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Commonly Asked Questions About Senior Cats

By: Virginia Wells

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Q: Why did my gentle cat scratch at me/my child?        

A: Senior cats display aggression for several reasons. Does your cat have vision problems? Is he hard of hearing? If so, you may have surprised him. The physical and mental symptoms of aging also increase your cat's stress level. Because of arthritis or other movement restrictions, he may not be able to remove himself from an annoying situation as he once could. Changes – moving, a new family member, a high noise level, the quick movements of children – can be frightening, adding to his stress and its resulting aggression. Don't leave your own child or a visitor alone with an aggressive senior cat, even though there hasn't been a problem in the past.

Q: Why doesn't my cat groom as much as he used to?

If bending or moving due to arthritis or another condition is difficult for your cat, he may wash himself less often. Expect to offer increased assistance in the grooming department to help him maintain a clean, soft coat. Your cat may be less able to cough up hairballs, so regular brushing will help keep them from forming. If your cat resists being combed or brushed due to decrease in muscle mass or skin elasticity, use a soft-bristled brush or grooming glove. Pet wipes will help keep his coat clean. If your cat uses his scratching post less often, clip his nails to keep them from becoming ingrown.

Q: Why has my cat forgotten her house-training?

A: Problems associated with age may make your cat avoid the litter box. Mobility problems may prevent him from descending the basement stairs to get to the box or getting into the box, so you may have to place the box in a more accessible location or find one with lower sides. Various illnesses such as diabetes or kidney problems may cause your cat to urinate more often which requires that you clean the box more frequently than before. If your cat has diarrhea, for example, he may deposit his wastes without covering them.

Q: Why is my cat constipated?

A: Constipation is common in elderly cats due to dehydration, poor muscle tone in the large intestine (called megacolon) and lack of bulk in the stool. If dehydration is a factor, the stools will be dry, hard and crumbly. If the stools are very small, you may need to increase the fiber in the diet to help move food through the intestines. You may also need to feed him smaller meals more frequently.

Q: Why does my cat like being with me?

A: Your cat may become more clingy as she ages, wanting to be with you every moment of the day or night. If your cat has lost some of his sensory perception, being with his human companion may be a stabilizing influence in his daily life. As a cat ages, he loses his ability to adjust to changes in temperatures. His drier skin and thinner hair offer him less protection and his metabolism makes him less resilient. If his vision and hearing are not as sharp as they once were, he may be frightened of being out in the open.


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