A senior or ageing cat: what to keep in mind?
Senior cats are more prone to discomforts than young, vigorous cats. What to keep in mind and how to help a senior cat lead a happy life? Here are some tips for enjoying life together with your senior cat! After all, older cats deserve our special attention.
Cat years versus human years
On average, cats live for about 15 years. But it isn’t uncommon for a cat to reach the age of 20. Provided with the proper care, your cat can reach a very respectable age in good health. Remember: 20 years for a cat is the equivalent of around 90 human years. Cats that have reached the age of 10 are considered ageing or senior. Multiply the age of a cat by roughly 4.5 to compare its age to that of humans.
What discomforts are ageing cats prone to?
Ageing cats tend to suffer from aching muscles and bones as a result of worn joints; this condition is also known as arthrosis and it affects a lot of ageing cats. Symptoms of arthrosis include difficulties with walking, reduced mobility and reduced jumping behaviour. Perhaps your cat used to jump onto the couch in one smooth motion but now it needs more time to think about it or it takes twice as long to reach its favourite spot. Because cats do not like to show their pain, they may begin to avoid spots that are difficult to reach. Keep an eye on your cat to make sure you will notice any behavioural changes.
A frequently occurring problem among senior cats is kidney failure. Symptoms are frequent urination and increased thirst as well as throwing up, reduced appetite and bad breath. There are various types of kidney failure, ranging from infections to kidney stones and more. When in doubt, always consult your vet.
Overly active thyroid gland
An overly active thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) is a typical ageing-associated disease among cats. Cats with hyperthyroidism tend to be very skinny even though they eat and drink enough. They may be overly active and have an elevated heart rate and other heart issues. Always have a vet examine your cat if you suspect this affliction. It may cause a lot of discomfort and permanent damage.
Taking care of its coat may become increasingly difficult as your cat suffers reduced flexibility. Your cat may get an untended appearance as a result or suffer from infections due to accumulated dirt. Lend your cat a helping hand by brushing it on a regular basis.
Dental problems such as plaque, worn teeth and molars or cavities are commonplace among senior cats. Have your cat’s teeth examined every year to avoid dental problems.
Reduced sense of taste and smell
A reduced sense of taste and smell may cause your cat to reduce its food and water intake. Pay attention to make sure you will notice it when it happens.
Diabetes is commonplace among cats. Younger cats can be affected too, though it tends to emerge in ageing and senior cats. The disease may be caused by reduced insulin hormone function, reduced mobility or obesity. Read all about diabetes here.
What can I do to help my ageing cat?
Adjusting its living environment
There are various adjustments and options for offering your senior cat a comfortable life. This may include a step to reach its favourite spot, allowing it to enjoy its elevated view or look outside from the windowsill. Get a litterbox with a low entry to make it easier for your cat to get in and avoid undesirable behaviour such as urinating outside the litterbox.
When your cat is in pain, it is likely to reduce its activity level. And yet, exercise remains important for keeping its bones and muscles flexible and avoiding obesity. Let your senior cat play with a toy at its own pace or stimulate it to exercise using a feeding ball. Steps leading to its favourite spots also stimulate exercise. A win-win situation: your cat gets to enjoy its favourite spot and gets some physical exercise at the same time.
In addition, make sure to provide your cat with proper care. Mind its coat and brush it more frequently to help it get rid of old hair if necessary. Clean its ears and nose every now and then and make sure its nails aren’t too long. Reduced activity and nail sharpening behaviour may cause them to grow too long. Read all about how to provide your cat with proper care here.
Each stage of your cat’s life is associated with a specific quantity and type of food. A reduced sense of smell and taste as well as poor dental health may cause your senior cat to eat and drink less. This will lead to a shortage of nutrients that are vital for its health, requiring you to adjust its diet; senior cats tend to find soft wet food easier to consume than hard kibble. Plus, it contains a lot of water which helps keep your cat hydrated. Do make sure that your cat always has access to a bowl of fresh drinking water and keep some kibble in stock. Some cats like to eat kibble every now and then and it can help avoid dental plaque. Not all senior cats suffer from reduced appetite, but they do tend to become less mobile. This combination may cause obesity which in turn may lead to diabetes.
Peace and routine
Cats love routine. Senior cats in particular tend to stick to what they are used to doing and getting. Make sure your cat isn’t subjected to too much change to avoid unnecessary stress. In addition, make sure it can always reach its favourite spot where it can sleep peacefully and without being interrupted.
Tip: have a senior cat examined by a vet twice a year to catch any health problems early on. When in doubt about your cat’s health, always take it to the vet.
Enjoy your cat’s old age together!