Your cat has been a loyal companion over the last few years. As he or she reaches their senior years it is nice to provide them with extra care and attention to ensure they grow old gracefully and comfortably. While each cat is different, we start to call them ‘seniors’ from around 11 years of age. Although many cats at this age still look young and spritely, this is the time to start monitoring for any potentially worrying changes to their lifestyle so they can be investigated and addressed promptly. In particular:
- Is your cat eating more or less than usual? Both increased or decreased appetite can be a sign of illness.
- Is your cat drinking more water than usual? Chronic kidney disease is very common in older cats and drinking more water is one of the first signs your cat may be suffering from reduced kidney function.
- Is your cat losing weight? Weight loss can be a sign of many diseases. One common condition called hyperthyroidism causes weight loss with a ravenous appetite. It is easily diagnosed on a blood test and easy to treat. It is best to start treatment early as it can cause kidney disease and heart disease in the long term if left untreated.
- Can your cat jump as high as it used to? Cats are clever creatures and will often hide signs of arthritis until they are severe. Some of the early signs are sleeping more, slower movements, reluctance to play and jumping in stages (ie: jumping onto a chair then onto a table instead of jumping straight onto the table). More information about arthritis in cats and some helpful videos can be found at http://catswitharthritis.com/
- Is your cat grooming normally? Many cats who have maintained their coats as kittens and adults start to get matted hair as they become seniors. This can be a sign of arthritis or other pain reducing their flexibility.
To care for your senior cat we recommend:
- Transition onto a high quality senior pet food. This food is easier to digest and higher in omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants to support your cat's joints and kidneys.
- Ensure your cat has plenty of access to water and provide multiple water points. This is important at all ages but especially important for older cats that may have underlying kidney disease.
- Try to make your house ‘senior-cat friendly’ with ramps or steps to help your cat get up to his or her favourite hide-outs without jumping too far.
- If you have younger cats, boisterous dogs or children, make sure to spend some quality alone time with your senior cat.
- Have your cat checked by a vet every 6-12 months. We may also recommend regular blood and urine testing. The earlier we can diagnose a problem, the better chance we have of successful treatment or good long term management.