Our senior cats are living longer than they ever have, thanks to advancements in veterinary care and medicine. Here, our Oakland vets offer eight tips on caring for your senior cat.
Senior Cat Care Tips
All cats deserve the very best care and attention from their owners - and their vets. That said, many senior cats have health issues that need special attention. With their changing health requirements, they need our help to develop healthy habits to preserve their well-being.
The term "senior" is used to describe an aging/older cat. Many cats start to change physically between the age of 7 and 10 years old, and most will by about 12 years old. Indoor cats typically live longer than outdoor cats and have a life expectancy of approximately 10 to 15 years. However, many factors contribute to determining how long your cat will live, including how often they see a vet for a checkup.
In this post, we'll share tips on senior cat care to help your kitty stay healthy into old age.
1. Feed Your Cat a Balanced, Nutritious Diet
Just as we have to watch our diet and our weight as we age, your cat's diet and nutritional needs become especially important as they enter their golden years.
Obesity is an extremely common problem in pets and can negatively affect your cat's health by putting stress on organs such as the heart, liver and joints. Being overweight will also increase their risk of diabetes and joint pain. One way to reduce this risk is to feed your cat a healthy, balanced diet. Senior cats require more taurine, a heart-healthy ingredient contained in beef, fish, poultry and other cat food proteins. Ask your vet for advice about your cat's specific dietary needs.
2. Keep Your Senior Cat Inside
Cats that live indoors enjoy longer, healthier lives than outdoor cats. We recommend against allowing your senior cat outdoors without supervision to avoid your cat getting into fights with other animals, potentially being poisoned or contracting diseases, infections or other health conditions from animals or their surroundings.
Older cats can learn to be happy indoors if provided with an enriched environment and space to retreat to that they can be alone.
3. Prevent Infectious Diseases & Health Issues
Keeping your cat's vaccinations up to date is essential to their health. Your vet can advise you about core and lifestyle vaccinations your cat should have based on local laws and regulations, your geographic region, your cat's lifestyle and other factors.
4. Keep Up With Oral Hygiene & Dental Health
Oral hygiene is another critical aspect of health maintenance for your older cat. Oral health issues can lead to a wide variety of general health problems and cause pain for your older cat, so it's important to maintain a daily at-home oral hygiene routine with regular tooth brushing, using a toothpaste specially designed for felines.
Don't forget to book your cat's regular professional dental cleaning with your vet, who may also prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication for dental health problems such as gingivitis. This disease most commonly occurs in older cats and is caused by the buildup of plaque over time.
5. Bring Your Cat to the Vet for Regular Checkups
Regular veterinary care is critical to your cat's health throughout their life, and becomes particularly important as they age. Most senior cats should see their vet in Oakland twice yearly (every six months) even if they appear to be perfectly healthy.
Baseline blood work tests can also be done so any abnormalities can be detected and underlying problems diagnosed. Since cats are so good at instinctively hiding disease and pain, coming in for examinations more often as they age becomes imperative, so illnesses and health conditions can be detected earlier.
Your vet can also make recommendations to help manage pain or existing illnesses, and to keep your cat healthy and active. Specifically, regular visits can prevent health problems such as:
- Heart and lung issues
- Coat and skin issues
- Problems with weight, body condition, thyroid gland, etc.
- Oral health issues
- Ear and eye issues
- Gastrointestinal, kidney or pancreatic problems
- Problems with joints and muscles
- Infectious and parasitic diseases
6. Help Your Cat Stay Physically Active & Comfortable
Geriatric cats are at higher risk for osteoarthritis and joint-related issues, although these may occur in any cat experiencing joint injury or other abnormalities. Exercises and vet-prescribed non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may help to reduce pain and discomfort.
Exercise and therapeutic intervention such as massage may be helpful to keep your cat physically active, comfortable and in the right weight range for their body type. Keep in mind that older cats will likely sleep more during the day and slow down in exercise and activity in their golden years. Watch for any subtle or significant changes in your senior cat's health and behavior, and be sure to contact your vet if you have questions or concerns.
7. Maintain Good Mental Health & Reduce Stress
While paying attention to your senior cat's physical environment is a must, they also need to keep their mind sharp and stimulated, just like us humans. Reducing stress should also be on the list of priorities.
Maintaining a peaceful home environment with fun kitty hiding places, frequent rotation of cat toys, hiding treats in their environment, plenty of cuddle time and social interaction (if your cat is a lap cat and likes to cuddle) can go a long way to keeping them mentally fit and healthy.
We also recommend watching for signs of feline cognitive decline (FCD), such as getting lost easily, staring blankly, wandering away from home, eliminating outside the litter box, acting restless, upset or irritable, losing their appetite or poor grooming habits. While there is no cure for this ailment, your vet can recommend adjustments to your cat's environment to make symptoms easier to manage, medications to help with anxiety and depression and consistent daily routines that may help.
8. Monitor Your Cat's Grooming & Hygiene
As your cat grows older, they may not groom as thoroughly or as often. Especially for long-haired cats, this can become an issue that can be addressed by frequent grooming and brushing to keep them healthy and happy. Check their coat and skin for potential problems such as lumps and bumps, hot spots, oiliness, dandruff and others that should prompt a visit to the vet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.