1st Pet News, Treatment & Care

When Your Cat Gets Older: A Guide for Senior Feline Care

A cat is a dependable companion and pet. Each has a unique personality, and you get used to your cat’s mannerisms as they assert their position in your home and lifestyle. However, as a cat moves from middle age to seniority, you might begin to notice some changes in behavior and health.

This guide can help cat owners know how aging affects a cat’s health. Proper care can help your cat stay happy and comfortable as they age with grace.

Continue Proper Tooth Care

Tooth decay can be a huge problem for cats. As cats get older, teeth can start to develop dental disease and fall out if they are not kept in good health. You should brush your cat’s teeth periodically and take your cat to get their teeth cleaned as recommended by your Veterinarian.

Cats struggle to get the nutrition they need if they can’t properly chew their food, especially as they get older, so tooth care should be a major priority for you. Generally, cats who have had healthy teeth throughout youth and adulthood have the lowest risk of tooth loss when they are elderly.

Watch for Weight Loss and Weight Gain

Cats have a harder time maintaining a healthy weight when they get older. Some cats may start to lose weight rapidly. In general, weight loss in a cat indicates an illness. Because illnesses are more common in geriatric pets, respond quickly to changes in weight. Early intervention can sometimes catch, eliminate, or reduce the discomfort of a progressive health condition.

The most common medical causes of weight loss in senior cats are kidney disease, liver disease, and thyroid trouble.

Weight gain is also a concern. Overweight cats are more likely to have thyroid dysfunction, trouble with their joints, heart disease, and diabetes. If your cat is already overweight, your vet might suggest a specialized food and diet program to facilitate healthy weight loss.

If you notice your cat gaining weight over time, talk to your vet. Sometimes weight gain is a simple result of overfeeding, but sometimes, weight gain might come because of different diseases and may need medication to correct. Cats become lazier as they get older, which is another contributor to weight gain. You’ll need to encourage activity and adjust food to match activity levels.

Make Quality Protein a Priority

Many commercial cat foods are too full of fillers and heavy in carbohydrates. Some carbohydrates can be good in a cat’s diet, but the reality is that cats are pure carnivores: their bodies are meant to get nutrients from meat. Unlike dogs, cats are not scavengers. Cats need fresh, quality protein to be in the best possible health.

Not everyone can afford to feed their cat a variety of fresh meats, however. If you choose to feed your cat home cooked meals consult with your Veterinarian first to ensure your cat is getting a balanced diet. Cats cannot survive on dog food without getting ill, and they cannot be vegan or vegetarian. They need protein from meat, so any food you feed your cat should be high in meaty ingredients.

Talk to Your Vet About Supplements

Some older cats who have health problems may need vitamin and mineral supplements beyond what they get in their daily diet. However, not all cats need this supplementation. Before you start adding things to your cat’s food, you need to make sure you clear all supplements with your vet.

For example, some cats with joint trouble may benefit from increased fatty acids. But if your cat’s joints are perfectly healthy, you don’t need to add more than your cat is already getting. In addition, if your cat has kidney problems, proper sodium and electrolyte balance may require fortified food or additives.

Don’t Rule Out Toys and Play

Cats still need the stimulation they enjoyed when they were younger. When cats are energetic, their owners and housemates are more excited to play with them. Even if your cat moves more slowly and seems to be less interested, keep at it.

Purchase new toys for your cat periodically, especially ones that require problem solving. You’ll also want to encourage cat-like behavior, like hunting and pouncing. If your cat is a mouser, let them out of doors in the fall and spring to encourage them to continue with this instinct so that they can naturally get more exercise.

Rest and Solitude

Cats are not pack animals. They enjoy time alone, even if they genuinely like the company of humans and other pets. As they age, cats may have a lower tolerance for loud noises, interruptions, and rough play than they did when they were younger. Allow your cat time to withdraw and rest each day, especially if they have health problems. Inform young children in the home that they need to be gentler with the cat.

For more information, contact us at 1st Pet Veterinary Centers.