How To Care For Your Senior Cat

By December 15, 2014Northwood Notes

As your cat reaches old age, their health, nutrition, and exercise needs change, requiring more frequent checkups.

Your feline friend may not help you spot potentially rising health issues. Instead, they may deliberately hide them. That’s why it’s important to be observant around the house, and scheduling regular checkups. With a little preventive care and regular checkups, you can help ensure that your senior cat stays happy and healthy.

When is a cat truly a senior citizen?

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP):

  • Mature to middle-aged: 7 to 10 years
  • Senior: 11 to 14 years
  • Geriatric: 15+ years

Watch Out for Senior Health Issues

Because your cat’s immune system isn’t quite as resilient as it once was, it’s important for you to keep an eye out for any signs of developing health issues. Here are a few of the more common senior health issues to watch for.

  • Arthritis
  • Constipation
  • Deafness
  • Dental disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Retinal disease/vision problems

Schedule Regular Wellness Exams

The importance of regular wellness check-ups increases along with your cat’s age. The purpose is to accomplish the following goals:

  1. Promote the longest and healthiest life possible.
  2. Recognize and control known health risks for older cats.
  3. Detect any signs of disease at their earliest, when they are the most treatable.

During the exam, you will be asked a variety of health-related questions as to try and obtain your cat’s complete medical history. These questions will often focus on whether your cat has experienced any health or behavioral changes since her last visit.

Your cat’s overall appearance and body condition will be accessed by listening to their heart and lungs, checking for signs of pain, testing for muscle tone, and feeling for tumors or other abnormalities in the neck or abdomen. In addition, we will peek inside the ears, eyes, and mouth for any signs of disease. A routine exam should also include the following tests to check your cat for signs of illness:

  • Complete Blood Profile (liver and kidney function)
  • CBC (Complete Blood Count)
  • Urinalysis
  • T4 (thyroid function)

Most veterinarians agree that this baseline laboratory testing should be conducted at least once a year in mature cats (7 to 10 years old) and more frequently in senior or geriatric cats.  These tests help monitor any developing trends in your cat’s overall health.

Monitor Your Cat’s Health

Not only is your cat unable to tell you exactly what’s wrong, most felines are very good at hiding signs of illness. Often times, senior cats appear to suddenly fall ill once their ability to compensate for the disease is overwhelmed.

Unexpected weight loss or gain can sometimes serve as an early sign of an underlying illness. In addition, pay attention to any unusual changes in your pet’s behavior (e.g. unusual cries) or daily routines, such as grooming or litter box habits. Behavioral problems can sometimes signal underlying health issues.

Perform a Comfort Check

Make sure your old friend is still able to easily access her food and water dishes, bedding, and litterbox.  If it seems that your cat is having trouble getting to something, it may be time to rearrange things for them. Don’t forget to give your senior cat plenty of attention and affection!

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