Taking Care of Elderly Cats

May 11, 2018

Taking Care of Elderly Cats

All of us grow old, and your pets are no exception. Your cat might not show graying of their entire fur or wrinkling of their skin but just like us, cats also show signs of deterioration and health conditions that are very similar to humans. As your cat enters this stage of their life, they’ll need some extra understanding for their changing lifestyle. Cats are typically considered as a senior when they reach around 12 years of age and there are lots of simple yet basic steps you can take to ensure the golden years of your cat’s life are comfortable and happy. You will be rewarded with a satisfied pet, who is often happy to spend much time quietly at home as a marvelous companion.

Here are the usual signs that tells you that your cat has already reached its golden years:

Becoming more inactive and muscle tone reduces.
Significant change in its eating and drinking (water) habits.
Hearing and vision deteriorates.
Changes in its bowel and urinary habits.
Weakened immune system.
The tendency to sleep more than the usual.
Coat gets duller and less shinier.
Age-associated disorders may develop, such as arthritis, hyperthyroidism, overactive thyroid, intestinal problems, sometimes cancer, pancreatitis, diabetes, and renal disease.
Psychological and behavioral changes can occur, such as senility, aggression, increased dependence, becoming emotionally distant or especially needy, restlessness or waking at night or becoming more talkative due to Feline Cognitive Decline (FCD).
May tend to "forget" on using their litter box

    A lot of cat owners see this process as normal and feel that there is nothing that they can do for their cat aside from giving medications to ease the pain if their cat have some sort of illness, and others worry about discussing the signs that they have noticed on their cat and they fear that the vet will say it’s serious or that the cat may need to be euthanized. Nevertheless, these concerns are often untrue and your vet is more than happy to help you wherever they can. Always talk to your vet to discuss any issues that your cat may have. And also, it is crucial to take your senior cat to see the vet routinely to guarantee that they are not suffering or hiding any illness. As a cat owner, you want to make sure that they are problem-free and to enjoy their later years free of trouble.

    Preventive Medicine Countermeasures

    It is essential for a senior cat to be regularly taken to the vet and have a regular health check for they compared to younger cats, healthier cats, especially if they have ailments or diseases due to their old age. Your vet will give you advise on how often they need to be seen and many surgeries now run special ‘geriatric’ clinics. Regular weight checks are also important, as it is one basic way to tell if your cat's health declines or not, and also, to keep up regular booster vaccinations because cats’ immune systems can weaken with age.

    Feeding

    There is a variety of senior diets available in your local pet supply store or supermarket that provides balanced nutrition specifically designed for senior cats. Always provide fresh water for your cat and ensure that they have easy access to it, preferably a pet water dispenser placed in several locations around the house, including upstairs and downstairs (and also on spots where they usually hang out). Provide smaller meals little and often. Keep an eye on cat’s appetite closely as this can decrease or increase at any given time, depending on a variety of health factors. There is also a possibility that their appetite may decrease once their sense of smell dwindle, and one way to overcome this is to warm up the food, thus diffusing the gas particles on their food with the air, which will increase the smell and boosts appetite.

    Surgeries

    There is a possibility that if a senior cat undergoes any surgery, their risk of developing a side effect or other health problems increased as well. Your vet will tell you the specific diagnosis and will carry out a thorough pre-operative assessment to check your cat’s current health condition and possible illnesses in the past that may affect your cat's health after surgery. They can tell you on any specific, individual concerns and may suggest diagnostic tests to be run first or recommend your for other alternatives to the procedure. After the surgery, your vet will also tell you how to control your pet's pain and other post-operation care.

    Grooming

    It is difficult to bathe or groom older cats, for they experience stiffness in their joints thus restricting their movements, leading to poor coat condition.

    If your cat have problems grooming itself, you may need to help by grooming your cat softly with a soft brush, and also check their claws for they might have a hard time scratching (not for scratching themselves, I mean their scratch-to-almost-anything habit) to keep their claws in shape as cat's claws become thicker and longer as they age. Always make sure that their claws don't curl back into their pads. Your vet or the vet's assistant can give you tips on how to look after their claws and coat, especially for those cats who are sensitive to being touched or groomed in particular areas due to pain and discomfort.

    Vet Time

    After securing your regular pet health checks, there are also things or conditions which needs to be checked by your vet, such as:

    If there is a significant change in their general health.
    Sudden decline of their appetite and/or thirst.
    Changes in elimination of their feces and/or urine.
    If your cat becomes less mobile/active or if they seem to be in pain.
    Changes in their behavior – including vocalization or grouchiness,. Reduced interaction with you or other pets can be a sign that something is wrong with your pet’s health.

