Cats, just like people, get older, and experience ageing in their own unique way. Cat owners should know how to prepare themselves to take care of their senior 4-legged friends as some cats might show the first signs of getting older even when they are seven years old.
When is a cat considered a senior?
A common belief that one “cat year” equals seven “human years” may be an easy way to calculate your cat’s age but that way is not accurate. A cat aged 10 years old is similar to a human aged 53, and a 15-year-old kitty to a person who is 73 years old.
According to the catvets.com and catfriendly.com a cat can be classed in middle-aged when they are 7-10 years old, a cat aged 11-14 years old is considered to be a senior, and a cat aged 15+ is placed in the geriatric group.
As a rule of thumb, when a cat is 7 years old and older, is the time when a cat owner should consult a vet to know the best ways to take the best care of their ageing animal. More than that www.vet.cornell.edu recommends that cat owners perform a basic physical examination every week, and you can ask your vet to show how to do that in a proper way.
Senior cat health
Getting older is not a disease. It’s a natural process, and although a cat experiences age–related changes in physical activity and behaviour, it’s possible to control factors and pain, ensure a good quality of life, and when possible, prevent disease progression.
Each cat behaves differently but owners can notice various signs of ageing, such as:
- the animal is less active;
- the cat avoids sitting or rising, has problems with climbing stairs or getting into a litter box, which might be caused by arthritis;
- age-related hearing, smell or vision problems;
- increased water consumption that might be a sign of disorders such as diabetes, liver or kidney diseases;
- weaker immune system and also problems with heart and blood circulation;
- thinner skin and being more prone to different skin infections;
- like humans, senior cats might experience age-related changes in the brain. Owners of elderly cats may notice alarming behaviour in their furry friends, such as excessive meowing, disorientation and being unwilling to interact socially;
- bad breath, bleeding gums, and other dental diseases are very common among senior cats, and cause pain or loss of appetite;
- weight loss or gain that is caused by underlying diseases, changes in metabolism and hormones;
- less tolerance to stressful situations;
- altered sleep-wake cycle;
Cat owners should also remember that cats are masters at hiding any signs of pain, so you need to watch really carefully for any subtle changes such as not using a litter box regularly, not jumping to their favourite sofa as much as before, being unwilling to use stairs, and others. These and other signs will help you understand whether you need to have a vet check on your cat.
Regular annual check-ups should become a routine for every cat owner. If you are a parent of a senior kitty, remember it is important to have veterinary examinations a minimum of twice per year. If a cat has any health problems related to their age, you might need more frequent visits to your vet.
Senior cats – care
Regular check-ups, programs and communication with your vet will help you better know what you can do to have a healthy and happy senior cat. Here are some pointers:
- provide a comfortable and orthopedic bed where you cat can relax comfortably;
- remember about daily fresh water and appropriate food designed for senior cats. Optimised nutrition helps them stay healthy during their golden days. Although many foods for senior cats are labeled for ages 8+, there are not unique recommendations on when to transit your kitty to a specific diet. Commercially available food for senior cats vary widely, to be able to find the best food for your pet, you need to observe age-related changes and assess them with your vet;
- ensure relaxed surroundings to avoid any stressful situations and distractions;
- brush your senior 4-legged friend on daily basis so as to prevent hairballs forming. By brushing you will also stimulate blood circulation, and your cat will have healthy skin and fur;
- check nails regularly, as a cat gets less active and might not want to use a scratching post as much as before;
- daily dental care is the most effective way to prevent dental diseases, use a toothpaste for pets;
- monitor your cat daily while grooming, playing, or even spending time together. If you observe any signs or differences that might be of concern, speak up to your vet;
- control the weight of your cat, if you notice unexplained weight gain or loss, visit your vet;
- look when a cat scoops, if the amount of urine has changed? If you have noticed any signs of disease earlier, your vet can help your cat feel comfortable again in the shortest possible time;
- change your environment to be comfortable for your cat. You cat needs to have easy access to all needed resources, set up steps to help them easily reach any place they like or add nightlights to help them locate their resources during the night or evening time;
And the most important – attention of owners. An owner relies on their cat, and an animal also relies on us. Continue providing physical and mental stimulation, and assist them in everyday activities.
Senior cat adoption
Unfortunately, some senior cats might be dropped off because of reasons neither family nor pets can control. Senior pets often get overlooked, as families usually search for puppies or kittens. Here are the reasons why it’s a great idea to adopt a senior cat:
- By adopting a senior cat you can understand their personality (as animals are grown up and you do not need to meet their parents) and find a 4-legged friend that will match your lifestyle;
- Young animals have unlimited energy, and if you want a cat who does not need much time being active, consider a senior cat;
- You won’t experience a pitiful view of damaged furniture or the unpleasant situation of being bitten or scratched as senior cats have fully developed social skills;
- Although senior cats can have age-related health issues, ensuring proper dieting and regular check-ups at the vet will help you keep an animal healthy;
- Keeping a senior cat will cost you the same as having a kitten. And you do not need to spend time and money on trainings;
- Yes, senior cats do not live as long as a kitten. However, this will help you appreciate every single day;
- Many people who have adopted senior cats say that providing the proper care is given, senior animals will blossom.
Caring for Your Senior Pet by banfield.com
The Special Needs of the Senior Cat by Cornell University College of Vet Medicine
Senior Cats: Common Behavior Changes by PetCoach
When to Switch Your Pet to Senior Food by PetCoach
The Right Diet for Senior Cats by MyPetDoc
5 Reasons to Choose a Senior Pet by Atlanta Humane Society
Ask a Trainer: Adopting a Senior Pet by Atlanta Humane Society
Caring for Your Senior Cat by CatVets
American Association Of Feline Practitioners Senior Care Guidelines by CatVets
Top 10 Tips for Your Senior Cat by CatFriendlyHomes
Senior Care by CatFriendlyHomes
Sources of Stress in Cats by TheSprucePets
What to Expect as a Cat Ages and Becomes a Senior by TheSprucePets
Senior Cat Health by TheSprucePets
Please note: this article has been provided only for informational purposes. If your cat is showing any signs of age-related disease, please contact your vet immediately.