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What You Should Know About Senior Cats

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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November is Senior Pet Month so I thought I'd dedicate today's topic to senior cats.

Kitties can grow up so fast, can't they? It seems like one moment you have a kitten and just a few months later they're a teenager...then adult...and then a senior. As your cat ages into their golden years you may notice some changes in their appearance and behavior. Your cat may have some special requirements that must be met to keep them healthy as their needs change. Knowing what to expect can better prepare cat owners to deal with the needs of their new senior pet.

Today I'd like to answer a couple of common questions about feline aging.

First: when is a cat considered senior?

If a healthy cat's average life span is 18 years, by definition they become geriatric (the medical term for senior) when they have reached 75 percent of that life span has elapsed, approximately 13 years of age. Some early-stage geriatric cats are still doing very well at the age of 13 or 14 years while others are already beginning to show pronounced aging changes.

What should you expect from your senior cat?

Once your cat reaches their senior years, you'll probably observe gradual or sudden changes in health and behavior. Some of them include lack of activity, patchy or thin fur, weight loss, and diminishing sight. Your veterinarian will help determine whether these changes are due to illness, a reaction to medications, or the natural aging process.

Read some more of my answers to common questions from my clients and readers at Commonly Asked Questions About Senior Cats.

Many people ask what vaccines their senior cat needs. I'm in the camp that they should receive as few as is safely possible, but it's important to trust your vet's advice. Read our article at Vaccinating Your Senior Cat.

One thing I do recommend increasing, though, is the frequency of your cat's veterinary examinations. Thorough veterinary visits are a great way to detect the early onset of illness that might not be noticed at home. There are some common signs of problem that your vet will know to look for. Go to When Your Senior Cat Needs to See a Vet for more information.

Here are some 10 Common Disorders of Senior Cats.

And by the way - It is also important to adjust your schedule for your senior cat's needs. Remember your senior cat will need daily exercise and possibly more frequent bathroom trips (and a clean litter box). Keeping your senior cat happy and healthy may require some special attention, but some simple steps can help your senior cat easily maintain a wonderful senior lifestyle and make the transition from adult to senior a little easier.


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