Our pets go through life stages the same as we do: they start off young and rambunctious – and ridiculously adorable – and they gradually end up tired, sometimes cranky, and quite frequently with a whole host of health issues as they age.
Cats are considered mature between 7-10 years of age, senior from 11-14 years and geriatric from 15 years and above.
Similar to humans, you need to adjust their care as they grow up then age, and so we thought we’d put together some tips for you as you plan for your first cat or already have a cat that is about to hit the 7-year mark.
Things To Watch For As Your Cat Gets Older
Cats easily hide illnesses and diseases from their pet parents, and this is the reason for frequent vet visits when cats get older – to catch health problems early on.
Cats most frequently develop liver disease, heart disease, kidney or thyroid disease. It’s also not uncommon for them to develop diabetes as they grow older, requiring insulin shots.
Your vet can help you with a diagnosis if you notice your pet is not themselves. There are interventions that include special diets or medication, so your fur family doesn’t have to endure pain or discomfort.
Here are some of the things you should watch for as your cat gets older.
1. Make Sure Your Cat Gets Adequate Protein
Cats are known to be picky eaters, but they also have very specific needs as they become senior citizens.
It might surprise you to know that cats actually need more protein than dogs, comparatively – they require animal-based food in order to obtain nutrients such as taurine and arachidonic acid that can only be found in carnivorous diets.
Some pet owners like to add supplements such as glucosamine or chondroitin in order to help with arthritis and joint issues – fatty acids such as DHA or EPA have been shown to help with such diseases.
Mainly with your cat’s diet, you want to be sure that they are getting the right amount of nutrients, but not so much food that they become overweight – this will make them prone to diabetes, liver disease, skin disease, or cancer.
One last note – if your cat has hyperthyroidism, heart disease or kidney disease, you may need to put them on a special diet that is either iodine-restricted or low in sodium.
2. Take Care Of Your Cat’s Mouth
Dental issues can be a very sore spot for an aging cat, and can cause them to eat far less than they need and become malnourished.
As well, more than 80% of cats over 5 years will experience resorptive lesions, which may also cause weight loss.
If your cat allows you, you should try to brush their teeth regularly – if not, find some cat dental treats to help you keep them clean.
3. Keep Them From Getting Bored
Cats are curious animals throughout their lives, and aging doesn’t hold them back.
Cat toys can help your pet stay active, which help their muscles and joints, and allow them to burn the calories they eat.
Food puzzles are popular with cats, too, as they have to work out how to get their treats – this can also be a good idea for overweight or diabetic cats.
4. Accommodate Them When They Have Changing Needs
Cats often suffer from osteoarthritis, which can make getting around, jumping or climbing very difficult.
One important accommodation is their litter box – make sure it’s on the main floor so your cat doesn’t have to climb the stairs to use it, and also consider replacing it with one that has a lowered entry point.
Other things to consider is how they’re fed; for instance, cats can experience a thing called ‘whisker fatigue’, and so wider water bowls become easier for them to stay well hydrated.
As well, consider having several different feeding stations (or one on each floor) so your aging feline doesn’t have far to go if it needs food or water.
Lastly, be sure to bump up their bedding with soft towels or the like – their joints will be less painful with the extra padding.
5. Schedule Regular Visits With Your Vet
One final important piece: make sure you are taking your old lady or gent to the vet about every six months.
While that may seem quite frequent, remember that cats age more rapidly, so that’s equivalent to you going 3 years between visits.
As well, the cost of the visit is mitigated by better health management for your pet – preventative is always more cost effective than treatments.
Regular visits will allow you to feel better that your pet is experiencing a comfortable, happy old age.
Give us a call here at Bickford Park Animal Hospital to book an appointment today.
Bickford Park Animal Hospital is a veterinary clinic in Toronto, located across from Christie Pits park, committed to the highest level of caring and treatment for cats and dogs.