All bodies change with age, and our cat’s bodies are no exception. Elderly cats require some sort of specialized care, whether it be from a physical or emotional perspective. Ideally, elderly cat care should focus on implementing preventative health measures to help your cat live longer and more comfortably. Being proactive about your geriatric cat’s health can help you detect diseases and health issues in the early stages, which greatly improves the outcome.
How To Care For Your Geriatric Cat
Elderly cat care should include regular visits to your veterinarian. Your cat can be at risk for several medical problems as they age, which is why they need periodic exams to stay healthy. Some of the most common illnesses known to affect older cats include dental disease, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, and unfortunately different types of cancer. To learn more about common health disorders for senior cats, please see this additional article.
As your cat ages, they may also lose weight. This can be part of the normal aging process, although it can also be a sign of a medical problem like cancer, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, or another health condition. Changes in weight can be the first sign of disease, so don’t take chances with your geriatric cat and bring them to see the vet as soon as you think that something might be awry.
Your veterinarian will help you better understand how to provide elderly cat care to your furry companion. Most vets recommend bringing your geriatric cat in for additional checkups, at least once every six months and in some cases more frequently. During these visits you can have your cat’s hearing and eyesight checked as, like aging humans, your senior cat can develop cataracts and glaucoma. Your senior cat can also develop hearing loss. Your cat may have hearing or eyesight problems if they seem surprised when you come close, bump into things, or don’t come when you call them.
Senior Cat Care and Nutrition
Elderly cat care also includes good nutrition. The metabolism slows down with age, so your older cat will require fewer daily calories than they needed as kittens. The best type of food to feed a geriatric cat is dependent upon their own specific health problems or nutritional requirements, as laid out by a veterinarian. Many of the ideal foods for older cats are lower in protein, sodium, and phosphorus to help their aging hearts and kidneys, and are high in certain vitamins to help boost overall immunity and health.
Geriatric Cat Obesity: A Growing Epidemic
Keeping your senior cat active can be challenging, especially if they have chronic health issues that affect their mobility. Encourage them to exercise daily to maintain their muscle tone, to keep their cardiovascular and digestive systems healthy, and to improve their mood.
If your approach to senior cat care does not include regular exercise, your cat will run the risk of becoming obese. Obesity is a critical health issue and needs to be taken seriously. It is directly correlated to decreased longevity and may contribute to other problems like diabetes and arthritis. According to the Pet Obesity Organization 2018 Pet Survey, about 56 million cats are overweight or obese, which amounts to nearly 60% of the cat population in the United States.
The primary causes of obesity are overeating and lack of exercise. As little as an extra 1% intake in daily calories can result in a 25% increase over ideal body weight by middle age. Most cat owners don’t recognize that their cats are overweight until they take them to the veterinarian for another reason.
As a rule, cats don’t like change, and this is especially true for older cats. A geriatric cat can be set in their ways, but there are ways you can work in a specialized elderly cat care routine for them:
- Stick to a schedule and keep the same feeding time each day.
- Try to keep stress to a minimum. Stress can weaken your cat’s immune system and make them more susceptible to disease. Try to limit big changes in daily routine, schedules, or environment in order to avoid undue stress for your geriatric cat.
Although it can be more work to care for an aging cat, the extra love and cuddles that you will receive as a result make it all worth it.