Healthy Aging Cats
6th October 2016
Cats reach the 'geriatric' life stage at the age of 15, but it is not unusual for them to live to late teens and even into their 20s.
Just as improved diet and medical care have resulted in increased life expectancy in humans, advances in nutrition and veterinary care have increased the lifespan of domestic cats. The result is a growing population of aging cats.
Aging is a natural process. Although many complex physical changes accompany advancing years, age in and of itself is not a disease. Even though many conditions that affect older cats are not correctable, they can often be controlled. The key to making sure your senior cat has the healthiest and highest quality of life possible is to recognise and reduce factors that may be health risks, detect disease as early as possible, and improve or maintain the health of the body’s systems.
Brushing removes loose hair, preventing it from being swallowed and forming hairballs. Brushing also stimulates blood circulation and sebaceous gland secretions, resulting in a healthier skin and coat. Older cats may not use scratching posts as frequently so nails should be checked and trimmed if necessary.
Many cats tend towards obesity as they age. If your cat is overweight, you should ask your veterinarian to help you modify their diet. Other cats actually become too thin as part of the normal aging process, but progressive weight loss can also be caused by serious medical problems. Ideally you should weigh your cat regularly and report any changes to your vet.
Important, not only for weight control but overall health. Older cats become less agile as arthritis develops and muscles begin to atrophy. Regularly engaging your cat in moderate play can promote muscle tone and flexibility, increase blood circulation, and help reduce weight in cats that are too heavy. During times of exercise, be alert to laboured breathing or rapid tiring that may suggest a health concern.
Older cats are usually less adaptable to change. Introducing a new pet may be a traumatic experience and should be avoided whenever possible. Moving to a new home can be equally stressful. Special provisions should be made for older cats that must be boarded for a period of time. A better alternative is to have the cat cared for at home by a friend or relative.
Owners of older cats often notice changes in their cat’s behaviour, but consider these changes an inevitable result of aging and fail to report them to their veterinarian. Cats are experts at hiding illness, and elderly cats are no exception. It is common for a cat to have a serious medical problem, yet not show any sign of it until the condition is quite advanced. Since most diseases can be managed more successfully when detected and treated early in their course, it is important for owners of senior cats to carefully monitor their behaviour and health.
Never assume that changes you see in your older cat are simply due to old age and therefore untreatable. Any alteration in your cat’s behaviour or physical condition should alert you to contact us.