As your cat ages into its senior years it will face physical and mental changes. They will sleep deeply more often. They probably won't be jumping up on your counters. They may struggle to maintain their weight or even become overweight. In general they may appear to be "slowing down". There are things that we can do to help our beloved felines enjoy their golden years. It would be a mistake to assume that slowing down is just age. Always rule out a medical condition by visiting your veterinarian for a complete physical exam.
A senior cat should visit their veterinarian twice a year for a thorough examination and for diagnostic testing. Senior bloodwork can reveal health issues not yet showing clinical signs. Early diagnosis and treatment of any health concerns can allow you extra time with your pet. A visit to your veterinarian is highly recommended if they are showing any of the following signs:
- not grooming themselves-becoming matted or greasy/flaky
- bald patches
- increase OR decrease in appetite or thirst
- losing OR gaining weight
- blood in urine
- difficulty urinating or defecating
- large amounts of urine in the litter box
- hard or very dry stools
- coughing or any difficulty breathing
- any lumps or swellings
Your senior cat may start to have some changes in their vision, hearing or even their taste. Cats do an excellent job of compensating for these changes. It is very important that we take care to notice them. If your cat's sense of taste and smell are decreasing they may become less interested in eating. Adding a wet food into their diet or warming their canned food can make it more enticing. Both are great ways to increase hydration and make sure they are eating well too.
An older cat is more interested in laying in a sunny window or curling up in a warm lap. Plus they are less curious than a younger cat. Mellowing can be expected with age however most behavioral changes are related to health issues. Major personality changes such as, a normally feisty cat becoming quiet or a usually cuddly kitty becoming cranky can be a concerning sign. Be sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure it is only normal aging.
Senility is also seen in cats and is referred to as cognitive dysfunction. You may notice your cat pacing, forgetting to use the litter box or even where to find the litter box. Your senior cat may walk around disoriented and meowing in the middle of the night.
The most common health issues that arise in aging cats are related to the thyroid and kidneys. Hyperthyroidism is common among older cats . The overproduction of thyroid hormone leads to increasing metabolism to the point where a cat burns off too much of their body weight. Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause heart and liver problems .There are three ways to treat Hyperthyroid cats: Radiotherapy, surgery or with medication. Your veterinarian can help you decide which treatment is most appropriate for your cat. Kidney disease is another very common illness in senior cats. This can be either chronic or acute. Treatment options can vary depending on the type and severity of the disease . Treatment may include fluid therapy, medications, prescription diets and/or surgery.
Liver disease can also occur. The four common causes in older cats are; Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver),Lymphoma( cancer),Feline Infectious Peritonitis or Cholangiohepatitis. Hypertension is often seen in senior cats though usually associated with another medical condition. Dental disease can be the leading cause for a decreased appetite and bad breath, tartar and gum disease.
Aging cats often become arthritic as well. They may need help getting onto furniture or into litter boxes. Ramps or steps can help make it easier for them to get to their favorite spots. Litter boxes can be moved to more convenient places and should also be easy to get in and out of. High sided and/or hooded litter boxes can be challenging. Litter boxes in the basement or top floor can be difficult for a tired old cat to manage.
Cats today have a life span of around 20 years. The golden years of your cats life are a great time for relaxing. So curl up with your beloved feline friend and just enjoy each other! Eagle Animal Hospital serves Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding areas.
written by Keri LinsenBigler CVT