Today, cats are living longer lives thanks to improved veterinary care, better nutrition, and a heightened awareness of pet health and safety. As your cat approaches his or her senior years, it’s a good idea to learn what to expect so you can detect potentially serious health issues, as well as make adjustments to the way you care for your cat to ensure his or her comfort throughout the aging process.
Is Your Cat Considered a Senior?
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, you should begin senior care considerations when your cat reaches the age of seven. It’s recommended that healthy senior cats visit the veterinarian every six months. Regular veterinary visits are best way to catch diseases early and find a way to resolve them.
Physical and Behavioral Changes in Senior Cats
Aging cats experience many changes, so their mental and physical behavior may reflect those changes. Oftentimes, the normal signs of aging closely mimic symptoms of potentially serious conditions, so it’s always a good idea to report any significant changes to your veterinarian.
Here are several common changes in senior cats:
-Playing for shorter amounts of time, or sleeping for more hours in the day
-Not jumping as far, or hesitating when jumping
-Thinning or graying of the coat
-Changing appearance of the eyes including a slight haziness of the lens
-Changes in personality including increased or decreased vocalization, increased dependency on humans and avoidance of social interactions. Some of these changes may be attributed to the aging of the brain/memory loss
-Bad breath or dental issues
-Changes in litter box habits
Remember, many of the changes you may see in your aging cat could be related to an underlying medical condition so it’s best to ask your veterinarian about any questions or concerns you may have. The sooner you catch a health ailment, the better chance you have of curing it or managing it safely.
How to keep your aging cat healthy and happy:
You can help your aging cat to stay happy and healthy by following these tips.
-Give your cat regular exercise: Pay attention to your cat’s changing energy levels. Even though your cat is getting older, regular exercise will help keep your cat at a healthy weight, and it will also increase circulation and assist in maintaining lean muscle mass. To make sure you don’t overwork your cat, limit your play sessions to ten minutes, a couple of times a day and adjust to less or more as needed. If your cat seems to tire easily or experiences any breathing issues, consult your veterinarian.
-Brush your cat regularly: As cats get older, they may not be able to digest foods and hair (from grooming) as easily as they used to; this could mean an increase in hairballs. Help to prevent hairballs by brushing your cat once a day. Brushing also helps keep skin healthy. With your brush, you can help your cat groom those hard-to-reach areas that they may be missing.
-Maintain a Healthy Diet:
Many cats, like people, will experience a slowing metabolism as they age, while others find it difficult to keep weight on. Start your cat on a natural recipe specifically formulated for the nutritional needs of senior cats. Wellness Complete Health Senior Health is a good option. It has tailored levels of fat and fiber to support an aging cat’s digestive system, and it includes the WellFlex® Hip & Joint Support Sytem that helps keep cats’ joints supple and limber. Wellness Senior Health is also packed with phytonutrients which may aid in disease prevention, slow the aging process and help boost your cat’s overall immunity.
Limit Stress and Keep Them Cool: Senior cats are not able to regulate their body temperatures as effectively as younger cats. Make sure to keep your cat cool in the summer to avoid heat stroke, and offer a warm blanket or heated cat bed in the winter for comfort. Senior cats may not adapt to change as easily as they once did, so it’s helpful to minimize their stress whenever possible. If you’re introducing a new pet to the family, be sure to take extra precaution to give your senior cat his or her own space, and alleviate stressors such as moving to a new house with extra affection during those trying times.
Although being a pet parent to a senior cat may be challenging in some ways, there are many things to be appreciative for as well. Each year spent with your cat only strengthens the bond you two have with each other. And rather than bouncing off the walls, older cats often display a unique wisdom and mellow, patient personality that really shines as they reach their golden years!