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Old Cats – Caring for Senior Cats

Old Cats – Caring for Senior Cats

With the process in veterinary care and medicine, our senior cats are enjoying longer than they ever before. In today's blog, our Los Angeles vets discuss how you can keep your senior cat happy and healthy.

A Cat's Age in Human Years

Cats age differently, just like humans. Many cats begin to change physically between the age of 7 and 10 years old, and most will begin by approximately 12 years old. While people often say that one "cat year" equals to 7 "human years", this isn't quite accurate. Instead, we should remember that a cat's first year is similar to the development of a 16-year-old human.

At 2 years old, a cat is more similar to a human between 21 to 24 years old. After that, each year for a cat equals roughly four human years (for example a 10-year-old cat= a 53-year-old human; a 12-year-old cat = a 61-year-old human; a 15-year-old cat = a 73-year-old human, etc.)

Once felines reach 11 years of age, they are classified as "seniors". If your cat is over 15 years old, they are considered a "super senior". To properly care for older cats, it can be beneficial to compare their age to human years, as it may aid in comprehending any health concerns that may arise.

Aging Cats

As cats age, they undergo physical and behavioral changes similar to humans. Although aging is not a disease, it is crucial to keep your veterinarian informed of any changes in your senior cat's condition. This will help ensure they receive the best possible geriatric veterinary care. Keep an eye out for the following changes:

Physical changes

  • Grooming & appearance. As cats get older, they may have trouble grooming themselves properly, leading to tangled or greasy fur. This can cause skin odors, inflammation, and painful mats in their hair. Senior cats often have long, brittle, or thick claws that require extra attention from their caregivers. You may also notice changes in their eyes, such as a lacy or slightly cloudy appearance. Although their vision is usually not significantly affected, certain diseases related to high blood pressure can permanently impair a cat's sight.
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain.  Older cats may experience weight loss, which can indicate various problems like kidney and heart disease, as well as diabetes. Dental issues are common in aging cats and can make eating difficult, leading to weight loss and malnutrition. Oral health problems can also cause significant mouth pain.
  • Physical activity & abilities. Degenerative joint disease or arthritis often affects older cats, making it harder for them to reach their food and water bowls, beds, and litter boxes. Jumping or climbing stairs may become challenging for them. While changes in sleep patterns are normal as cats age, a significant increase in sleep or deep sleep may be a reason for concern and should prompt a visit to the vet. A noticeable increase in energy could be a sign of hyperthyroidism and should be evaluated. Hearing loss is also common among geriatric cats and should be assessed by a veterinarian for various reasons.

Behavioral changes

  • Cognitive issues.  If your cat starts getting confused by their daily routine tasks or objects, it could be a sign of memory or cognition issues. Behavioral changes such as litterbox accidents or avoidance, new or increased human avoidance, wandering, excessive meowing, and seeming disorientated, are also potential signs of mental confusion or feline senility and should be examined by your vet.
  • Issues caused by disease.  Cats may show aggression if they are in pain due to health problems like dental disease or arthritis. It's crucial to monitor your cat's mood because they tend to hide discomfort. Diseases and disorders affecting urination (e.g. diabetes, kidney failure) can cause an increase in litterbox usage, which may lead to cats eliminating in inappropriate areas. Senior cats with mobility issues caused by joint inflammation may struggle to access or climb into their litterbox, especially if stairs are involved. This can result in them eliminating inappropriate places, and it should be addressed by a vet.

Caring for Senior Cats

Taking care of a senior cat requires different methods compared to caring for kittens or middle-aged cats. Your observations play a crucial role in ensuring your senior cat's happiness and wellbeing. By making slight adjustments to your grooming, feeding, and interactions with your cat, you can easily detect any changes in your aging pet without putting on any pressure.

  • Grooming: Brushing your cat's fur, trimming their claws, and brushing their teeth are great ways to keep older cats clean and healthy, while also checking for changes in their fur, skin, nose, eyes, ears, and claws.
  • Nutrition: A lot of cats get heavy or even obese as they get older, which can be controlled with diet and activity if the weight gain is non-medical. Other weight issues include elderly cats being underweight, which may be caused by a variety of medical conditions and should be assessed by a veterinarian.
  • Home life: Older cats can be more sensitive to changes in routine or household, which can lead to stress. Patience and accommodations (extra affection, a favorite toy or blanket, a quiet room for them to stay in) go a long way to helping your senior cat adjust to upsetting changes. Don't forget to keep playing with your cat as they age; mental and physical stimulation is beneficial for their well-being.
  • Vet care: Because cats are adept at hiding illness until it is advanced or severe, it's important to take them regularly to the vet for wellness checks even if they seem perfectly healthy. Your veterinarian will also be able to monitor any conditions that your senior cat may have, and catch any potential or emerging issues early when they're more treatable. their behavior and health.

Vet Care for Senior Cats

Your knowledge about your cat and your observations are valuable assets for your veterinarian. Regular wellness check-ups are also important. If your cat has specific needs or a medical condition, your vet might recommend more frequent physical evaluations.

When examining a senior cat, the vet will assess the cat's weight, condition of the skin and fur, organ systems, behavior, and conduct diagnostic tests for common conditions seen in older cats.

By combining proper homecare and working cooperatively with your vet, you can significantly improve your senior cat's quality of life and bring happiness to both your pet and your family.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Want some more info on how you can care for your senior cat? Contact our Los Angeles vets to learn more.

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