Senior cats will face some gradual or sudden changes in both their health as well as their behavior. All cats will age differently but there will all one thing in common as your cat ages; they will have special needs. A healthy life span in cats is considered to be 18 years, and all cats will reach the stage of special needs between the ages of 13 to 14 years old.
As an owner, there are several things you can do to watch for these needs, as well as preemptive steps to help your cat in the process. Most of the changes that your cat will face may will be from three primary sources: some type of an illness, reaction to medications, or the natural aging process. Easing the process of aging can make this transition much easier.
Senior cats overall health once they reach the magical age of 13 plus will require some special attention. As much as you would like to, there is simply no way that you can turn the clock back for your long time companion. Monitoring their overall health is the first step in this process. Taking your cat to your veterinarian at least once every six months is highly recommended, and during this process there are several things that you should make notes of.
You will want to document any type of change in your cats stamina, appetite, or their behavior. If there has been a change, it will be extremely helpful if you have some type of an idea of what triggered it. You should also have your cats eye sight as well as their hearing checked. One of the most common conditions your cat will face as they age is cataracts, glaucoma, and hearing loss. It your cat is surprised when you get close to them, this is the first signs of either of these faculties starting to go.
The next function for senior cats overall health will be in their grooming, which will be much different as they age. The first form of grooming will involve their teeth. It will be extremely important as your cat ages and crosses this threshold, to brush their teeth daily if possible. Tooth decay and gum disease is one of the most serious senior issues with your pet, and regular brushing will slow this down and possibly prevent the loss of teeth.
This will also help you to identify any changes in their mouth or tongue such as ulcerations. One thing you will notice that is very common is referred to as kitty breath. As your cats age, their natural smells will begin to change, and the smell of their food will linger much longer than it used to, which is quite normal.
However, perhaps the most important aspect of senior cats will be in their coat grooming and how you can help with this transition and their special needs. As your cat ages, they will not be able to groom themselves quite as easily as they used to. As a result of this you will need to groom their coat at least once a week, but with some special care.
Senior cats skin is not nearly as flexible or elastic as it used to be, so you will need to take extra efforts not to pull or scrape it in this process. You will want to pay special attention to the places that are getting more difficult for your cat to reach, but overall, you want to pay much closer attention for any potential skin or coat changes. These are potential signs that your cat may be developing a skin condition or some type of a medical problem.
One of the biggest challenges with senior cats is the numerous changes that will occur in their skin as they age. Vibrant coats may begin to become dry and flaky, and you may also start to see the first signs of dander. Or, the exact opposite may start to occur, where their coat is becoming very oily and greasy. These are both signs of your cats inability to properly groom themselves. To help fight these natural changes, you may need to do more frequent brushing and bathe your cat more often utilizing medicated shampoos.
Your cats skin and hair coat changing colors is part of the aging process, but it can also be the first signs of potential disease. As a result of this, you should very carefully check their skin for any bumps as well as any sign of blackheads, which can easily lead to serious infections. However, what is not normal is any type of an odor. If your cat does start to smell, get them checked as quickly as possible.
There are several new products that are specifically designed for senior cats and the grooming process. When buying a brush or comb, look for products that have tipped teeth, as they are much easier on your aging cats skin. When selecting a wire brush, look for the teeth to be set in a rubber backing with foam underneath. This is critical for your older cat, as it makes the process much more comfortable. If your cat is a long haired breed, you will need to keep the hair around their rear end clipped very short.
Senior cats will naturally start to have problems with feces matting, and this will help to prevent irritations, infections, as well as odor problems.
Most all cats do not like the trimming process, and as your cat ages, they will like it even less. In fact, it may become a real challenge. As your cat ages, their nails will become much thicker and much more brittle, which makes the task very difficult. But this is an extremely important process as they can easily become overgrown and affect your cats pads. You will need to trim small amounts at lest twice a month to prevent this overgrowth.
Some senior cats may need to be forced into remaining active. You will need to set up a daily exercise routine such as gently playing games with toys or catnip, or even walking them. If you need to use a leash, use it without hesitation or embarrassment as it will help keep their heart as well as their digestive system much healthier. If you can’t exercise them regularly, massage them. By massaging your cats joints and limbs it will help their overall circulation as well as keeping them flexible.
Keep your senior cat on a regular schedule. Cats are creatures of habit, and this is one of the most critical things you can do to keep them healthy. By keeping a regular schedule, it will also mentally stimulate them into expecting this help and bring you even closer in their golden years. Keeping their bathroom as clean as possible will also help them with a regular routine as well as minimizing any stress factors.
One of the worst things you could do to senior cats is to leave them outside alone. As your cat ages, they become much more sensitive to any type of temperature changes as their heart and lungs simply can not react like they used to. Their reflexes as well as their mental capacities are also not as sharp, which sets them up for accidents, makes them more prone to other animals, and even raises the potential for them becoming lost.
Senior cats will also need a much softer bed as they age, and if your cat has specific challenges, there are special beds that you can buy. But as they reach the golden years, the most important things you can do for your cat is to feed them properly and provide them with the most important of all nutrients; fresh and cool water.
Water is critical for aging cats and providing them with a watering tower where they always have both fresh and cool water can do wonders for your senior cat.
I am an avid lover of pets and my wife and I have had several pets throughout our years. We are especially fond of dogs, and we have a 12 year old Dalmatian (our 3rd) and a “mutt” that we rescued when someone threw him away to die in a vacant field.
He found us, nearly starved to death, and weighed about 2 pounds.
After severe bouts of mange and severe dehydration, and over 1,000.00 in veterinarian bills, we saved the little guys life, and he is one of the best, if not the best, dogs we have ever had and today is a muscular, fit, and firm 70 pound best friend.
After finishing my MBA, which at middle age was not easy, I decided to keep the research work ethics that I acquired, and devote about two hours each night in understanding the health benefits of supplementation for both humans and pets and how they might strengthen our, as well as our pets, immune system in a pre-emptive approach to health rather than a reactionary approach.
Both of my daughters are avid cat lovers, and asked me to help them with health concerns and challenges with their cats.
I am not a veterinarian nor claim to be, just a lover of pets that loves to research and pass on some knowledge that might be helpful, or at least stimulating to the thought process.