If you have lived with your cat since it was young then you have a good understanding of what is normal for your cat in the way of behavior and habits. Changes in a cat's behavior or habits can be a sign of illness. These can be subtle and gradual. For this reason, it is extremely important to bring your cat for an annual examination until 8 years of age and then semi-annually after the age of 8.
A focus of senior cat veterinary appointments is to identify illnesses that may be in an early stage and plan for treatment and management of any symptoms that may be causing discomfort. There are many illnesses that can be managed with diet and sometimes medications may significantly improve the wellbeing of your cat. It is through the partnership and collaboration of the cat owner and veterinary team that we can best address and manage senior cat issues for the best outcome.
Specific Age Related Issues For Senior Cats
Changes in the cat's body that are common as a cat ages include:
- Altered sleep-wake cycle
- Changes in thyroid function
- Decrease in kidney function
- Changes in vision
- Decreased sense of smell
- Brittle/ingrown nails
- Heart and circulatory problems
- Decreased digestion and ability to absorb nutrients
- Reduced ability to handle stress
- Changes in behavior
- Changes in mobility/arthritis
In addition to a stimulating environment, owners of elderly cats can expect to be responsible for things like:
- Making sure sleeping and eating areas are easily accessible
- Adjusting physically challenging areas for easy access
- More frequent veterinary visits
- Dispensing medication
- Lifestyle accommodations
Understanding your expanded role in the life of your elderly cat is essential to helping him or her age healthily. At your next appointment, we would be happy to give you some insight on how to ensure your cat enjoys a smooth transition into his or her elderly years.
Wellness Visits For Senior Cats
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends that senior cats be seen by a veterinarian every six months. Because cats age faster than people, that means almost two (kitty) years will pass between visits. It is important to monitor elderly cats in-between visits because cats are very good at hiding symptoms of disease or illness. As cats age, illnesses become increasingly common. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that mature cats, senior cats, and geriatric cats will likely begin to develop one or more conditions that will significantly affect their quality of life.
A typical wellness visit for senior cats includes checking the following:
- Thorough review of habits and behaviors
- Weight and Body Condition
- Skin and Coat Quality
- Mouth, Gums, and Teeth
- Ears and Eyes
- Thyroid Gland
- Heart and Circulatory System
- Lungs and Nose
- Joints and Muscles
- Any condition changes since the last visit
Additionally, wellness visits for senior cats can also include vaccinations, parasite prevention, and treatment for any specific conditions that your senior cat may be developing.
Dental Care In Senior Cats
As cats enter their senior years, those who have addressed dental care with regular dental checkups throughout their life, have a significant advantage over cats who have ignored their dental issues. Regardless of whether dental care has been a mainstay of your cat's preventative program, it will be extremely important as it ages. Dental disease is a gradual but painful degenerative condition. Living with chronic pain is very stressful and will significantly impact your cat's well being. Your cat won't let you know that they are in pain, however, the fact is that all cats over 4 years of age have some level of oral health issues, and these conditions do cause significant pain. If your cat has not had a dental checkup in over a year, they are definitely due. Schedule an appointment today.
Managing Disease In Elderly Cats
As your cat ages, he or she becomes more susceptible to the myriad of diseases commonly found to plague elderly cats. Managing disease, whether this means preventing or treating one or more at a time, requires a knowledge of the ailment, and also spotting symptoms in elderly cats before they become full-blown emergencies. This is why it is essential to monitor your cat's behavior and routine and note any changes, including:
- Weight Loss
- Increase in thirst and urination
- Litter Box Habits
If you witness or suspect any changes in behavior or routine for your mature, senior or geriatric cat, make a veterinary appointment immediately.
We are here to help our furry cat patients age gracefully, peacefully, and comfortably by offering comprehensive senior cat care services. Aging cats rely on the love and care of owners and a collaborative relationship with their doctor as they grow into their later years. Contact us to learn more about how we've helped better the lives of thousands of aging cats while bringing peace and happiness to their human caretakers.