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Today you can expect your cat to live a longer life than in the past. While some cats live into their twenties, most cats live to be 16 or 17 years of age.
Cats are like people. We are all unique and not all of us will age at the same rate. Your cat may begin to display old cat behavior as early as 7 years of age or as late as 10 years of age – most will change by age 12 at the latest.
What is old cat behavior and how will you be best prepared to manage it?
Normal aging brings about changes in behavior. Old cat behavior includes being less active, playing less, sleeping more, grooming less, eating less heartily, and reacting less to surrounding events. Older cats may experience a disturbance in sleep patterns or disorientation. Suddenly your older cat begins forgetting previously learned behaviors, like the location of the litter box. These changes can cause a lot of anxiety and your cat may react in many different ways. Your cat may begin to display aggression or change its social relationships with other household members.
Feline cognitive dysfunction or FCD can begin as early as 11 years of age, affecting memory, sight, hearing and much more. Typical signs of FCD can be described by the acronym DISH.
- D – Disorientation – Your senior cat may wander aimlessly and appear lost or confused at times. He may fail to recognize family members.
- I – Reduced Social Interactions – Your cat may no longer greet people warmly or seek their attention as often.
- S – Changes in Sleep-Wake Cycle – Your cat may sleep more during the daytime but wander aimlessly at night, perhaps crying out.
- H – Loss of House Training – Breakdown of house training can occur because your cat forgets where the litter box is, or is no longer concerned about personal hygiene.
To learn more about old cat behavior, go to Behavior of the Senior Cat.
Why Increased Urination in Cats Happens
As our cat’s age, they tend to urinate more often, and sometimes they urinate outside the litter box. Incontinence or weak bladder is age-related. The bladder weakens with age, resulting in more frequent urination. Essentially, your cat will urinate as soon as pressure builds up in the bladder – and often, that can mean urinating outside the litter box.
Increased urination in cats is normal with age. It often results from diseases that are common to aging felines, like kidney failure, hyperthyroidism or diabetes. Increased urination in cats is often an early sign of diabetes in older or overweight cats. But don’t just assume that your cat’s more frequent urination is a sign of old age. If you have concerns, see your veterinarian. Your cat could be suffering from a urinary tract infection or bladder infection, or kidney disease.
More frequent urination will cause the litter box to become soiled more quickly. Many cats will stop using the litter box when they encounter a buildup of soil or odor. So increased urination in cats often means urinating outside the litter box. To help keep your cat from urinating outside the litter box, make sure to keep the litter box as clean as possible. Clean the litter box daily, or more often if necessary. To learn more about dealing with a cat urinating outside the litter box, go to How Do You Deal with a Cat Urinating Outside the Litter Box.
Arthritis is another condition that can contribute to urinating outside the litter box. Older cats can suffer from arthritis pain that makes it difficult for them to access the litter box. When this happens, they will simply find an “easier” place to go. Get a litter box with lower sides that is more easily accessible to your older cat.
If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, here are some things that you can try. Increase the number of litter boxes in your house. Make sure there’s one on every floor in case your cat is experiencing discomfort going up and down the stairs. Put the new litter boxes in areas where your cat can easily find them. Many cats also have trouble getting into and out of the litter box when they get older, so use litter boxes that have low sides. To learn more about increased urination in cats, go to Why Increased Urination Happens in Cats.
Here’s Why Your Cat Wants Attention More Often
Sometimes an older cat can become more needy. If your senior cat wants attention more often, she can show it in many different ways. Your cat may become more vocal. She may follow you around or brush up against your legs. If you are working at the computer or reading the newspaper, she may sit in front of the computer screen or on the keyboard, or she may jump up and sit on top of your newspaper. Essentially she is saying look at me! Pay attention to me!
Another trick cats use to get attention is to push something off the countertop with their paw.
While some older cats become more aloof and less interactive, others become more needy. They seem to crave more attention. If your senior cat wants attention, make sure to give it to her. Give her plenty of lap time and talk to her sweetly. Show her that she is important to you. If she still likes to play, get one of her favorite toys and play together. Show your older cat plenty of love and affection and she will be happy. To learn more about why your cat wants more attention, go to Here’s Why Your Cat Wants Attention More Often.
Aging Pets: How to Handle Changes in Cat Behavior
Owners of senior cats often notice a change in cat behavior but they simply chalk it up to getting older. Failure to use the litter box, a change in activity levels, and changes in eating, drinking or sleeping can definitely be attributed to old age… but is there something else going on? It would be a mistake to simply attribute these changes to aging without first investigating the possibility of an underlying medical condition. Always see your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your older cat.
As your cat ages, you should be aware of any changes in behavior, mood or activity. Just like people, older cats become less mentally and physically active. This can be attributed to aging changes that take place in the brain as well as physical factors such as joint stiffness.
Try to be aware of what your cat wants and give it to her. She will not be the same active kitty she once was. She will want to sleep more. She may not want to interact with other household pets and her relationship with you may change as well. It is important that you recognize her unique needs and meet them whenever possible. To learn more about changes in cat behavior, go to Aging Pets: How to Handle Changes in Cat BehaviorArthritis in Cats.
Vet Tips for Elderly Cat Care
What do you need to know about elderly cat care? As your cat changes, so do physical and emotional needs. Ideally, elderly cat care should focus on preventative measures. Whenever possible, it is better to prevent a problem from occurring rather than to wait for a problem to develop. Detecting diseases in the early stages greatly improve the outcome.
Elderly cat care should include regular visits to your veterinarian. Your senior cat is at risk for several medical problems as she ages, which is why she needs periodic exams to stay healthy.
Elderly cat care includes nutrition. Make sure that your senior cat is eating well. Most foods for older cats are lower in protein, sodium and phosphorus to help their aging hearts and kidneys. Increased amounts of certain vitamins have also been found to be beneficial in the senior cat. Remember that obesity is a problem to be taken seriously. It directly correlates to a decreased longevity and may contribute to other problems like arthritis.
If your senior cat has arthritis, there are some things you can do to help. Consider buying a set of pet stairs to help your cat more easily access the bed or sofa. Give your senior cat a soft yet supportive place to sleep. Consider a good glucosamine supplement. To learn more about arthritis in cats, go to Arthritis in Cats: Does Your Cat Have Arthritis?
As a rule, cats don’t like change, and this is especially true for older cats. Your senior cat is set in her ways. Any changes in daily routine, schedules or environment will cause undue stress. Stress can weaken your cat’s immune system and make her more susceptible to disease, so keep change to a minimum.
Cats are good at hiding illness and this is just as true for elderly cats. Diseases can be treated with better outcomes when they are caught early so it is important to carefully monitor your senior cat’s behavior and health.
To learn more about elderly cat care, go to Show Some TLC: How to Help Your Geriatric Cat Thrive.