Much as you hate to see it happen, your cat will eventually enter their senior years. Although you can’t hold back the clock, there are many things you can do to help keep your cat healthy and active as long as possible.
Monitor Your Cat’s Health
- Visit your veterinarian frequently. Most vets recommend a check-up once every 6 months when your cat reaches their senior years. Blood tests, X-rays, electrocardiograms, ultrasound, CT scans, or MRIs might be necessary. Be prepared to tell your vet about any changes in your pet’s stamina, appetite, or behavior, when it began and what might have triggered it.
- Have hearing and eyesight checked. It’s not unusual for an elderly cat’s eyes to look cloudy, and the condition may not signal illness. Like humans, however, they can develop cataracts and glaucoma, and can experience hearing loss. If your pet seems surprised when you come close to them, bumps into things, or don’t come when you call them, the culprit may be failing faculties.
Groom Your Senior Cat Often
- Brush your cat’s teeth daily. This staves off tooth decay and helps prevent gum disease and tooth loss. Brushing regularly will also allow you to notice mouth and tongue ulcers early on.
- Note any increase in “kitty breath.” Cats have their natural smells and cat food can linger on their breath, but a change in breath to the point that it becomes strong or offensive can signal various illnesses.
- Groom them at least once a week. It’s more important than ever to spare your cat the annoyance of fleas and other parasites. As they age, they won’t be able to groom themselves as easily as they used to. As you brush them, take note of any bumps, skin lesions, or unusual hair loss. And remember that his skin is less elastic than it used to be, so be careful not to scrape or pull it. Be sure to clip their nails to prevent overgrowth.
- Massage their joints and limbs. If your cat isn’t able to exercise routinely, improve their flexibility and circulation by gently massaging the muscles and joints. If they object, just pet them for as long as they allow. Don’t force massage on an unwilling kitty.
Keep Your Senior Cat Active
- Provide moderate exercise. The old adage “use it or lose it” is as true for cats as it is for humans. Exercise helps your cat maintain muscle tone, keeps their heart and digestion healthy, and even improves attitude. Gentle games with toys or catnip not only keep them in shape, but make them mentally alert and promote positive interaction.
- Give them a clean “bathroom.” Their digestion may be irregular and the bladder may lose elasticity and capacity. The litter box may need more frequent cleaning or changing.
- Stick to a regular schedule. Your cat always liked a routine; they’ll appreciate it even more now. Feed them and play with them at the same times each day.
- Minimize stress. As your cat ages, they may not welcome strange animals or people, or even tolerate familiar children. Due to their failing senses, arthritis, or forgetfulness, your cat may shy away from previously welcomed social situations.
Help Your Cat Eat and Sleep Comfortably
- Don’t leave them outside alone. Keep your cat indoors and minimize their time outside. As a cat ages, they’ll be sensitive to changes in temperature – aging hearts and lungs don’t adjust as well to extremes of hot and cold. Since their senses, reflexes, and thinking aren’t as sharp, your cat is likely to be more prone to accidents, injury from other animals, or even getting lost.
- Give them a soft bed. Arthritis and other conditions will make it harder for your cat to sleep soundly. Orthopedic cat beds are available.
- Feed them properly. An aging cat gains weight more easily because their metabolism is slowing. Your vet can recommend food that is high in fiber and lower in fat, so that your cat is eating their accustomed amount of food, but with fewer calories. As digestion worsens, they might do better with smaller, more frequent meals. Conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart or liver problems also call for special nutritional plans.
- Always provide fresh, cool water. This is a good policy for creatures of all ages, but especially important for an older cat.
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