There was a time when if a cat reached the age of 10 we applauded its long life and figured it was done. But these days it is not uncommon to have senior cats live to be 15, 18, occasionally even 20 years old! Veterinary medicine has enabled our senior cats to live longer lives, but the extended geriatric years they experience have created a unique set of needs. Fortunately, the same medical practices that lengthened our cat’s lives have also given us the tools to make sure those lives are full and comfortable.
Senior cats, which by today’s standards are ten years and older, encounter several issues as they age.
- Arthritis can make grooming difficult. The loss of the ability to fully retract their nails means they can snag more easily on carpet and bedding.
- Kidney issues may create litter box problems.
- Weight management problems can range from obesity to muscle loss.
- Decline in cognitive function can lead to social issues.
Like humans, senior cats can develop arthritic issues. Degenerating joint tissues can make movement painful, which often results in reduced grooming. Because of this, it is important to brush your senior cat on a regular basis. Having a daily groom session will also allow you to check for lumps or bumps and skin issues. Senior cats often lose the ability to fully retract their claws in their senior years. It is important to keep their nails trimmed so that they do not get snagged on the carpet, bedding, or furniture, which can cause injury to the toe and nail bed.
One of the biggest issues facing senior cats centers around the litter box. Kidney functions may decrease, causing your cat increased thirst and increased urination. This results in accidents outside the litter box, refusal to use the litter box or incontinence issues.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important throughout a cat’s entire life, but especially so during its senior years. Extra weight can put a strain on an arthritic skeletal structure. An overweight cat is more prone to becoming diabetic. Liver disease is more likely with a heavy cat. Weight loss can also be a problem in senior cats, indicating issues such as kidney, thyroid or dental disease.
Most of these issues can be managed with medication and adjustments to the living environment.
- Senior blood work to monitor health of organs
- Regular grooming/brushing to maintain healthy skin and coat
- Maintain a healthy weight by feeding the proper amount of food
- Flip the Lip!/check teeth for dental disease
- Use a litter box with lower sides for ease of access
- Elevate food and water bowls
- Provide a safe location to soak up some sun
Senior cats are amazing companions. There is something to be said for those years after the silly kitten antics calm down. If you take steps to monitor and maintain the health of your older cat, chances are they will be around to provide comfort and companionship for many more years to come.