As your cat approaches its senior years, you may have some questions about aging cat care.
That can include what kinds of senior cat foods are appropriate, how your cat’s nutritional needs may change, and what you can do to help your cat live as long as possible.
Cats, like humans, benefit a great deal from that time-tested saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By taking the right preventative steps when it comes to nutrition, veterinarian appointments, and general care, you’ll ensure your cat is happy and healthy well into old age.
To make sure this happens, it’s helpful to know what to expect as your cat ages, including potential illnesses, behavior changes, and dietary needs.
Today we’re sharing the answers to five frequently asked questions our feline vets get about aging cat care. Take a read, and let us know if you have any others we can help answer!
1. What Age-Related Issues Do Senior Cats Face?
To start, let’s first establish a baseline of what is considered a senior cat so you can see how these guidelines apply to your feline friends. Some cats may stay spry well until their teen years, while others will age sooner. With that in mind, we consider a senior cat one that’s between 10 to 14 years of age, and a super senior cat is one that’s 15 years or older.
Age may just be a number, so here are some of the changes you might see as your cat settles into their twilight years:
- An altered sleep cycle
- Changes in vision
- Decrease in their kidney function
- Lessened sense of smell
- More brittle nails
- Problems with their circulatory system or heart function
- Decreased ability to absorb nutrients
- Less able to handle stress
- Reduced mobility
- The onset of arthritis
Being aware of these conditions and changes will help you to notice them if and when they start occurring. Mention it to your veterinarian at your next appointment and they’ll suggest the proper course of treatment.
2. Is There Preventative Care I Can Do Now To Extend The Life Of My Aging Cat?
As a senior cat owner, there are several things you can do to help extend the life of your feline friend through preventative care. Here are three examples:
- Regular veterinary check-ups – As cats age, they become more prone to certain health problems such as arthritis, dental disease, and kidney disease. Regular visits to the veterinarian can help identify and treat these issues before they become more serious. Your veterinarian can also advise you on your cat’s diet and exercise needs as they age.
- Dental care – Dental disease is a common problem in senior cats and can lead to pain, infection, and tooth loss. Dental check-ups and cleanings, as well as daily brushing of your cat’s teeth, can help prevent dental disease and keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy.
- Environmental modifications – Senior cats may have mobility issues, vision problems, and other age-related changes that can make it more difficult for them to navigate their environment. Making modifications to your cat’s environment – such as providing low-sided litter boxes, soft bedding, and easy access to food and water – can help your cat maintain their independence and reduce the risk of falls and injuries.
3. What Do Veterinarians Look For During Wellness Visits for Senior Cats?
The rule of thumb for senior cats is to bring them into their veterinarian for a wellness visit every six months.
As you may know, cats age faster than humans, so six months is actually two years for them. These regular check-ups will help to catch any symptoms of the diseases or illnesses that may be developing. When caught early, this can help to make sure they get the appropriate treatment to make their last years as comfortable as possible.
Your feline veterinarian will do a thorough physical of your cat, which includes a review of behaviors and habits, as well as body condition and weight. They’ll also evaluate the cat’s skin and coat, its dental hygiene, ears and eyes, thyroid gland palpation, heart and circulatory system, lungs and nose, abdomen, and joints and muscles.
It’s also a good time to take and compare results with blood pressure checks, bloodwork, and urine tests. Urinalysis can be especially important in terms of early detection of kidney disease.
Depending on their vaccination status, a wellness visit for an aging cat could include parasite prevention, vaccines, and other treatments.
4. How Do I Know What The Right Type Of Senior Cat Food Is?
Just like kittens have different dietary needs than adult cats, adult cats have different needs than senior cats. Senior cat food is a specific diet that will help your cat manage its weight while maintaining healthy skin, coat, and bodily functions.
You’ll also notice on the bag or tin that the food is specifically formulated for an aging cat. This often means lower calorie and fat content, more protein, additional vitamins and minerals, and even glucosamine and chondroitin, which are nutrients that support joint health.
5. How Will My Senior Cat’s Nutritional Needs Change?
Aging cats will have different nutritional needs than younger cats, including a need for fewer calories and additional vitamins and minerals. They may also have a harder time remembering where their food bowl is, which can affect how much they eat and when they eat.
Because senior cats don’t digest food as well and can’t as easily tolerate large meals, you may need to adjust their feeding schedule to between 3-4 times a day.
Schedule Your Next Aging Cat Care Check-Up
As our feline friends age, it’s important to provide them with the proper preventative care to ensure they live happy and healthy lives.
If you have a senior cat, or your cat is approaching its 10th birthday, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with the Catonsville Cat Clinic to discuss their individual needs.