Your Aging Cat
What you should know
Cats age differently than we do. In fact, by the time your cat turns 1 year old, she’s a teenager around 15 years in human time! To get a better idea of how old your cat is in people years, we’ve included the following chart outlining, roughly, how a cat’s age compares to a human’s age.
Birth - 6 months
Equivalent Human Age
7 months - 2 years
3 - 6 years
7 - 10 years
11 - 14 years
As you can see, it’s a bit different. Keeping how a cat ages in mind, when should you consider your cat and older cat? According to www.vet.cornell.edu, cats are living longer due to improved science and veterinary medicine, just as people are because of medical advances, and while 7 or 8 years of age used to be the standard for considering a cat a senior, today it’s more in the 12-14 year old range that we consider a cat to be in his senior years.
While a cats’ growing older is not a disease, says Richard Goldstein, DVM, assistant professor in small animal medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, it is true that senior cats are more likely to get different conditions, and some are perfectly normal and don’t change at all. (www.vet.cornell.edu). For this reason, it’s important to have your cat checked on a regular basis by your veterinarian to catch anything that might come up and correct or manage it before things get too far along.
Stay tuned for our coming write ups on aging Cats:
Behavioral changes in older Cats
Kidney Concerns in Aging Cats
Top 10 things you can do to help your cat age well
We've compiled a Shortlist of signs that may suggest a problem that you can always come back to for reference:
(please note that this is not a complete list of potential symptoms or problems)
Abnormal urine color/smell
Blood in the stool
Collapsing or seizures
Decreased and/or painful urination
Decreased defecation frequency
Dry/hard stool, Painful defecation, Dark or tarry appearing stool
Difficulty breathing/rapid breathing (more than 35 breaths per minute)
Lesions on the skin
litter box difficulties
Redness, swelling, bleeding gums
Redness/swelling/soreness of the footpads,
Sores that do not heal
Weight loss increased thirst
Unkempt appearance of coat or skin
Many vets will ask to see your cat on a senior schedule of twice a year starting around the age of 7 or 8 years old. The reason for this is that changes in a cat, be it from disease, illness, or age, are not always noticeable in a cat to the untrained eye until it may be too late. Cats are masters of hiding anything that might be wrong with them, and sometimes by the time their owner notices and makes a vet appointment, the disease or illness may have progressed passed the point of being able to do anything about it. With regular vet checks for your aging cat, many of these things can be spotted through blood work and physical exams much sooner than they would be if one waited until signs began to show that something was wrong. As cats age, they do tend to slow down and may have different nutrition requirements, as well as healthcare and vet checks that should be performed, so be sure and stay in close contact with your vet.
Older cats have different food and exercise needs, as well, which are both very important in maintaining a healthy cat! While younger cats race around and exercise themselves, older cats might not, so make sure you do what you can to help your cat get enough exercise and play time! Remember to keep things within his range of activity and not over do it. As for food, your trusted vet will be able to let you know if there are any dietary changes that need to be made.
An older cats immune system may not always be as strong as a younger cat, so the better quality exercise and food, along with supplementation, he gets from you can help him stay stronger longer and fight off illnesses, too. Another big thing to keep in mind with older cats is hydration. Hydration is a very important thing for cats and if your cat is eating dry kibble, it’s even more important, so keep an eye on your cats water intake. A cat who’s not drinking enough water can run into some serious health problems if his water intake is not managed properly. Dehydration in cats can cause problems in their energy, skin and organ function, as well as compromising their immune system function, so it’s definitely an important thing to consider, especially in an aging cat!
One way to help your cat with water consumption is to feed some wet food, either alongside her kibble or instead of. To give you an idea of the difference in water intake with dry vs. wet, dry kibble contains 7-12% water, while canned food can measure up to 80% water. So if you feed your cat a straight dry kibble diet, be very sure that they have access to clean, fresh water at all times! Water fountains are also a great way to encourage your cat to drink more water. They tend to enjoy running water and drinking fountains for cats make it fun for them to take in more of it!
Aging cats can sometimes tend to be less effective groomers, too, so it’s important for you to help them out when they need it with regular grooming. The reason for this could be stiffness or the onset of arthritis or other aging cat related issues. It’s always good to stay in close contact with your vet to check anything that might come up. It’s better to ask the questions and have your vet do a check to find nothing wrong than to not ask and have it be something serious. Problems can occur and progress quite quickly in an older cat so the sooner you and your vet are able to catch anything, the better!
All cats love warmer temperatures, and older cats especially so. Make sure that your cat has access to warm places, both high and low, in case as he ages, he may not be able to reach the higher spots he used to enjoy so much. Consider some pet steps or shelves that make it possible for him to get to some higher places that he used to like but can’t reach anymore. Litter boxes can also be a concern for older cats. If you have a cat that’s never had litter box issues and then suddenly begins to have ‘accidents’, check with your vet, as it could be some arthritis or other condition that needs treatment. Lower sided cat litter boxes may help your cat access his bathroom facilities easier as he ages, as can steps created to walk into the box.
The same type of memory changes that humans experience can also occur in cats. Wandering, excessive meowing and disorientation can all happen with cats as they age. This doesn’t mean they’re not long for this world anymore, though, just that they may require a bit more attention and help with things.
Watch for any changes in your cat’s behavior, habits and personality. While things you notice may not seem like a big deal, it’s always suggested to have a vet check your cat out. What may not seem like an issue to you, could be the start of something serious if not treated. Even a change in bathroom habits is something to bring to your vets’ attention. If you think something might be off with your furry feline, whether big or small, it’s Always best to contact your trusted veterinarian immediately, as some things that may not seem that bad to you may, in fact, be quite serious, and in some cases fatal!
There are a lot of things to keep an eye on when it comes to older cats, and while we’ve only glossed over a few aging cat concerns here, we will be covering different issues weekly right here on Your Aging Cat page! Check back often for new posts and information, and if you have a question about your aging cat you’d like to have discussed, please email us and let us know! We’ll look into your issue and find the resources to address your concerns on The Kurious Kat!