Cats are considered "senior" if they're over 11 years old, though they may begin to exhibit signs of aging prior. It all depends on your cat! Just like humans, when cats age there will be changes to their bodies, mental state, and needs. But their human guardians can intervene and help these mature cats remain as healthy and happy as possible in their later years. Here are some ways to help - and keep your furry family member feline fine!
INCREASE: VETERINARY VISITS
Unfortunately, with age comes the possibility of more ailments and diseases. By increasing regular veterinary check-ups, certain cancers, organ diseases and the like might be detected earlier rather than later when it’s more difficult to treat such ailments. Older cats can also be more susceptible to issues related to a weakened immune system as well as mobility issues.
It is recommended that senior cats be seen by veterinarian every six months. Six months in a mature cat’s life is equivalent to 2 years in a human, and a lot of physical changes can take place during that time.
As cats get older, they may spend more time sleeping than when they were younger - and that's saying something considering cats normally sleep 15-17 hours a day! Aging kitties can suffer from stiffness and arthritis, so the more comfortable places they can sleep the better. Comfortable cat beds and blankets at their favorite napping places will be much appreciated. Older cats will also most likely be more sensitive to the heat and cold than their younger selves. Self-warming beds or heated beds can be wonderful for older cats, especially in the wintertime. Keeping them cool in the summer and warm in the winter goes a long way to providing comfort.
If your cat's favorite places to sleep happen to be up high and they struggle to jump like they used to, a kitty ramp or cat stairs is a great way to ease the strain on your cat's sensitive joints and bones.
WATCH: CHANGES IN WEIGHT
Significant changes in weight, either an increase or decrease, can be a sign that something is wrong with your cat and should warrant a visit to the veterinarian. Weight loss, especially if rapid, can signal diseases such as diabetes, intestinal diseases, and hyperthyroidism. While weight gain can be linked to a shortened life span and chronic diseases in cats.
OBSERVE: LITTER BOX BEHAVIOR
The litter box is a good place to monitor potential health problems with your senior cat. Urinating or defecating outside the litter box is a good indication of a problem that needs to be addressed. Constipation, muscle weakness, arthritis, and urinary tract infections are just some of the potential issues that could be related to ‘litter box misses’. An increase of your cat urinating could also be a sign of diabetes, kidney issues, or stress.
If you notice your older cat struggling to get in and out of a high-sided litter box, it might be time to consider lowering the barriers. If your cat doesn't feel comfortable or struggles to get into the litter box, they might start eliminating outside the box (which no one wants, not even your cat!) You might even consider adding additional litter boxes around the house to really spoil your golden-aged feline.
As cats get older their dietary needs change as well. Your veterinarian should be able to provide you with dietary recommendations as your cat ages. It’s also a good idea to monitor your cat’s food intake, especially if you have multiple cats in your house, to provide the best information to your veterinarian.
GET PLENTY OF EXERCISE!
Even though your cat is getting older, regular exercise can be even more important to remain happy and healthy for the long term. While you don't want to play too rough with them, don't forget that senior cats are often still as ready to play as they were when they were a kitten! In fact, they might even be bored. Try giving them some new toys to pique their interest. Those filled with catnip are a great choice, as the strong scents stimulate and encourage exercise. And don't forget the benefits of "brain games" — use food puzzles to keep her body moving and her mind active.