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Tips For Health and Care of Older Cats

Updated on March 20, 2008

Maintaining a good health program for your cat will help increase it longevity and quality of life. Good health for your cat is no accident. It's a concerted effort between you and your veterinarian to provide every opportunity for your cat to grow into and enjoy its senior years.

A feral cat is likely to run out of lives by the time its five. Most feral cats are victims of disease, starvation, other animals or car accidents. Their house cat relatives on the other hand, can live 18 years or longer providing they receive proper health care.

Improved veterinarian care and better nutrition have been instrumental in prolonging the average cats' life. The best way to take advantage of these improvements is to maintain a regular schedule of veterinarian visits for your pet.

The first veterinarian visit your cat experiences while in your care should be soon after you bring your kitten or cat home. Test conducted during this visit establish a base line for future comparison and you will know right away your new friend is starting out on the right paw.

When talking with your veterinarian be sure to discuss the following topics:

  1. Were tests conducted to make sure there are no contagious diseases present?
  2. What is the status of my cats' heart, ears, eyes, and nose and does it have any internal or external parasites?
  3. Was my cat checked for feline leukemia virus and FIV (which is comparable to human HIV virus)
  4. What vaccinations should my cat be given, and what suggested vaccination schedule should we follow going forward?
  5. What is the recommended diet my cat should be on to ensure good health?
  6. Be a responsible owner and discuss the options of spaying or neutering if not already done.
  7. If you have never brushed a cats' teeth before ask your veterinarian to show you the proper technique. Good dental hygiene if very important to the over all health of your cat.

A favorable response from your veterinarian to these questions will give you peace of mind and will make sure your cat in on the right road to maintaining good health.

Just like in humans, the aging process in cats is natural and brings along with it changes in hormone balance, calorie burn rates, normal behavior and even change in the physical appearance of your cat. These are some of the very reasons it's important to maintain a regular schedule of veterinarian visits so that you can provide your cat the opportunity for good health as it ages. Everyone will tell you that the frequency of checkups usually depends on the cats' age. The older the cat the more often it needs to see the vet. The reason for this is because with age comes health problems and with age these problems can manifest themselves faster. Early detection is the secret to cure and the assurance your cat will have a better quality of life.

Cats can hide the fact they are sick or in pain better than their human owners can, and the problem can become worse the longer you are unaware your cat is in some type of distress. You should always be alert to changes that could be the first tell-tale sign of a medical problem. Some of the obvious signs are: changes in litter box habits, inconsistent stools or mucus in the stool, change in appetite, change in the amount of liquid consumed, and of course changes in your cats' weight.

As soon as you are aware of any of these tell-tale signs contact your veterinarian so that you have the opportunity to discuss them and provide early treatment if necessary. Early detection of cat health problems often means more successful and less expensive treatment.

As your cat gracefully moves into its senior years life for it can become more difficult. There are some simple things you can do around the house that will make your cat more comfortable as it ages. These include:

  1. Provide plenty of fresh water and make sure there is easy access to it.
  2. Be aware of your cats grooming habits. If you see it beginning to not groom as often it may be an early sign of arthritis and you may want to help your cat with this important activity.
  3. Visually check your cats' oral health regularly. If you don't know brush your cats' teeth - start - at a minimum 2-3 times per week (daily is better).
  4. Always keep a clean litter box.
  5. Be aware that during hot months you need to provide your cat with a cool spot to rest or nap, and during the cold months you want to make sure your cat has a warm and cozy spot for this inactivity.
  6. Make sure your cat gets some type of daily exercise. The intensity and length of the exercise have to moderate as your cat gets older.
  7. Try to maintain a stable home environment. Older cats don't handle "change" well. Change will stress the older cat, and stress can lead to health problems.
  8. As your cat ages it's a good idea to keep it indoors more and out of harms way. An older cat doesn't have as good of hearing as it did when it was younger, and it doesn't have the same agility. In its prime it was able to get itself out of a troubling spot, but as it gets older that ability diminishes.

You are your cats' best health advocate, and partnering with your veterinarian who will provide care and sound advice, make up a winning team to ensure your cats' senior years are the best years of its life.

Favorite sources for additional information on pet health and nutrition:

Tom Kartes


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