinarian and tell them about any changes in your cat's behavior, even if they are minor.
4. Be Aware of Changes in Weight
Both weight gain and unplanned weight loss require a visit to your veterinarian. Weight gain can make your cat more likely to get chronic diseases and have a shortened life span. Weight loss in senior cats is usually a sign that something is wrong.
Some of the most common diseases causing weight loss include hyperthyroidism, intestinal disease, and diabetes.
Gradual changes in weight are hard to notice, that is why monitoring your cat's weight is one of the most important reasons for regular wellness examinations by your veterinarian.
5. Pay Attention to Your Cat's Movements
Slowing down is often a sign your cat is experiencing underlying discomfort or pain. In fact, arthritis is present in most older cats, but appropriate treatment can help your cat remain active and engaged. If your cat has difficulty going up or down steps, does not jump like he used to, or isn't using the litter box, talk with your veterinarian.
6. Look at Their Litter Box
Do you notice your cat's stools softer, harder, or changing color? Constipation is a common sign of dehydration in older cats. If caught early, your veterinarian can help your cat to feel comfortable again.
Also, increased urine output can signal some of the most common illnesses in older cats such as diabetes or an overactive thyroid gland to kidney disease and high blood pressure.
If your cat starts to miss the litter box and or have accidents around your house, there may be a medical issue causing him to house-soil. Your veterinarian can look into medical issues and help you with home or environmental concerns that may be causing the changes in your cat's behavior.
7. Your Cat's Needs Will Change
You may need to make adjustments in your household for your senior cat. As cats grow older, they often need extra padding and warmth for comfort.
Provide soft sleeping places and make their preferred sleeping and resting spots easily accessible with stepping stools, ramps, and other assistance.
8. Know How Much Your Cat Is Eating
Your cat's nutritional needs change depending on their health and chronic diseases. Discuss nutrition with the veterinarian and get recommendations for your cat. Monitor food intake so you know immediately if your cat is eating less and the veterinarian can intervene when there are problems.
Avery Creek Pet Hospital
Most importantly, enjoy your special bond with your older companion. We rely on cats as much as they rely on us. Avery Creek Pet Hospital encourages you to schedule wellness exams annually or biannually depending on the age of your pet.
When your pets are regularly examined, our veterinarian will be able to identify potential health issues early and recommend a plan of action. We believe prevention and early detection are the keys to recovering from life-threatening health issues and keeping your pets living their best lives. Contact us today to schedule a wellness appointment.