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Older Cat Care: How To Care For A Senior Feline

Updated on September 28, 2015
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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.

Food

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.

Grooming

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.

Older Cats Sometimes Don't Groom As Frequently
Older Cats Sometimes Don't Groom As Frequently | Source

Outdoors

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.

Medical Care

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.

Temperament

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 Sometimes Need Extra Sleep
Older Cats Sometimes Need Extra Sleep | Source

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)?

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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:

http://cats.about.com/cs/healthissues/a/agechart.htm

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    • DemiT profile image

      DemiT 4 years ago from Greece

      I have a cat as well and she is 11 yrs old. She is so jealous of my 2yr old daughter and she is desperate for attention. I have though noticed what you mentioned about grooming and we try to keep it up for her, because she has long hair!!!Thanks for sharing the information!

    • LCDWriter profile image
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      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Yes, when the kids are little, cats can sometimes have a hard time. I have a 15 year old siamese mix who is very people friendly. He likes to be carried around, wants to be with you all the time and sleep with you. But he is also loud (as many siamese are). When my kids were younger I would sometimes have to put him in a different room so he wouldn't wake them up. But we got past that and I do believe that my kids benefit from having pets in their lives.

    • leahlefler profile image

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      I have a 12 year old cat and he has mellowed a lot with age. He loves to be pet and cuddled now, even though he was quite nervous and shy as a kitten. He has developed some skin problems in his old age, but has been otherwise healthy (thank goodness)!

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      I think that many may not realize just how affectionate and loving senior cats can be. I have enoyed all the life stages of the ones I've had since they were young, but there are many rewards in your relationship with your senior pet.

      I did have an older cat that used to be tend to get a kind of cat dandruff when she got older. I found that brushing helped some in that instance.. I think some cats are more prone to skin ailments than others.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 4 years ago from Illinois

      I had a cat that lived to a month shy of 20. He always ran out of any room that I was vacuuming,ro but around age 13 he quit running off. I figured he was just getting old, but it turned out he was diabetic. I treated his diabetes for many years and I had to hydrate him subcutaneously, until the time came where we could no longer win the battle for him. He was a great companion, especially in his older years. Like you said, owning a senior cat is a rewarding experience.

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      This is definitely another problem to watch out for with older cats. We have been feeding our cats the Science Diet W/D food that is also for diabetics and so far (knock on wood) we haven't had any with that issue. We have had a couple with kidney issues though which is why I added wet food to supplement the dry.

      That's fantastic that you took such good care of him for so many years after he was diagnosed. That just goes to show that even cats with chronic conditions can live for many years with the proper care.

      I appreciate your comments so mch.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Great hub! And much appreciated by those of us who work in rescue. Older cats are so difficult to place. Thank you for pointing out the advantages of owning them.

      I have three senior cats. Thank you for pointing out the importance of prescription food. Two of my cats are on prescription diets (one for kidney disease, the other for crystals in his urine). The food is expensive but has really improved the quality of their lives.

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      I love my senior babies so much! Thank you for working in rescue. All of my cats have always been rescue cats (either ones I saved or got from a group). One my kids get older, I'd like to get into fostering again when I have more room.

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