Senior Cat Care
Once your cat reaches 7 years of age she officially enters the senior life stage. She may no longer be asactive or playful as she was and prefer to snooze in the sun a little more often but with regular veterinary attention, daily care and proper nutrition, your senior cat can still have a very happy, healthy life.
Caring for your senior cat
Signs of ageing
Most cats live up to 14 years of age but it's not unusual for them to reach the age of 20. Signs of ageing you might notice in your cat are incontinence, changes in activity levels, and alterations in eating, drinking, or sleeping habits. Older cats lose the elasticity of their skin which can result in hair loss and old age is also associated with a decrease in bone mass. Your cat's general condition and medical history will affect her life span and ageing processes too.
Helping your senior cat to be comfortable
Your senior cat will like daily routine as this provides comfort and reassurance. Her bed or basket should be in a snug, quiet place away from draughts and made comfortable with plenty of soft padding to insulate her from the cold floor and protect her achy joints. Cats love warmth and placing her bed near a radiator or using a warming pad is a good idea. If your cat finds jumping difficult or has arthritis make sure food and water are within easy reach on ground level. Older cats may also be less willing to use the great outdoors to relieve themselves – especially if it is cold or wet - so provide an indoor litter tray for her to use.
Your senior cat's eyesight
How do I know my senior cat's eyesight is failing?
You might notice that your cat's eyes (pupils) have a cloudy bluish haze to them. This can be quite normal and is called Lenticular (or Nuclear) Sclerosis and is just a sign of your cat getting older. However it could be Cataracts forming. Cataracts tend to be white and opaque so it is best to check with your vet if you notice that your cat's vision is impaired. They can be removed by surgery and your vet will advise you what the best course to take is. Another sign of age is discharge collecting in the corner of her eyes which can be uncomfortable if it is allowed to dry but this can be wiped away with a sterilised cloth or wipe.
If you notice your cat is bumping into things she may be losing her sight which can be disorientating and distressing for her. If you are concerned about your cat's eyesight, arrange for an examination by your vet as some conditions can be effectively treated, preventing further vision loss.
Your senior cat's hearing
How do I know my senior cat's hearing is failing?
Some senior cats become deaf or have impaired hearing in their old age but cats in general can cope well with hearing loss. It is difficult to tell if your older cat has loss of hearing as cats use their other senses very well, including touch via their whiskers. You may notice that she is hard to wake up, that her ears don't move and doesn't notice if you walk behind her. Deaf cats will sleep very soundly so be careful when you waken her. Unfortunately there isn't a lot that can be done for age-related hearing loss, but if you are worried take her to your vet to rule out other medical problems, such as an infection, growth, or foreign body in the ear.
Tips on Dealing With Senior Cat's With Poor Hearing
The most important factor is your senior cat's safety. If you live near a road it may be best to keep her indoors or in a secure garden. If you live in the countryside try to avoid letting her roam, use hand signals instead of voice commands or a torch to call her in for meals at night. If your cat wears a collar, ensure it is a quick release one showing your address, your vet's phone number and a note which says, 'I am deaf' and make sure she is micro chipped.
Incontinence is quite common as your cat ages and is sometimes caused by an infection, weak bladder muscles or bowel problems. There are medications available so it is best to seek veterinary advice. To avoid accidents in your home provide a litter tray indoors in a quiet, private location, away from food and water. Arthritic cats often find it painful to move quickly and don't get to the litter tray in time or are less accurate in relieving themselves in it. A larger sized litter tray may solve the problem. Please don't tell her off is this happens as she can't help it and will be upset at making a mess herself.
Arthritis can be difficult to spot in senior cats but if your cat doesn't want to jump up onto furniture, climb stairs or trees or want to play and has difficulty getting into their litter tray she could be suffering from Arthritis. It's a good idea to check with your vet if you are not sure. Whilst there is no cure there are food supplements you can feed your cat and medications your vet can prescribe to help with her aches and pains. You can place your cat's bed next to a radiator in Winter to give her comfort and give her a larger litter tray so she has room to manoeuvre.
Your senior cat's teeth and gums
Grooming your senior cat
Some cat breeds need more grooming than others as they are long haired but in old age some cats can stop licking and cleaning themselves which means that you have to take over. Your cat may be less flexible or have arthritic joints which make grooming herself too painful. You may notice that you need to clip her claws more often as they are not wearing down as much due to her slower pace of life. Regular gentle grooming can also help reduce the occurrence of hairballs which if swallowed can cause blockages, resulting in vomiting or constipation.
Your senior cat and exercise
Your cat may not want to play as much as she used to but she will still need regular exercise to keep her fit and prevent obesity. Senior cats suffer from loss of muscle mass so it is important to keep her active and interested in life. Exercise can help to enhance circulation, maintain muscle tone and prevent excess weight gain. You can encourage your cat to exercise by playing with her for 15 – 30 minutes twice a day. Arthritis may prevent your cat from exercising so check with your vet if your cat is reluctant to play.
Feeding your senior cat
What Do I Feed My Senior Cat?
Senior cats need a diet that will keep them active and healthy throughout their later years and the usual Adult cat foods don't contain the nutrients they need. It's best to choose a cat food made especially for older cats to keep her well and happy. Older cats need fewer calories as they are not as energetic as they used to be. Senior cat foods are made to be easily digestible and contain minerals to support ageing joints as well as fats and oils to prevent dry skin and hairballs. They also have smaller kibbles which are easier to chew, especially if your cat is losing his teeth.
How Much Do I Feed My Senior Cat?
Senior cats are less active and have a slower metabolism and you should feed her twice a day. They often prefer smaller portions more frequently but be careful not to overfeed as older cats are prone to put on weight.
Medical conditions in senior cats
It's important to take your cat to vet regularly in her old age and some vets run special clinics for check ups for older cats. Many signs of old age are very treatable and you can take preventative measures to keep your cat in good health. If you notice any of the signs below, or any other signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite or reluctance to be stroked or play, you should contact your vet.
- Heart and Respiratory conditions – signs to look out for are a reluctance to exercise, coughing, trouble breathing, and lethargy.
- Kidney problems - one of the most common problems affecting middle-aged and older cats. Signs are an excessive thirst and frequent or uncontrolled urination.
- Hyperthyroidism - an over-active thyroid gland which causes the cat to lose weight, eat and drink more.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) - can occur with underlying kidney disease or hyperthyroidism, and can result in blindness and yowling at night
- Diabetes mellitus - affects the control of blood sugar levels and usually occurs in middle-aged and older cats, particularly those that are overweight.
- Cancer - any unexplained weight loss, or growths, warts or skin lumps should be investigated.
- Arthritis – often under-diagnosed. Signs to watch out for are reduction in activity, reluctance to jump onto surfaces and litter tray accidents.
- Dental disease - older cats often suffer painful conditions of the teeth and gums. You can spot the signs of mouth problems if your cat is picking up and dropping her food, doesn't want to eat, is dribbling a lot or clawing at her mouth.