Author, Darlene Wagner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
Your favorite feline will be an official senior citizen once he turns 10 years old. Sure, as with humans, kitty ailments are more of a concern as they age, but these days, with proper care and advancements in veterinary medicine, cats are living into their late teens and even early 20s. So there’s no need to panic if your purr-fect pal is getting older, but it IS time to start taking steps to insure he stays as happy and healthy as possible throughout his senior years.
The Pre-Teen Years
By the time most felines turn 10, behavioral changes become more noticeable. Your cat has likely slowed down a bit; you may notice your cat isn’t jumping up onto high surfaces as much, or he’s no longer climbing to the uppermost perch on the cat tree. He may be more easily stressed if his daily routine is changed, or something new is added to his environment. Or perhaps he doesn’t run out to greet you when you get home, as he once did. And how about his increased vocabulary? What’s up with that?
Older cats can suffer from many of the same health challenges older people face, including arthritis, thyroid issues, diabetes, and kidney disease, making it of the utmost importance to schedule twice-yearly wellness visits with your veterinarian. The sooner a change in your kitty’s health is identified and addressed, the easier it will be to resolve or manage the problem.
When visiting your vet, mention any and all behavioral changes you’ve noticed in your cat, no matter how minor they may seem, as these can provide important clues about health problems that may be brewing under the surface. It’s also important for you and your vet to keep regular tabs on your cat’s weight, to assure he isn’t gaining or shrinking over time.
The Teenage Years
From 13 to 15 years of age, most cats are moving quite a bit slower than they once did, many experience at least some vision and hearing loss, and may also have less tolerance for cold temperatures. Teenage cats can develop age-related dementia, making small changes in their environment or routine increasingly stressful and confusing.
Along with increased napping and less activity, you may notice your typically friendly feline become a bit cranky and easily irritated. If your household includes young children and/or a frisky canine, everyone should learn to approach kitty in a quiet, non-aggressive manner. Have a multi-pet household? It’s important to keep your younger pets from bullying your aging cat, as they may sense a change in the natural pecking order and become more aggressive toward him.
Does it seem like your cuddly companion prefers spending more time alone? This is normal behavior for an aging feline. Enhance his feelings of safety and security by making his favorite hideout a warm, comfy little retreat. But keep in mind, older cats still need to interact with their human family regularly. Engage him in gentle play, an ear scratching session, some lap time, or a bit of brushing or combing.
Continue with twice-yearly veterinary checkups as they are essential in order to safeguard your teenager’s health. Your vet will perform a geriatric workup, including a physical exam with blood, urine, and stool sample tests. The results of these tests will provide a snapshot of how well your cat’s organs are functioning, and point to any potential problems. Have your vet check the condition of your kitty’s coat and skin, his footpads and nails, and his teeth and gums as well.
Sweet 16 and Up
First off, if you’re lucky enough to share your life with a cat of 16 years or more – congratulations! You’ve done a great job!
Now, it’s reasonable to compare your 16 year-old feline to an 80-year-old human. He’ll move and think more slowly, and may have an assortment of age-related health challenges. He’s likely not as alert or responsive as he once was, and maybe even seems confused at times. Even if he’s still in good health, chances are he’s sleeping more, interacting less, has reduced his grooming time, is vocalizing more, and maybe even having accidents outside his litter box.
As long as you keep bi-annual vet visits and look out for significant or sudden changes in your senior’s health and/or behavior (such as changes in appetite or potty habits, aggressive behavior, mental confusion, etc.), there’s no need to worry. Ensure he is comfortable, secure and relaxed by having a consistent daily routine and providing him with a quiet, cozy retreat with bedding and a toy or two.
Interested in ways you can help your favorite feline through his senior years? Read our accompanying blog entitled “Tips for Helping Your Senior Cat Age Gracefully and Comfortably.”
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Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
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