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Old Cats - Caring for Senior Cats

Modern veterinary medicine has helped extend our cats' and dogs' lives so they live longer than they did historically. The flip side of this coin is that owners need to understand how to care for their pets in their senior years. In this post, our Astoria vets share some advice on caring for senior cats. 

A Cat's Age in Human Years

Much like us people, each cat experiences aging differently. 

Many cats start to change physically between the ages of 7 and 10 years old. Most will begin this process by about 12 years old. You might hear of people following a common rule of thumb that one "cat year" is equivalent to seven "human years". However, this isn't quite accurate. Instead, we would do well to remember that a cat's first year is similar to the development of a 16-year-old person. 

A two-year-old cat is more similar to a human between 21 and 24 years old. After that, each year for a cat equals roughly four human years (for example, a 10-year-old cat = a 53-year-old human; a 12-year-old cat = a 61-year-old human; a 15-year-old cat = a 73-year-old human, etc.) 

Cats are considered senior at 10 years old, and "super senior" once they reach 15. Their needs may change over time, as older cats become more fragile as they age. 

Aging Cats 

You'll likely see many aspects of your cat's behavior and physicality change as they age. While aging is not a disease in itself, ensuring your vet is aware of changes in your senior cat will help ensure they receive the most comprehensive veterinary care possible. Some changes you may spot include:

Physical Changes 

  • Grooming & Appearance - As cats age, you may notice they groom less frequently. As a consequence, your kitty's fur may become oily or matted. This can lead to inflammation and odor on the skin, along with pain due to matting. Senior cats' claws are also often overgrown, thick, or brittle, and will need attention from their vet or caregivers. 
  • Unintentional Weight Gain or Loss - Older cats may also lose weight, which can point to numerous health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease. Aging cats may also be at higher risk for dental diseases, which can hamper eating and lead to malnutrition and weight loss. 
  • Physical Activity & Mobility - Arthritis or degenerative joint disease often become an issue for older cats who may have difficulty accessing water and litter boxes, beds, or food bowls. The need to jump or climb stairs may further preclude their ability to reach essential places. While changes in sleep patterns are a normal aspect of aging, a significant depth or increase in sleep may be cause for concern and prompt you to contact your vet. 

Behavioral Changes 

  • Cognitive Issues - Have you noticed that your cat has seemed confused by objects or tasks that are a part of their daily routine? If so, this may point to issues with cognition or memory. 
  • Issues Caused By Disease - Pain from health issues such as arthritis or dental disease can cause aggression in older cats, so monitoring your cat's mood is important since our kitties tend to hide discomfort. Disorders and diseases that affect urination (e.g. kidney failure, diabetes) can cause an increase in litter box usage. This may lead to cats eliminating in inappropriate areas. 

Caring for Senior Cats

Here are some simple changes you can incorporate into your kitty's routine to make them more comfortable in their senior years:

  • 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

Your knowledge of your cat and your observations are an important resource for your vet, as are regular wellness examinations. Depending on your cat's needs (e.g. if they have a medical condition), your vet may suggest increasing the frequency of physical evaluations. A wellness examination of a senior cat includes the vet checking the cat's weight, skin & fur condition, organ systems, and behavior, and running diagnostic tests for certain conditions that are common in older felines.

The combination of homecare and cooperative veterinary care is a great way to help ensure your senior cat has a healthier, happier life with you and your family.

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

Do you have questions about caring for your older cat in their golden years? Contact our vets at Steinway Court Veterinarian to schedule an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

At Steinway Court Veterinarian, we are always accepting new patients. Our vets are dedicated to keeping pets healthy and happy in our Astoria clinic. Contact us today to book your first appointment.

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