As they enter their twilight years, you may notice some subtle changes to their personalities and body shape. Firstly, they are likely to be less inquisitive than when they were kittens. In fact, they’re likely to spend the majority of their days and nights curled up in a comfortable nook sleeping or waiting for the next meal to arrive.
Whilst we can’t halt the onset of aging, we can make their life journey more comfortable and provide a diet and environment compatible with their older bodies.
Studies show that our pets are living longer. Although it is difficult to pin down one particular reason for their increased life span, it is believed the increase in neutering and spaying cats has seen a reduction in the number of associated health problems. (Testicular, uterine, ovarian and mammary cancers.) Not only that, but better owner education and advances in veterinary science have improved the chances of our cats moving gracefully towards their senior years. Having a greater understanding of feline dietary needs for example means we can now provide them with a diet which helps to keep them staying healthy from the inside out.
As your cat ages, you may want to change their diet. Diets with added glucosamine are available to help those with arthritic joints, weight-control options are readily available, as are those with specific dietary aids, such as aiding kidney function and helping to prevent the formation of struvite and oxalate crystals in their bladders.
Cats can also be more prone to dehydration as they age, so it is a good idea to set out a few water bowls around your house to ensure it is always accessible. Drinking plenty of water will ensure your cat is hydrated and also helps the kidneys to function properly. It is important that you don’t make changes to you cat’s food suddenly. Rather, any changes should be made gradually by mixing the new food in with the old.
Pay close attention to your senior cat’s teeth. If you notice a build up of plaque then speak to your vet. Periodontal disease is believed to have an adverse affect on the internal organs of both humans and animals, seeing increases in kidney failure and heart disease, along with other vital organs. Your vet may recommend a proper cleaning of your cat’s teeth where he/she is sedated to allow the vet to properly examine and clean his/her mouth.
Weekly brushing at home can also play an important part in keeping your cat’s pearly whites sparkling. Flavoured toothpastes are available to make it a more pleasant experience for your cat.
Ageing cats will find it harder to reach all of their body to properly clean themselves. Their fur may become matted where they are unable to stretch to and you may need to help them along with some gentle grooming. A soft brush can be used to gently pull out any matted areas and to keep their coat clean. Using a slightly damp brush will also help them with grooming, but make sure they are kept warm after doing this and don’t let them get very wet.
As with humans, cats are also prone to decreased mobility as they age. They may begin to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or loss of sight/hearing. This can make it more difficult for them to get around. Make sure they have easy to reach resting places, which they can find safely and easily and enjoy without being disturbed. You may need to consider constructing a ramp or a series of steps to allow your cat to climb gradually to their destination; they may not have the jump they once did.
You may find they start to miss the litter tray or use other areas instead. There are a number of reasons why your older cat may do this; it may be that they may have difficulty getting in and out of a high lipped tray or they may have become disorientated and not have been able to find it. Stress may cause them to soil elsewhere, or they may be in need of veterinary attention. It is important to monitor any out of the norm toilet activities and let your vet know if anything is different. Monitor any increased or decreased urination or defecation, and keep a close eye on the tray to ensure there are no signs of blood. Your cat should be taken to the vet immediately for testing if you spot any blood in their litter tray.
Keeping your older pet warm will help with any aches and pains they are suffering with and make them more comfortable. A heating pad set on a low heat acts as a good comforter on those colder days.
Above all else, just remember that, as your cat ages, they will need more care and attention. Usually very independent creatures, as they slow down they will need a little more love and a little more support. With the right care and diet, their twilight years will be just puuur-fect!