Caring for your Senior Cat
Cats can live a long time, and that’s great because we love having them around; snuggling on our laps, swatting things off the kitchen counter, scratching at the door while you’re in the bathroom. They make life fun, interesting, and always keep us on our toes.
But as your cat ages, those funny little antics may start to slow down. It may want to play less and snuggle more or bask in the sunlight a little bit longer. When your cat enters its senior years, it’s important to educate yourself on how best to care for your favorite furbaby so that you can continue to give it the best life possible, even though its activity level has changed.
When does a cat really start to experience aging?
On average, cats begin to experience age-related physical changes between seven and ten years of age. Physiologically, a ten-year-old cat is 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. It’s important to remember that although health issues can come with age, they can be controlled by recognizing and reducing health risks. Aging in itself is not the issue as it is a natural process.
What happens when a cat ages?
- The immune system is less able to fight off foreign invaders
- The skin becomes thinner and less elastic with reduced blood circulation and is more prone to infection
- Grooming becomes less effective
- Claws become overgrown, thick and brittle
- Hearing loss and changes in the eyes can occur
- Dental disease is common but with proper care can be prevented/controlled
- Decreased sense of smell. This could lead to less of an interest in their food.
- Arthritis is common but can be controlled through acupuncture and other forms of therapy
How can I keep my senior cat healthy?
Observation is key! Pay close attention to your cat and its various behaviors, and take note of any significant changes that occur. Performing a quick weekly physical exam on your cat through gum, ear, and skin examination is a simple and easy way to monitor your cat’s health, just ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the steps for you!
In addition to examining your senior cat, it’s also important to practice daily brushing of the coat and teeth. Brushing the coat daily removes loose hairs and prevents them from being swallowed and formed into hairballs. It also stimulates blood circulation, which decreases as cats age, and in turn helps to keep the skin and coat healthy. Brushing your cat’s teeth daily is the best way to prevent dental disease, which can be incredibly painful and lead to other health issues. Try introducing toothbrushing to your cat over several weeks so that it is able to get used to the process.
Caring for your cat’s body is important, but so is making sure that it remains properly nourished with good food. As cats age, they become less active and often become obese or too thin. If this occurs, ask your veterinarian the best way to modify your cat’s diet so that it can return to a healthy and normal weight. Your cat’s diet and food sources may have to change as what it ate when it was younger is no longer beneficial to its health and wellness.
While you do your part in caring for your senior cat, make sure you allow your vet to do the same. Frequent veterinary exams are the best way to detect the early stages of diseases and any other possible condition that may come to surface.