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Tips on caring for your aging cat
While our cats do live shorter lives than we do, the average life of a cat has increased over the years thanks to veterinary medical technology and advancement! But with our cats living longer lives, there are some things to take into account as they get older when it comes to their care and their needs.
With aging comes new responsibilities for every species, including our fuzzy feline babies. Handling your cat’s aging process can be difficult at times, as your cat can go through many physiological changes, as well as emotional ones. While we cannot slow down time, we can manage the health of our beloved kitties and help them transition into this new phase of their lives.
Remember that age is not a disease and that there are things you can do to help your cat stay young at heart and feel his or her very best.
Vital Vet Visits!
Senior cats should see the vet roughly every six months for checkups. Much can change in six months for a cat, especially as they age. You want to keep track of changes in behavior, mobility, and eating habits to share with your vet. This way, you can create a plan to keep your cat’s golden years gleaming!
While your cat may not have the energy of a kitten anymore, it is still vital that your senior cat exercise their mind and body. Daily mental and physical stimulation is essential for older cats to help slow cognitive decline. Be sure you are playing with your cat and challenging her, keeping her happy and entertained. Boredom in any animal can lead to overeating, depression, health and behavioral problems. If you need tips for enrichment, check it out here:
Like us, cats may require some assistance and environmental changes to maximize their comfort as they age. Place litter boxes, food, and water in easily accessible locations. If you have stairs in your home, create spaces for your cat to eat and use the litter box on all levels of the house. Some aging cats may experience hearing and vision loss, making it more difficult to navigate at times, especially in the dark. Night lights can help, and consistency in your cat's
surroundings will help, too. Buying kitty steps for them to better access beds and couches for cuddles is also a great idea!, You can easily find kitty steps online, or even try a Do It Yourself (DIY) option that works for you.
Comforts for Kings & Queens
Older cats may need more warmth and padding to stay comfortable and cozy, and they need accessible and comfortable places to rest. Some of your cat’s favorite cat napping places may become harder to access for her as she ages, so make sure their napping areas are reachable for them and that their needs and limitations are taken into account as they get older. As mentioned before, you can always find DIY options like cat shelves that help them get to their favorite spots. Keep your cat’s health and personality in mind when making a comfy kitty space, and remember you can never have too many soft blankets!
Aging may cause the most proper cats to misuse their litter box and have 'accidents' outside of the litter box. This is completely normal, as they do not always have control and may be trying to tell you something. House soiling may be caused by a number of health issues such as urinary tract infections, arthritis, and more, so if accidents begin to happen, be sure to contact your vet right away to have your cat checked. That way you can either rule out or confirm an issue that can be treated and/or corrected. Monitor their bathroom activities and make sure to look when you scoop! Color, odor, and consistency changes in urine or fecal matter are always a cause for a vet visit. Litter boxes must be easy to access and enter, located in a quiet & private space where they won’t be startled, and cleaned daily. Be patient with your kitty, as they need your love and support as they get older! Your senior cat may even need a new type of litter box with lower sides, as the onset of arthritis can sometimes make it difficult for your cat to get into a box that used to work just fine for them.
Diet & Supplements
As always, keep an eye on your furball’s eating habits and quantities. You should also feed her a senior-appropriate diet. A cats food should be high in protein, species appropriate and easily digestible for them. If needed explore foods that are formulated for her age group with your cat nutritionist or veterinary nutritionist. Hydration is also vital in a cat’s diet, especially as they age, so establish wet food as a daily staple for them. Another option for aging cats is supplements. Those containing glucosamine/chondroitin can support joint health, strengthen cartilage, and even avert cognitive decline. Always check your vet, however, before giving your cat any supplements or vitamins, and report any weight changes or eating habit changes immediately!
Grooming and Dental
While cats are famous for their dedication to their beauty routine, it may become more difficult for them as time progresses to keep themselves clean. That is why brushing, combing and claw trimming should be scheduled regularly. Claws may dig into their paw pads as they age if not tended to, which may also be hard to notice. Dental checkups can also be conducted by simply looking for changes in odor, bleeding, or discomfort while eating. While your cat may not love having her teeth checked or even brushed, grooming can be a great way to connect with her and strengthen your bond. This can help increase her tolerance on being handled, making the dental check, and perhaps a tooth brushing a bit easier.
Strengthening your bond or establishing one with your senior cat creates a safe and loving space for her. You may notice that she craves more attention as an elderly kitty than she did when she was younger, so be sure to provide a nurturing space filled with physical and mental stimulation! Spending time with your aging cat reminds them that they are just as important to you as you are to them. Talk to your cat, they understand more than you think! Calm, soothing tones in your voice bring comfort while bonding the two of you closer.
The relationship with your older cat is special and should be cherished. No matter how long you have been with your cat, this is a period in their lives where they need love and encouragement, as aging can be tough on both of you. Pets and animals give us life, love, wonder, and companionship, sticking by our side through all our human troubles. The least we can do for their mountainous contribution to our lives, is to make theirs as perfect as possible in their golden years!
Just remember to keep an eye on your cats as they age. If there are any changes, be sure to contact your vet right away, and get your cat in for a check up as soon as possible. The sooner you can catch things in an aging cat, the more likely it is you can continue down a healthy road. Cats can live a lot longer than dogs, well into their late teens and even 20's, so we wish you and your cat(s) the very happiest and healthy of times!
Article Written by Taelyn Livingston