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Older Cat Care: How To Care For A Senior Feline
If you are lucky enough to be living with a senior feline (ages 10 or older) you may have noticed that he or she acts differently from when they were younger. There are many reasons for this, and while owning a senior cat can present its own challenges, the love you receive in return can make your relationship with your pet even stronger.
Dr. Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, notes that changes in your aging cat are normal. Much like older humans, she says that the loss of some muscle mass, more sleeping and hearing loss are all normal issues. Just as our needs change as we age, your cat’s needs may change also.
As an owner of multiple, senior cats, here are some things I have noticed.
Your cat’s food needs may change. He or she may need a special diet due to a medical condition. Or their stomach may become more sensitive and less able to tolerate fillers, dyes or other less-digestible cat food.
Older cats can also have problems with their teeth which may put them off hard food or may make them pickier. Just like people, their taste buds can be less acute as well.
Look for foods that are specifically designed for senior cats or ones that are easily digestible. If your cat is gaining weight you might look for a food that is higher in fiber. This aids in digestion and helps your cat to slim down.
You need to be patient and work with your cat to find out what he likes. Cats can be picky and they may not always like the food that is best for them.
I personally feed my cats a prescription weight control food from the vet’s. While it may be more expensive than what you buy in the grocery store, it is my hope that the health benefits of a high quality food will give my cats a longer, healthier life.
As your cat ages she may spend less time grooming than she did when she was younger. You may need to invest in a cat brush and brush her several times a week. The pet stores also sell pet wipes if you need to spot clean. If your cat will tolerate it, a lukewarm bath with a gentle shampoo may sometimes be needed.
Some of my cats like to be brushed and others will only tolerate it for a brief period of time. I do find that they are only slightly annoyed with pet wipes.
Their fur may not be as smooth as it was when they were younger but to me they are still beautiful.
While I’m not a big fan of letting cats outdoors at any age, you may want to be especially careful of letting your cat out as he gets older. Older cats’ reflexes are not as quick. He may not see or hear as well or may get confused. He is less likely to have the energy to defend himself if he needs to and is also less likely to be able to tolerate extremes in temperature and weather.
It is really important to schedule regular vet visits for your senior pet. As cats get older, they can be more susceptible to a range of health issues from arthritis, to diabetes, to kidney disease or cancer. While the thought of your beloved pet being sick is a scary proposition, there are many ways to treat and prolong the life of your cat. Your vet can notice changes in weight which may signal a health problem. She can also offer advice on the best ways to keep your cat healthy and happy in his senior years. All the treatment options don’t have to be expensive. For example, there are some over-the-counter remedies to help a cat who is facing arthritis issues. Your vet can be a great partner in ensuring your pet has the longest and highest quality life possible.
I have found that as my cats age, they tend to mellow out. Even the cat that always ran at the first sign of movement (he was a rescue cat from an abusive situation) will now curl up with me on the couch in the evenings and want to be petted. My older Siamese mix doesn’t run from the vacuum cleaner anymore. He just stares passively at it, unwilling to move from his warm spot by the sunny window.
For me, this is one of the plusses of owning senior cats. But there also may be other issues to consider.
An older cat may develop bizarre behavior. For example: he or she may miss the litterbox sometimes even though they have never missed it before. While these issues may point to a medical condition and need to be discussed with your vet, they can also be a sign that your pet sometimes gets confused. Staying calm and being understanding is the best way to deal with your cat and let her know you still love her.
Older cats need to be comforted, cuddled and loved as they age. Owning a senior cat can be a rewarding experience for both owner and pet. Whether you are lucky enough to have had a cat for many years or are considering adopting an older pet, be assured that you will both find the situation rewarding if you take the time to adapt to your special fur baby’s changing needs.
How old is your oldest pet cat (if you have one)?
Great Video About Caring For Older Cats
How Old Is Your Cat?
To figure out your cat's human-equivalent age, refer to this chart: