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Old Cats – Caring for Senior Cats

Old Cats – Caring for Senior Cats

As veterinary care and medicine continue to advance, senior cats are experiencing extended lifespans. In this article, our veterinarians in Mankato will guide you on ensuring your senior cat's happiness and well-being.

A Cat's Age in Human Years

Each cat ages differently, just like humans. Physical changes usually begin between 7 and 10 years old, with most cats starting around 12 years old. While many people believe that one "cat year" is equivalent to seven "human years," this is not entirely accurate. In reality, a cat's first year is similar to the development of a 16-year-old human.

At 2 years old, a cat is more comparable to a human aged between 21 and 24 years. After that, each cat year is approximately equal to four human years. For instance, a 10-year-old cat would be similar to a 53-year-old human, a 12-year-old cat to a 61-year-old human, and a 15-year-old cat to a 73-year-old human, and so on.

Once a cat reaches around 11 years old, it is considered "senior." If your cat is over 15 years old, it falls into the category of a "super senior." When taking care of older cats, it can be helpful to think of their age in human terms, as this may aid in understanding potential health issues based on the number of years they have lived.

Aging Cats

Like humans, cats undergo various physical and behavioral changes as they grow older. Although aging is not an illness, it's important to keep your veterinarian informed about any changes in your senior cat's condition. This will greatly contribute to providing them with the best possible geriatric veterinary care. Here are some changes to be mindful of:

Physical changes

  • Grooming & appearance. As cats get older, they may have difficulty grooming themselves, leading to tangled or greasy fur. This can cause skin odors, inflammation, and painful matting of the hair. Senior cats often have long, brittle, or thick claws that require extra care from their caregivers. You might also observe changes in their eyes, such as a lacy pattern or slight haziness in the lens. Although there isn't much evidence of significant vision problems, certain diseases, particularly those associated with high blood pressure, can greatly and permanently affect a cat's eyesight.
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain. As cats get older, they might experience weight loss. This could be a sign of various issues like kidney disease, heart disease, or diabetes. Aging cats often face dental problems too, which can make it difficult for them to eat and result in weight loss and malnutrition. Additionally, oral health problems can cause considerable pain in their mouths.
  • Physical activity & abilities. Degenerative joint disease or arthritis can become problematic for older cats. They may find it difficult to reach their water and food bowls, beds, and litter boxes. Jumping or climbing stairs can further limit their access to essential places. While changes in sleep patterns are normal as cats age, a significant increase in sleep or deep sleep could be a reason to consult your vet. If you notice a noticeable surge in energy, it might indicate hyperthyroidism and should be examined. Geriatric cats commonly experience hearing loss due to various factors, so it's important to have their hearing checked by a veterinarian.

Behavioral changes

  • Cognitive issues. If you see your cat struggling with familiar tasks or objects, it could mean they are having problems with memory or thinking. Changes in behavior like accidents outside the litterbox, avoiding people more than usual, wandering aimlessly, meowing excessively, or appearing disoriented might also indicate mental confusion or feline senility. It's important to have your veterinarian check your cat if you notice any of these signs.
  • Issues caused by disease. Cats can become aggressive when they're in pain, which health issues like dental disease or arthritis can cause. It's important to pay attention to your cat's mood because they tend to hide their discomfort. Diseases and disorders related to urination, such as diabetes or kidney failure, can make cats use the litterbox more frequently, which might result in them eliminating in inappropriate areas. If a cat is having trouble moving due to joint inflammation, it may find it difficult to reach or climb into the litterbox, especially if there are stairs involved. This can also lead to senior cats eliminating in inappropriate places, and it's recommended to consult a vet to address this issue.

Caring for Senior Cats

Taking care of a senior cat is different from caring for kittens or middle-aged cats. Your observations are crucial for ensuring the well-being of your senior cat. By making small adjustments to grooming, feeding, and how you interact with your cat, you can easily keep an eye out for any changes in your aging pet.

  • Grooming: Brushing your cat's fur, trimming their claws, and brushing their teeth are great ways to keep older cats clean and healthy, while also checking for changes in their fur, skin, nose, eyes, ears, and claws.
  • Nutrition: A lot of cats get heavy or even obese as they get older, which can be controlled with diet and activity if the weight gain is non-medical. Other weight issues include elderly cats being underweight, which may be caused by a variety of medical conditions and should be assessed by a veterinarian.
  • Home life: Older cats can be more sensitive to changes in routine or household, which can lead to stress. Patience and accommodations (extra affection, a favorite toy or blanket, a quiet room for them to stay in) go a long way to helping your senior cat adjust to upsetting changes. Don't forget to keep playing with your cat as they age; mental and physical stimulation is beneficial for their well-being.
  • Vet care: Because cats are adept at hiding illness until it is advanced or severe, it's important to take them regularly to the vet for wellness checks even if they seem perfectly healthy. Your veterinarian will also be able to monitor any conditions that your senior cat may have, and catch any potential or emerging issues early when they're more treatable. their behavior and health.

Vet Care for Senior Cats

Understanding your cat and paying attention to their behavior is valuable information for your veterinarian. Regular wellness check-ups are also essential. If your cat has specific medical needs, your vet might recommend more frequent physical evaluations. During a wellness examination for an older cat, the vet will assess their weight, skin and fur condition, organ systems, behavior, and conduct diagnostic tests for common conditions in senior cats.

By combining at-home care with collaborative veterinary treatment, you can greatly improve the well-being and happiness of your senior cat and your entire family.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Want some more info on how you can care for your senior cat? Contact our Mankato vets to learn more.

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At River Hills Pet Care Hospital our experienced vets are passionate about improving the health of Mankato companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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