What to Expect When You Own an Old Cat
Do you have a senior cat? Here are some common issues you should be aware of as your pet ages.
Did you know that domesticated cats age faster in their early years than they do as adults? The rate varies but in general, cats hit their senior years when they are about 10 years old. If you follow the standard equation for translating cat years to human years, a cat this age can be considered around 60 years old. Like people, cats face health issues and lifestyle changes as they age. But with your help and care, your dear old cat can age gracefully and live a long healthy life.
When Might Your Cat Begin to Develop Age-Related Issues?
Did you know that your pet can begin to develop senior cat issues when she is as young as 8 years old? It's important for your pet to get "regular health checkups with blood work at least on an annual basis," says Dr. James Speiser, a veterinarian at IndyVet Emergency and Specialty Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. According to Dr. Speiser, "twice yearly would be better." To put it in perspective he asks, "Would you think you should only see a doctor and get a comprehensive health check only once every 7–10 years if you were over 60 years old? Probably not."
What Are Some of the Top Health Concerns for Older Cats?
According to Dr. Speiser, the top four health issues in older cats are kidney disease, diabetes, cancer and hyperthyroidism. Each of these health problems has symptoms that you should look out for in your elderly kitty, he says. The symptoms of kidney disease include pungent breath, lack of appetite, weight loss and an increase in drinking and urinating.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of diabetes overlap those of kidney disease, which is another reason that it's important to keep up-to-date on your pet's blood work. These types of tests will help your vet catch any problems early on. If your cat develops cancer, his symptoms will vary depending on the location of the cancer in his body, but some things to watch out for include lethargy, difficulty breathing, jaundice, vomiting and weight loss. Finally, your cat may eat more but lose weight if he suffers from hyperthyroidism. He may have an unkempt appearance as well.
Other issues that your cat may face as he gets older include arthritis, infections and dental problems. His hearing and vision also might start to deteriorate. According to Dr. Speiser, one of the best preventive measures you can take is to try to ensure that your cat maintains a healthy weight. Just as with people, obesity leads to more health problems as your pet ages.
As such, it's important that you feed your cat a food that is specifically designed for aging felines. These typically low-calorie formulas incorporate all the nutrition your pet needs. Over time, your cat might also begin to have difficulty accessing her litter box. If you find that this is the case for your pet, you might need to invest in a litter box with lower sides.
What Behavioral Changes Should You Expect as Your Cat Ages?
Older cats tend to sleep more and be less active than younger cats. It's important for you to provide your aging cat with plenty of quiet, comfortable sleeping spots. But don't forget to engage your pet in regular exercise as well. Staying active is crucial to her overall health. An outdoor enclosure or supervised time outside can be a great way to provide your furry friend with some sunshine and activity.
As your cat gets older, she might also begin to have difficulty grooming herself. If you find that this is the case for your pet, you should spend some time brushing her at least once a week. This process stimulates your cat's blood flow, and she may even find it relaxing. Don't forget to trim your cat's nails, brush her teeth and clean her ears. This grooming process also gives you the opportunity to notice any sore spots on your pet that could be early indicators of health problems, such as mouth ulcers that can be present with kidney disease.
One of the most important things you can do for your dear old cat is to pay attention to any changes in her behavior, appearance and habits. If you do notice anything unusual, you should be proactive. According to Dr. Speiser, cats "mask their disease symptoms so effectively." As such, he stresses that it's important for you to take your pet to the vet right away if you think something might be wrong.
Want to learn more tips on how to keep your aging cat happy and healthy? Read Cat Life Expectancy: 12 Tips to Help Your Pet Live a Long Life.
Kit Arbuckle works as a freelance writer covering parenting, education, health and pet care topics.
*This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.
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