By: Talin Seta Shahinian
Caring for your cat is a lifetime commitment and also a joy. When you adopted a younger cat, the thought of him growing older was probably way in the back of your mind. However, when it starts to happen, it is often difficult to accept seeing him decline. While it’s challenging to deal with emotionally, we may not be fully prepared to deal with his care on a practical level. Here are some ways you can prepare yourself for his golden years.
What are the Life Stages of Cats?
We know that your cat will always be your baby. Still, in biological terms, your cat is considered a senior if they’re between 11 and 14 years old and at 15 years defined as elderly. Upwards they’re classified as geriatric or a super-senior. These life stages aren’t an indication of their temperament or behavior. Some cats may show signs of aging, such as slowing down and being more sedate as early as seven years old, while some 10-year-old cats remain frisky and spry, but all older cats need some extra TLC from you.
What Are Some Signs of Aging?
Elderly, senior, and geriatric cats can all start having the following health problems or symptoms:
- Vision changes, reduced eyesight, iris pigment changes, and nuclear sclerosis, also known as cataracts (cloudiness, hardening, and yellowing of the central region of the lens.)
- Issues with their thyroid function.
- A decrease in their kidney function.
- Their sleep-wake cycle alters.
- A decline in their sense of smell and taste.
- They may develop brittle or ingrown nails.
- Heart or circulatory problems may surface.
- Digestion issues and reduced ability to absorb nutrients.
- They’re less able to tolerate stress.
- They have mobility problems or develop arthritis.
- Immune system declines (making them more vulnerable to infections.)
- Reduced ability to digest protein and fat.
- Their hearing may be reduced.
- Their heart and lung function may be affected.
- They lose some skin elasticity.
How Often Should Your Cat Go to the Vet?
Older cats’ risk of health issues related to aging means you need to take them to see the vet more often. Cat years are calculated as two years for every one of ours so that a lot can change in a shorter period of time. Therefore, you should plan on taking them to your vet for a check-up once every six months. As cats are adept at hiding pain or illness, they need to get blood tests to look for any hidden ailments, such as underlying issues with their kidneys, liver, or other organs.
How Can You Help Your Aging Cat?
If he’s having mobility problems, get pet stairs/ramps to allow him to access their favorite window perch, the couch, or your bed. Get a litter box with lower sides to make it easier for him to get in and out. Older cats love warmth, so wrap a heating bottle in a towel and put it on his cat bed or in another cozy spot. You can also use a heating pad, but be careful to keep it on the lowest setting, and monitor your kitty to ensure he’s not overheating.
Give her extra love and affection; your cat may become more clingy as she gets older, or she may become somewhat more withdrawn. Take your cues from her disposition, and try to give her the space she needs, or extra cuddles, and more attention if she seems open to it or is seeking out your company. If she has more trouble grooming, especially if she’s long-haired and prone to matting, more frequent, gentle brushing by you can help a lot. Matted or oily fur can also indicate reduced inability to groom due to arthritis or dental problems.
Making sure she’s well-hydrated is also key. Older cats particularly need to get enough water due to reduced kidney function. If you’re not feeding her wet food already, consider introducing it, as it’s an extra source of water and can be more gentle on her aging tummy than dry kibble. Also, watch out for weight gain or weight loss, as both can signify underlying health problems. She also may display confusion, disorientation, or other behavioral changes. Check-in with your vet and schedule a visit if she has any of these symptoms.
What Else Should You Know?
It’s highly recommended that you seek expert guidance and regular care for your golden girl, or distinguished gent, from your vet. Be vigilant and observant of any changes. After all, you know your cat better than anyone else. Give them a bit of extra love too, and appreciate every special moment together.
If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We’re a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Find information for scheduling on our www.purplecatvet.com website. You can also look on our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!