Older Cats, Caring Can Increase Life SpanKeith
Looking After Your Older Cat
Cats will take less exercise, may start to put on weight and their personality may change. Some cats become friendlier and want to spend more time with their owners. Others become grumpier and do not like being touched. Many cats sleep more/go out less. However, changes in personality can be a sign of pain or illness so it is worth checking with your vet.
What happens during ageing?
Ageing affects the skin and it becomes less elastic. The coat loses its shine and white hairs can appear. Hearing and sight fade and memory may be affected. Sleep patterns often change as many older cats sleep more, although some become wakeful at night.
The muscles and bones become weaker and the immune system does not work as well, so your pet becomes less capable of fighting off infection. Internal organs such as the heart, liver and the kidneys can deteriorate. Other changes make the mouth drier and swallowing can be more difficult.
However, improvements in medicine mean that there are treatments available. Age is not a reason to accept ill health and even old cats can lead happy, active lives. Keeping your cat mentally active may help to keep them feeling young – try hiding titbits for them to find round the house, but make it easy at first to avoid frustration. Try new toys as even older cats like to play.
When do cats start to get old?
Middle age for most cats is now generally considered to start at seven years.
As your cat ages, it’s kind to provide an indoor litter tray, even if your cat normally goes outdoors. Because they must be slower older cats may feel vulnerable outside and having an indoor tray will help prevent toileting problems.
Feeding the older cat
It is common for older cats to develop medical conditions that cause them to lose weight, such as kidney and thyroid disease. If your cat is losing weight, consult your vet as soon as poss. Other cats acquire a middle-aged spread and it is essential that this be kept under control. Overweight cats are unlikely to live as long and they are prone to illnesses such as kidney disease, diabetes and arthritis.
Cats vary in size from petite to large, so weight alone doesn’t tell you much. The only way to tell if your pet is overweight is to examine it. Can you see an hourglass waist when viewed from above? Can you feel your pet’s ribs with light finger pressure? If the answer to these questions is “no”, reduce food intake. And if your pet has a potbelly as well, it is definitely time to go on a diet.
It may be better to follow one of the many senior diets, they are lower in calories and reduce the likelihood of weight gain. Protein restriction has not been proven to be beneficial for healthy cats, but is helpful for cats with kidney problems.
If your cat is losing weight consult your vet in case there is an underlying medical problem and discuss whether following a senior diet is advisable.
If your cat is looking unkempt or developing matted fur, go to the vet. There may be dental or joint problems that are affecting the ability to groom. Regular grooming is important.
Keep a check on the claws. Younger cats often do not need claw trimming, but reduced activity can result in the claws overgrowing. They can curl round and even grow into the foot.