Whether you've had them since they were a tiny kitten or perhaps just for a short time, watching your adult kitty turn into a senior cat can be a challenging experience as a pet owner. Having the knowledge to properly care for them as they age is essential to their prolonged good health and comfort.
If you find yourself sharing your time with an adult cat who is beginning to grow older, taking the time to verse yourself on the realities of owning a senior kitty will prove essential to continuously providing them with good care. Being vigilant in your observation of them and proactive about potential problems can have a tremendous impact on their comfort and health.
What is a Senior Cat?
According to AAFP, or the American Association of Feline Practitioners, a senior car is considered to be any cat between 11 and 14 years of age. If your cat is only between 7 and 10 years of age, they're considered to be a middle-aged kitty.
A cat more than 15 years of age is considered geriatric. However, many vets choose to begin treating any cat over 7 years of age as though they are a senior kitty, which means a few changes will take place in your care routine.
Just like people, as your cat gets older, they should begin seeing the veterinarian a little more often. More regular check-ups will help catch any issues that may arise as early as possible, which is important since your older kitty may not have as good of an immune system or be able to heal quite as quickly from things on their own.
These regular visits will also give you the opportunity to speak with your vet about any changes you have noticed in their behavior. The vet will also put them through a general wellness exam, which involves weighing them, checking for cuts, giving vaccinations, and checking their ears for infections or anything that may be bothering them.
Exams and testing also play an important part in preventative care in the event that you or your vet may suspect a potential internal issue that can't be seen.
As for how often your cat will need to be penciled in, most vets will start taking a senior cat in every 6 months rather than every 12 months. Anyone who works or lives closely with cats should already be aware of how subtle the warning signs are for different issues. Cats are also very good at hiding their diseases and illnesses.
Since older cats are prone to multiple types of diseases, you need to be vigilant in your observation of their daily habits, especially once they turn 7.
What to Look For
When your cat begins entering into their senior years, here are the key things you're going to want to look for:
Weight Changes: If your cat's weight is fluctuating, you need to speak to your veterinarian. You should be monitoring for weight gain and weight loss in your cat along with their overall body condition.
Litter Habits: Is your cat's frequency of litter box use changing? Are the clumps changing in size or appearance? These are things to look for and bring up with your vet.
Mobility: When you begin to see a change in your cat's ability to run, jump, and climb stairs, that's a sign that you may need to change their diet or supplement it for better joint and bone support.
Behavior: If your cat has begun to sleep, hide, or interact differently, these behavioral changes should be mentioned to your vet.
Common Senior Issues
There are a few diseases that senior cats are more prone to, including:
Keeping Them Healthy
In order to keep your senior cat as healthy as possible, there are many things you can do at home. First and foremost, continue on in making sure that all of your cat’s daily needs are met. Ensuring a constant supply of clean water, fresh food, a clean litter box, and regular social interactions is important to their continued good health.
A happy cat of any age will also require regular rest and good spaces for them to sleep and hide. In addition, once your cat hits 7 years of age, be sure to begin scheduling them for a wellness check-up every 6 months. If you have any issues between check-ups, don’t hesitate to call your vet and voice your concerns.
Obviously, taking your cat to the vet can prove stressful for both of you. Ask your vet for their tips and advice to make it a calm and care-free experience, which may involve the use of a temporary anxiety medication. Good vet care is important, even if it requires a slight change in your routine for the day.
You can also do your cat a huge favor by regularly weighing them at home and keeping track of some key factors. A small notebook used to track their eating habits and other behavior could make a world of difference should they begin suffering from a disease or illness, which is typically very difficult to detect.
Since your cat is aging about 5-7 times faster than humans, you need to be sure to regularly document their behavior and look back on their general behavior to help spot discrepancies sooner rather than later.
You can also accommodate your aging cat by:
Using a deep, non-plastic bowl to help avoid whisker fatigue and chin acne.
Giving them a low-entry litter box so that they can get in and out with ease.
Placing their litter box in an area that’s easy for them to access, especially if they are arthritic.
Using a “cat cam” to watch your cat while you’re away.
Inviting friends over to spend time with your cat while you are away.
If you follow these tips, you can enjoy your cat’s company well into their golden years.