Caring For Your Senior Cat
Caring for your senior cat
As your cat reaches the age of 7, he is entering into his senior years. Although he may seem as fit as a fiddle, his organs are starting to age, but thanks to the availability of better veterinary care and nutrition, cats are now living much longer. So it is important to make sure you give your elderly cat the best care possible. There are certain things you can do and look out for to help your cat stay healthy.
Signs of aging
There are many signs of aging you can look for in your elderly cat. These changes could be physical or behavioural. Physical changes include reduced hearing and sight, stiffness, changes to immune system and a reduced sense of smell.
Your cat’s behaviour may also alter as he starts to get older. Your cat may spend less time outdoors or hunt less, sleep more often, stop grooming as much and become more vocal. You might also notice that your cat is finding it harder to get in and out of the litter tray, which could result in toileting accidents.
Some of these changes are due to the aging process, but others may be indicative of disease. Therefore, as your cat enters his senior years, more frequent monitoring and more extensive examinations are recommended – he should be examined by your vet at least every 6 months.
His annual vaccination and 6-month health check are good times to discuss any changes, however small, with your vet and to carry out screening tests such a blood work, urine tests and blood pressure checks. However, if you are worried these symptoms may be impacting on your cat’s health, then don’t wait for his check-up and bring him in sooner.
Symptoms in older cats that would benefit from a swift check up by your vet include –
- Increase in thirst – drinking more often and larger quantities
- Increase in urination frequency
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Any lumps or bumps on your cat
- Joint problems – stiffness, lameness, struggling to jump
- Smelly breath
- Toileting problems – such as incontinence or struggling to pass faeces or urine
- Uncharacteristic behaviour – is your cat showing aggressive tendencies?
How to help your older cat at home?
As your cat gets older he needs more care given to him at home. This could range from general health care to turning your house into an OAP cat friendly home.
You might find you need to change the location of your cat’s food and water stations and litter trays to allow easier access (although cats with cognitive dysfunction may find change harder to cope with). For example, a cat with arthritis will find it difficult to jump onto the kitchen surface to get to his food bowl. So, you could either try changing the location of his food to somewhere lower to the ground, or make his access to the kitchen surface easier by using a set of steps or a ramp. If he is struggling to get into his litter tray, try a shallow tray or a tray with an indent to help him get in. You could even fashion a ramp access if he is really struggling. Make sure your cat has plenty of warm beds to rest, ideally in lots of places. Older cats also find change difficult to cope with, so avoid moving furniture around too much and keep rooms and routines consistent where possible.
Grooming and nail care
Your cat may be struggling to groom as he starts to get older, so you may need to brush him more often to help avoid any matted fur. Always be gentle when grooming him as older cats are often thin and it could be painful on his bones. Always use a soft brush.
While grooming your cat, you can also check for any unusual lumps or bumps that would merit a vet check-up.
If you own a longhaired cat, you may find it helpful to take your cat to your vet to trim the coat around the anus to avoid any soiling or matting. We advise taking your cat to vet to have this done to avoid any accidents.
Elderly cats are less able to retract their claws, and they could get them stuck in furniture and carpets. We advise to check your cat’s claws on a weekly basis to avoid any overgrown nails digging into his pads. If you struggle to clip your cat’s nails, you can take him to your vet where a vet or nurse will be able to trim them safely.
Older cats tend to struggle more with hairballs as their digestive system will become slow. Hairballs can cause vomiting and constipation, but there are special foods and supplements that you can purchase to help with hairballs.
You may find your elderly cat might not want to play as often or is struggling to jump and climb up to high look out spots. You can help your cat by giving him easier access to outside and look out points by using ramps (on a slight incline) or shallow steps.
Older cats are less likely to use tall scratching posts, so you could purchase a horizontal scratch matt for them instead.
Keep your cat’s brain stimulated by using puzzle feeders (always monitor your cat’s food intake).
If your cat uses a litter tray, it should be placed away from other resources (feeding areas and water) but for elderly cats who suffer from cognitive dysfunction you should make sure all resources are in easy reach for your cat to avoid confusion. You may also find that an older cat that has been used to going outside to use the toilet now prefers a tray indoors, so it is always worth having one on hand for them to use if they want to.
If your cat has a health problem and is drinking a lot more than usual, you may need to fill the litter tray to a depth to up to around 5cm. However, your cat may prefer a shallow litter tray that is cleaned more often. You might need to trial different litter trays/types of litter before finding which ones suit your cat.
Make sure your cat has lots of private areas that they can access at any time. You should also keep your cat in a quiet and safe environment if you have any celebrations or guests round.
For anymore help or advice please do not hesitate to call us, or book in for a free nurse senior clinic at any of our branches.