Caring and protecting our elderly cats
From the age of 11 years, cats become elderly so it’s good to know this and to appreciate their age in human terms, for example, a 16-year-old cat would be equivalent to an 80-year-old human. It’s important to pick up any early changes in your cat to enable early diagnosis and treatment and can also improve the quality of their life.
As with people, our feline friends also slow down as they age. Depending on the cat they may become less active or their personality may change.
Just like us humans, animals also age and with it comes behavioral and physiological changes, for example, reduced hearing and vulnerability to an array of illnesses. However, if there are any changes it could be a sign of pain or distress so it is always worth checking with your vet for advice and help.
Their coat can lose its shine as the ageing process affects the skin, and their sleep patterns will often change. Muscles and bones become weaker and their immune system is affected. There is, however, medicines and treatment available to help reduce the worst effects, in order that elderly cats can lead a happy and active life.
The mature feline may be more vocal and less keen to play or be groomed, although it is important to keep him mentally stimulated and help to reduce any boredom.
Signs to watch out for are potential health problems like increased thirst or aggression, these are all behavioral changes to keep a watchful eye on. Looking after their hygiene is vital as they may clean/groom themselves less, keep their eyes and ears clear of dirt and always help them to keep their bottom area clean especially after they have been to the toilet, use lukewarm water on cotton wool to gently remove the dirt.
If you brush your cats, choose a soft brush available because some animals become thinner as they age and brushing can be painful when using a hard-bristled brush. Keep an eye on places where cats may not be able to reach so easily like the bottom spine area, there may be matted fur there, so keep this trimmed. All animals can develop lumps, bumps or sores but we need to keep an eye on anything unusual and if you have any concerns, consult your veterinarian immediately.
A good way to keep an eye on your feline’s health is to check their toilet area for blood or change in their stools. Consider where the litter tray is and always keep it clean.
Always make sure your animal has plenty of fresh water bowls available around the home with easy access, they need water because their kidney function can frequently deteriorate in older cats. Add a little water to wet food to encourage your cat to drink and avoid dehydration, which is something older cats can be more vulnerable to.
Make your home cat-friendly, perhaps the stairs are too steep to climb up, consider protecting their joints by avoiding any extra strain on them. Tall scratching posts, for example, might be difficult to reach and jumping can add strain on their joints. They love to look out and it high up so provisions should be made for easy access. The positioning of ramps, steps, and platforms will enable it to reach the area in gentle stages rather than giving up due to stiffness or weakness in the joints.
The joint function can deteriorate with age they are more prone to getting arthritis which can reduce their mobility, therefore a visit to the vet is worthwhile.
As our companions grow older they may choose to stop venturing into the garden because of other cats around, as they are territorial they may have a sense of being unable to defend their patch. Securing your garden can help encourage them to go more regularly.
Generally, older cats don’t like change and they don’t cope so well with any changes to their routine. Sticking to normal routines reassures them and providing your cat with a secure and quiet area at home can help them feel safe and secure. If you are going away consider a cat sitter (ideally someone your cat knows) to visit and take care of your feline.
Regular health checks are important, especially for vaccinations or boosters. Here are a few simple things to look out for and see your vet about:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Drinking more often or drinking a larger amount per day
- Stiffness, lameness or difficulty in jumping up
- Tiredness, more than usual
- Any bumps or lumps
- Toilet issues like bowel or urine problems
- Balance problems, disorientation or distress
- Behavior problems like aggression, excessive vocalisation
- dull, disorientated or is having trouble with balance
Every cat is different and wonderfully unique, and there are many simple and practical things their guardians can do to help them. Giving them the extra love and care that they need to keep them healthy and happy is essential especially during their golden years.