Cats are living longer than ever before into their late teens and sometimes even into their 20s. However, with this we are also seeing age-related conditions that were previously less common.
What is considered a senior cat?
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) suggests the following classification: mature or middle-aged, 7 to 10 years; senior – 11 to 14 years; and geriatric – 15 years and older.
Common diseases we see in senior cats include:
- Dental disease and other oral diseases (e.g., periodontal disease, stomatitis)
- Kidney disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Heart disease (e.g., cardiomyopathy)
- Lung disease
- Changes in vision and other eye abnormalities
- Cognitive decline
- Muscle wasting
Signs and symptoms associated with many of these age-related diseases may be subtle and difficult to notice in cats. Regular veterinary examinations are recommended for middle-aged and older cats. These examinations can often detect evidence of disease before the condition becomes serious. Senior blood work can help detect these diseases which is recommended to start between the ages of 8-10 and to be checked yearly. Early detection may mean better success in treating the disease and less discomfort for your cat as well as less expense for you. Sometimes something as simple as a dietary change is all that is necessary to make a big difference in your aging cat’s quality of life.
Changes to look for
Keep a look out for these signs and make sure to mention any of following to your cat’s veterinarian:
- Changes in routine (e.g., grooming patterns, litter box routines, sleeping patterns)
- Changes in behavior (e.g., restlessness, irritability, unusual vocalizations)
- Changes in activity level (e.g., lack of desire to play, move, or jump)
- Changes in food or water consumption
- Changes in bowel movements
- Vomiting or nausea
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Loss of hearing
- Loss of vision
The best diet is a food that is complete and balanced for the appropriate life stage to meet your cat’s individual nutritional needs, which can vary depending on your cat’s body condition and overall health. Cats with health issues such as diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, muscle wasting or obesity have different nutritional needs than a normal healthy cat.
Make sure your cat has access to clean fresh water at all times. Encourage water consumption for your senior by feeding your cat wet food, adding water to your cat’s food, providing water fountains, or leaving a water faucet drip. Older cats tend to be prone to dehydration which may have a negative impact on other health issues.
Keep them comfortable
If your cat starts to suffer from arthritis there are a few things you can do to keep them comfortable. Start with changing their bedding to something a bit softer. Seniors cannot regulate their own body temperatures as they used to so add a few extra blankets and keep beds away from drafts. If your cat enjoys perches or other high places you can install ramps or steps to make it easier to climb. Litter boxes are another spot that may need some rethinking. Remove any obstacles around the box and if it is located on an upper floor you may need to bring it downstairs.