      Here are some of the health issues that you need to watch out for when having an elderly cat:


      Senility and Cognitive Dysfunction

      Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a condition that is directly related to the aging of a cat's brain; it ultimately leads to changes in awareness, shortage in learning and memory, and dwindling responsiveness to stimuli. Although the initial symptoms of the disorder are mild and negligible, they increasingly worsen over time, also known as “cognitive decline.”


      Constipation

      Cats can experience changes in bowel habits as they grow older, including constipation. Cats usually have at least one healthy bowel movement every day. But if your cat is passing dry, hard stools, straining when trying to defecate or making unsuccessful trips to the litter box, then it is already a sign of constipation. These symptoms may indicate an underlying health problem. You must ensure your cat always has access to fresh water and speak to your vet for dietary and treatment advice.


      Diabetes mellitus

      Diabetes mellitus inability to produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar, or glucose, levels and usually occurs in middle-aged and older cats, particularly those that are overweight. If left untreated, it can lead to weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting , dehydration, severe depression, problems with motor function, coma, and even death.


      Dental disease

      Also known as Periodontal disease, is a disease of the tissues that surround and support the teeth and by far, is the most common oral condition suffered by cats. It causes changes that are associated with the inflammation and loss of the deep supporting structures of the cat’s teeth. Older cats need regular dental health checks to check for signs of Periodontal disease, including tartar build up and red, inflamed gums. The effects are irreversible after a certain stage has been reached and therefore steps towards prevention must be Ask your vet for advice about health checks and preventative care for your cat’s teeth.


      Kidney disease

      Chronic kidney disease is also called chronic renal disease and chronic renal failure, It means the kidneys have been gradually and irreversibly deteriorating over a period of months or years and is one of the most common problems affecting middle-aged and older cats. Chronic renal failure is unfortunately extremely common in older domestic cats and is a leading cause of death in kitties. Symptoms of failing kidneys can include increased thirst and urination, leaking urine (especially at night), vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, depression, anemia, and overall body weakness. Elderly cats usually develop some degree of kidney disease. However, with the help of various treatments, affected cats can often maintain a good quality of life for several months or years.


      Arthritis

      Also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, is a disease that causes pain and inflammation in a cat’s joints. Arthritis is extremely common in cats and tends to affect the elbow joint when it does strike, and sometimes, other joints can be afflicted as well. However, it often goes unnoticed as owners think the cat is just slowing down with age, when it is actually a very painful condition. It is worth getting your cat checked regularly as treating chronic problems like arthritis will make a huge difference to their quality of life, giving them much comfort during their movements.


      Hypertension

      more commonly referred to as high blood pressure, occurs when the cat's arterial blood pressure is continually higher than normal. When it is caused by another disease, it is called secondary hypertension. Cats suffering from kidney disease or hyperthyroidism often have some degree of hypertension as well. It can also occur as a primary problem in itself, known as primary hypertension, The organs most vulnerable to the effects of high blood pressure are the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain. Initially there may be very few signs of high blood pressure, notably if it is the primary problem but sometimes the signs can occur unexpectedly.

        Getting your home ready for the elderly cat

        There are a few things that should be changed to your home which will have a big impact on the quality of your senior cat’s life. While some older cats appear to be "as young as they feel" with many still showing kitten-like behaviors, Here are some of the things you might consider changing:

        Beds

        Don't increase your cat's suffering by placing his bed on not so easy to reach areas, Make sure they have a variety of comfortable, well-padded beds in safe warm places that can be readily accessed.

        If your cat really wants to reach his favorite spot (which is also located on a higher place), just put something where he can walk through, like a ramp or mini stairs.

        Cat Condos or Cat Trees

        Older cats have a hard time reaching high places, especially if they are stiff, in pain or have arthritis, and might miscalculate on jumping that may lead to them falling off. Provide easy ways for cats to access their favorite areas, such as using a ramp or small foot stool to give them access to high surfaces. There are some cat condos and cat trees that are safe enough for your old cat to use, such as this one on activefelinesolutions.com.au which has a soft surface and built-in cat scratching post.

        Scratching Posts

        Your old kitty might still want to scratch but can find it hard, especially if using a scratching post. Instead, you could provide a horizontal scratching post or a scratching board instead, made of softer materials such as carpet a softer variant of sisal fabric, and it will be easier for your cat to scratch down and stretch out anytime without hassle.

        Taking care of old kitties bring a lot of delight and comfort that a lot of people routinely adopt older cats due to their captivating qualities. Due to their limited physical capabilities, older cats tend to stay at home and enjoy gentle love from their owners. All cats, just like us humans, also deserves a good retirement full of joy and affection after a lot of years of service to us. For more information please visit Cat Health Care Tips.

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