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Caring For A Senior Cat
One of the wonderful results of a lifetime of healthy living, quality food and regular veterinary appointments, is a longer life for the average cat. While a few decades ago a cat may have been considered old at 10 years of age, it is now not uncommon for cats to live well into their late teens. Occasionally cats can even live into their early 20s, although this is still relatively uncommon.
As cats age, just as we age, their needs change and as owners we have to adjust the way that we feed and provide care for senior cats. Most veterinarians consider a cat to be in their senior years between 8 and 10 years of age. It is important to consider that each cat is different and genetics, health, history and even if they are an indoor or an outdoor cat can all impact how fast they age on a physical level.
Signs of Aging
Many cats that are in the early part of their senior years are still very active and have few if any changes in behaviour. However, most cats by the age of 12 to 14 will start to show signs of sleeping more, having less energy and interest in things that they used to attend to and in being less vigilant in their self-grooming routines.
Cats may also begin to have difficulty in hearing when they are called, which is sometimes initially assumed to be the cat just being a typical aloof cat. When the cat doesn’t seem to respond to unusual noises, the sound of favourite toys, or the sound of food rattling in the dish or the can opening, hearing loss may well the cause of the perceived lack of interest.
Some cats may also begin to have vision problems. Cats, just like dogs and people, can develop cataracts, which is a thickening of the lens of the eye. Cataracts will restrict vision and they can cause irritation and inflammation that can be painful. It is normal for a senior cat to have a slightly cloudy or bluish look to the eye but this is never associated with discomfort or signs of blindness or vision problems.
You may also notice that your cat is less physically able to jump, run or get up and down off of the furniture. This is very normal in an older cat and more pronounced if the cat has been injured or has had health issues in the past.
Ways to Help
There are several steps that owners of senior cats can take to provide their older cats with a great life. These include:
- Good quality canned cat food that is easy to chew and digest and is formulated from meat proteins, a balanced amount of fat, and vitamins and minerals. This helps ensure that your cat is able to physically chew and digest the food, that it is the food that is best for the cat’s metabolism, and that it provides the moisture that a cat needs but may not consume on his or her own.
- Ensure that cat has easy access to fresh, clean water at all times in places that he or she likes to be in the home
- Feed the correct portion and food type to avoid obesity in senior cats that are less active
- Maintain a regular grooming routine to help your cat’s coat and skin stay healthy
- Provide soft bedding on the floor if the cat is no longer able to get up on the furniture
- Look for pet steps or ramps that can help a senior cat get up and down of the bed or couch without the need to jump
- Choose a low sided litter box and perhaps even consider more than one throughout the house
- Spend time with your older cat
- Schedule regular vet appointments on a quarterly basis or as recommended by your vet
It is never a good idea to introduce a kitten into a home with an elderly senior cat. If you are considering another cat talk to your vet and ensure that the cat will be a good match and not a problem for your older feline.
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