Our feline friends live an average of 12-18 years, while some live into their 20s. Senior and geriatric cats need some special considerations regarding their daily care. Here are some tips to help keep your elderly companion happy, healthy, and comfortable well into their golden years.
A cat’s nutritional needs change throughout their lifetime. Older felines need less calories since it doesn’t take much energy to sleep an average of 20 hours a day. Senior cat food usually contains increased fiber as well as vitamins and essential fatty acids. Prescription foods formulated for specific health conditions are available with restricted or added ingredients that support the nutritional needs of the patient.
Most common diseases in older cats:
- Dental Disease- Cats can get painful holes in their teeth, broken teeth, gum disease and oral tumors that significantly affect their quality of life.
Felines are notorious for not drinking enough water. Dehydration can lead to or exacerbate chronic medical conditions such as kidney failure. Some cats can be finicky and require fresh, clean water. Adding in a water fountain can encourage them to drink. Canned food contains more moisture and can be added to their diet to increase water intake.
The pain of arthritis can limit geriatric cat’s movements. It may become difficult to jump up on counters and tables or even manage stairs. The location of their food, water, and litter box may need to change. Keep it on the level of your house that they frequent most or provide one on each level. If they have neck or spinal issues, have bowls raised to shoulder level. The height of the sides of their litter box can affect their ability to move in and out freely. Finding a shorter, wider litter box can decrease the likelihood of inappropriate elimination.
Senior cats can lose the ability to fully retract their claws due to arthritis, injury, or infection. Keeping the nails trimmed can reduce the instances of getting caught in carpet. Cut any loose strings or loops on carpet or rugs. If unable to use a scratching surface, the nails may grow too long and penetrate the paw pad.
There are products on the market that can help ease your cat’s arthritis pain. Many of them contain Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Prescription pain medications may be prescribed by your cat’s veterinarian. Feline patients should have cat specific medications and supplements as they are more sensitive and metabolize drugs differently.
Elder felines may need a little assistance in the grooming department. Arthritis, obesity, and other conditions can inhibit cats from reaching certain spots for grooming. Often mats develop on the lower back, abdomen, and around the rear end. You may need to assist by combing or brushing these areas. They also may need help bathing their rear ends. Using a baby wipe or wet wash cloth, gently wipe their rectums. Longer haired cats may need to be trimmed to keep tidy.
Increase Visit frequency
Since problems can sneak up quickly, it may be necessary to bring your senior cat to the vet more frequently for physical exams. Keeping a close eye on their normal behaviors at home and noting any deviations can help expose issues sooner. Blood work may be recommended by your cat’s veterinarian as they are excellent at hiding illness. Catching a disease in early stages can increase the success of treatment, improve quality of life, and extend their life expectancy.
Behaviors to Monitor:
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss or gain
- Urination & Defecation- amounts and locations
- Stiffness, difficulty jumping up or with stairs
- Losing balance
- Poor coat, decreased grooming
You cat’s annual physical exam is an opportune time to discuss any concerns with your veterinarian. It can be helpful to make a list of behavior changes to address. Give us a call at 444-5797 to schedule an appointment.