According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, a cat is considered a senior from the age of 11 through 14 years. This age bracket is equivalent to the ages of 60 to 72 years in their human counterparts. Once a cat turns 15, she is classified as a geriatric for the remainder of her lifespan. Just as with aging humans, your cat's body will undergo changes that result from the wear and tear that comes with age. Here are some tips that will enable you to accommodate some of these changes and extend your cat's quality of life.
1. Continue Veterinary Checkups
Once your cat hits her senior years, she should receive wellness examinations and laboratory screenings every six months. This includes includes blood and urine panels, which are instrumental in diagnosing these common health conditions that affect older cats:
Early detection of these conditions enables you and your veterinarian to implement a treatment plan to control the diagnosed disease and slow its progression.
2. Add a Litter Box
As your cat ages, degenerative joint disease and reduced muscle mass will decrease her ease of mobility. Make sure that your kitty has access to a litter box on each level of your home. Provide litter boxes that have low sides so that your older cat can step into them easily.
3. Assist with Grooming
Your arthritic cat may have trouble accessing hard to reach areas when she grooms herself. A daily routine of gentle brushing to help her out provides quality bonding time as well as the opportunity to feel her body for any new lumps or bumps.
4. Keep Her Indoors
If your cat has enjoyed venturing outdoors throughout her life, sequester her indoors during her senior and geriatric years. Older cats are not as quick and nimble as they were during their younger years, and their senses of sight, smell and hearing diminish as well. This leaves them more vulnerable than ever to moving vehicles, loose dogs, aggressive wildlife and other outdoor perils.
5. Continue Play, Activity and Affection
She may no longer zoom around the room or climb the walls in pursuit of the red dot, but your cat still needs mental and physical stimulation. Prevent boredom and keep her joints in working order by providing new toys and motivating her to play. Interaction between the two of you is equally important. In addition to instigating play sessions, remember to lavish affection on your aging feline friend. She needs your love and reassurance now more than ever.
6. Feed and Water Appropriately
Each time your cat visits the veterinarian for a wellness examination, the doctor will assess her body condition. Feed an appropriate diet and amount to achieve and maintain her ideal weight. Your veterinarian may prescribe a special diet if your cat is diagnosed with a medical condition, such as a low protein diet for chronic renal failure. Other feeding and dietary considerations for older cats include the following:
- Make sure that she always has access to water.
- Feed canned food instead of dry kibble. Canned food aromas have a better chance of wafting through to her diminishing sense of smell, and canned food provides moisture that her kidneys need.
- Add a glucosamine supplement to her dietary regimen to aid in joint health.
- Keep food and water bowls on each level your home so that she has easy access.
7. Provide Coziness and Easy Access
Older cats are more susceptible to feeling cold. Provide heated cat beds and cozy blankets in her favorite snooze zones, including a quiet location where she can retreat from stressful situations or household hustle and bustle. If she has always enjoyed catching a cat nap on your high bed or bird watching from a windowsill, provide steps or ramps to her favored elevated surfaces so that she can continue to enjoy them.
8. Monitor for Signs of Illness
Observe your cat's activities daily. Any significant changes in behavior, appearance or activity should be addressed to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Signs of illness that warrant an immediate veterinary visit include the following:
- Vomiting, diarrhea or constipation
- Increases in drinking and urination
- Lumps or bumps
- Changes in appetite
- Coughing, panting or wheezing
Following these tips and your veterinarian's recommendations will go a long way toward preserving your older cat's health and quality of life well into her golden years. To learn more, contact an animal hospital like Metzger Animal Hospital.