CARING FOR YOUR SENIOR CAT
Modern veterinary medicine has made tremendous improvements in protecting the health of your family pets. Cats are now living longer than ever before some even reaching up to 15-16 years, which means that we now benefit for a longer lasting relationship with them.
Like people, pets go through life stages of growth, maturity and aging. The passing from one stage to the next is often blurred and before you know it you are caring for a cat in its senior years.
When is a cat considered a senior?
Old age comes at different times for different individual cats. Many factors can affect a cat’s aging process including breed, environment, quality of care, diet, vaccination status, and mental and physical health of the cat.
Each cat year is approximately 7 human years- therefore a cat is considered a senior when it is around 50 in human years or 7 in cat years.
The key to maintaining the best possible quality of life for a senior cat is to be aware of the health changes that may take place.
What signs to look for in your aging cat?
The importance of Annual Health Check-Ups
- A general decrease in activity level
- A tendency to sleep longer and more soundly
- A decrease in mobility, especially in the colder months
- Hearing may become impaired
- Vision may become impaired
- Reduced self grooming
- Skin and coat may become dry, thin and brittle
- An increase of plaque and tartar on your cats teeth, leading to ‘Periodontal disease’ and bad breath
- An increase in water consumption
- An increase in urinary output
- A reduced appetite
- Changes in weight
An Annual Health Check-up will help to detect early health changes in your pet. Our Veterinarians will complete a comprehensive health assessment on your cat. This includes a full physical examination, weight assessment and body score, joint function and skin examination.
To check the function of internal organs we recommend a simple blood test and urinalysis. Blood tests are very important as they can pick up any early changes in organ function.
Renal failure is a common disease in older cats. It is a disease that needs to be diagnosed early on before more damage is inflicted on the kidneys. Once diagnosed with kidney disease 75% of irreversible kidney function is lost. This means that the cat will only have 25% of its kidney function for the remaining part of its life. There are many things we can do to help prevent further kidney deterioration in your cat. Other common diseases include hyperthyroidism, cancer, periodontal disease, arthritis and diabetes. It is also not uncommon for cats to have more than one disorder at once.
Regular monitoring of any pet will provide a great deal of information about their wellbeing. Changes in appetite, drinking, urination and defecation are key areas that something is not right. Obvious signs of ill health such as coughing, vomiting and diarrhoea should be immediately investigated.
Remember that any problems detected early are more easily controlled, giving your cat a better chance in making a good recovery and improving its quality of life.
Health care management in the older cat
Preventative health care in your cat should be continued in the pet’s senior years. As your cat gets older its immune system begins to deteriorate making it more susceptible to disease, infection and parasites.
- Vaccinations provide optimal resistance against the diseases Feline Enteritis, Cat Flu, Chlamydia, Calicivirus, Feline Aids and Leukemia.
- Worming your cat every three months will protect it from developing a worm infestation.
- Regular monthly application of a good flea prevention will keep your cat free of external parasites.
- Feeding your cat a good quality premium food, specifically for the senior pet will provide your cat with an optimal balanced diet. Senior cat food contains all the nutrients that a cat needs in its senior years including reduced phosphorus to promote healthy kidneys and omega three fatty acids for joint function. It is also important to keep a close eye on your cat’s weight. Extra weight can place an added strain on your cats joints as well as internal organs.
- Decreased mobility is a common sign that your cat may be suffering from Arthritis. You may notice that your cat has trouble jumping up on furniture and is reluctant to do so. Arthritis medication along with good management skills will help make your cat more comfortable in its last years. Keeping your cat warm will help to increase your cat’s mobility in the colder months. Provide your cat with a warm draught-free bed, preferably situated in a quiet area of the house. Giving your cat a hot water bottle at night will keep it warm and make it more cozy to sleep.
- Make sure your cat has access to plenty of fresh water.
- Provide easy access to indoor litter trays. This will prevent any mishaps as some older cats can have a reduced ability to control urination and bowel motions.
- Check your cats coat and body for any unusual lumps or bumps.
- Regularly check your cat’s teeth for any signs of tartar or plaque. There are numerous products available to keep your cats teeth clean and breath fresh.
- Your cat’s nails may need regular trimming, as they become less active.
- Most importantly enjoy the time you have with your pet.