Cats Are Living Longer
As more and more humans are keeping their cats indoors and providing healthier food, cats are living longer. It is no longer unusual for a cat to live for 20 years. This does mean, however, that they are likely to suffer from some age-related illnesses.
As most of you know, Lily Olivia is a senior citizen. In fact, in human years, she’s about 88 years old. That’s two decades older than I am, and I’m older than dirt.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive post with everything you need to know about your aging cat and how to care for him. I will provide resources at the end of the post where you can find additional information. Please remember: Your vet should be contacted if you are noticing health issues with your cat. Don’t try to diagnose and treat your cat based on information from the internet, including this post.
What to Expect as Your Cat Ages
As your cat ages you can expect some changes. Your cat
- may sleep more. √
- may experience a change in sleep patterns. √
- Lily has always slept during the night when we sleep, but I now find, if I wake up at night, she is awake and staring at me.
- may get cold more easily and seek out warm places to sleep. √
- Providing your older cat with a heated bed or a bed placed in a sunny window may help keep your cat comfortable.
- develop age-related diseases. √
- Lily has a small degree of kidney disease, which was discovered during her most recent blood panel. (Keeping this in mind, your vet may recommend twice yearly exams for your senior pet in an attempt to catch problems in the early stages.)
- become cranky and irritable. √
- Actually, Lily Olivia has always been a grump, but this trait has increased with age. She wants what she wants and will not be dissuaded.
These are issues with which Lily Olivia is dealing. Many more exist that she may develop or that your cat may be experiencing, such as:
- FCD (Feline Cognitive Disorder), which is similar to dementia in humans.
- hearing or vision loss.
- arthritis and stiffening of joints.
- This is a major problem in cats. You may notice your cat doesn’t want to be picked up, can no longer jump up on the cat tree, has problems entering and exiting the litter box or getting into those yoga-positions that allow him to groom properly. To assist your kitty, try adding some portable steps to the cat tree, bed or wherever she spends her time. A litter box with low sides also is a good idea. Regular brushing and wet-wipes can assist kitty with grooming.
The Importance of Baseline Bloodwork
If you don’t have a baseline for measuring any changes in your cats health, it is important to setup an appointment with your veterinarian. Many vets suggest baseline bloodwork at about age seven, but if your cat has been having yearly exams and vaccines and is in generally good health, your vet may wait until age ten, as our vet did. These tests will detect any early-stages of
- diseases of the heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, pancreas and thyroid.
With most of these diseases, especially hyperthyroidism, which is very common in older cats, your feline will show signs of weight loss. Don’t ignore this as just a sign of your cat’s senior status, but get your beloved companion to the vet a soon as possible. Weight loss at any age (unless your cat has been placed on a restricted diet), should not be ignored.
If weight loss is the result of the normal aging process or even disease, your vet may suggest a nutritional supplement as well as a vitamin supplement.
Some General and Important Tips
And don’t forget the fresh water. Like Lily Olivia, your aging cat most likely will have some degree of kidney disease. A fountain is a great idea as are water bowls in various areas of your house. If you feed only a dry food, introduce some canned food to add moisture to your cat’s diet.
Please remember to play with your older feline, adapting play time to your cat’s level of mobility. Don’t forget mental stimulation as well, like a bird feeder outside the window.
Senior cats, like older people, tend to become set in their ways and prefer predictability and normal routines. Most cats do not like or adapt to change well, and this is especially true in your older feline. Your elderly cat may want to be left alone or may become more demanding of your attention, just as Lily Olivia has with us. Cherish this time with your senior citizen feline. It is the care, love, proper medical treatment and good diet you have provided through his lifetime that has given both of you these extra years of companionship.
As your reward for making it to the end of this post, our resident senior citizen wanted to share this photo. Unlike her usual behavior of sitting on my lap with her paws on the trackpad, this is what Lily Olivia was doing while I wrote this post.
“Caring for Your Senior Cat,” Antech Diagnostics, © 2007