A cat's golden years usually begin around the age of 12, but your feline friend can live much longer with proper care and nutrition. Though you may not notice any drastic physical changes in your senior pet, it’s important to remember that older cats have unique needs. Click through for some helpful tips on how to keep your aging feline happy and healthy.
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REGULAR VETERINARIAN VISITS
Annual vet visits are important for cats of all ages, but it's especially important for a senior cat. If you notice changes in your feline's behavior and can't pinpoint the issue, always take your pet to the vet for an exam. Older cats often suffer from kidney failure as they age, which may show itself in a variety of symptoms. In addition, a regular vet check-up can help you keep track of your furry pal's body condition.
Cats run the risk of being either overweight or underweight in their older years. A number of factors could contribute to this, but your cat's nutrition is the first thing you should modify if weight is an issue. Most food brands make formulas specifically for senior cats. Before you change your cat’s food, consult with your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your cat's size to rule out medical problems. Your vet will also be able to recommend a brand of food that could help get your cat back to a healthy body weight. Weigh your cat monthly to keep track of any changes.
It's important to make sure your cat's fur is in good shape no matter what its age, but it's even more important when your cat is in its golden years. By brushing your cat daily, you prevent the amount of fur it ingests, thus limiting it chance of regurgitating hairballs. In addition, the act of brushing also helps with your cat's circulation and keeps its skin healthy.
Cats run the risk of losing their teeth as they age if they're not properly maintained. Brushing your cat's teeth early on and regularly can help fight off dental decay. If your cat won't let you near its pearly whites, try dental treats that are made specifically for oral health.
Your cat's food should give it all the nutrition it needs, but supplementing your pet's diet can help with specific issues. Omega-3 supplements are great for cats and can be easily added to their regular food. For arthritic felines, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can help ease pain and maintain joint health, as long as it's given at an appropriate dose for the animal's weight. Consult with your vet for advice on which supplements would be beneficial — and safe — for your senior cat.
Your cat may be slowing down in its old age, but don't let it get too sedentary. As cats age it becomes easier for them to become overweight, just like humans. Get your older cat to exercise by engaging in moderate play with it, and stimulate its natural urge to pounce or swat at toys. Regular exercise can help keep your cat at a healthy weight and encourage circulation in its aging muscles. Make sure you monitor your cat's condition during play for any signs of illness, like heavy breathing or fatigue.
Senior cats are averse to change and are more easily upset than their younger counterparts. If you can, try to keep kids and other pets from disturbing your older cat when it's resting. Boarding away from home can be extremely stressful for an older cat and should be avoided if possible. It's ideal to keep your cat home and have someone — a friend, neighbor or family member — come there to take care of the cat. If you must board it, try bringing along its bed, litter box or anything else that cat help ease the stress of being in a foreign space.
As you might imagine, an older cat will spend most of its days sleeping or laying about. Sometimes your cat will want to curl up near you in the living room, while other times it will want some quiet time alone and away from the family ruckus. Give your cat plenty of soft, comfortable spots to perch throughout the house. You don’t have to purchase multiple cat beds, either. A soft pile of towels or blankets would be just as enticing to your kitty as a $30 cat bed.
LITTER BOX ADJUSTMENTS
If you notice your cat going to the bathroom in places it's not supposed to, you might have an issue on your hands. Sometimes older felines suffer from arthritis and can no longer hop or step in to their litter boxes. To help your cat use the loo with ease in its old age, find a new box with a lower edge. For a cheaper fix, you can take its existing box and cut one edge a bit lower. Don’t make your older cat climb any stairs to use its litter box. If it appears your feline is having incontinence issues, take it to a veterinarian immediately.
Next: Life Lessons Kids Learn From Pets
Unfortunately, our pets don't live as long as us. When you start to notice your feline slowing down in its old age, take this opportunity to spend extra time to nurture and cuddle with your cat. Not only does this physical affection help the cat stay happy and healthy, it will also help you cope when your pet goes off to kitty heaven. You will know you've given your cat the best life possible, well into its old age.