Senior Support: Taking Care of Older Cats
Did you know that once cats reach the age of seven, they’re considered mature adults, and that once they hit 10 they’re considered seniors? While an older cat may still seem young at heart, senior cats need special attention to ensure they live as healthy of a life as they possibly can, for as long as they can. Below, we’ll look at the special nutritional, environmental and veterinary concerns for senior cats, along with some things to watch for as your cat ages.
As they age, their body functions slow down. This may appear in a few ways – altered sleep patterns, changes in skin, coat, and nails, decreased mobility and flexibility (jumping or grooming themselves). They may also no longer see, smell, taste or hear as well as they once did.
Nutritional needs for cats change as they age. An older digestive system requires more effort to digest and absorb nutrients, especially fats and proteins. Dental and digestive issues could also mean it’s harder for your senior cat to eat or chew the foods they’ve become accustomed to.
Diets tailored to senior cats should include nutrients that actively battle these issues. Glucosamine, chondroitin and free fatty acids, together with green-lipped mussel extract can help increase mobility for cats as they age. Veterinary diets intended to boost mobility see improvement and decreased pain after as little as one month of treatment.
Digestive issues can be treated through diet as well. Highly digestible proteins support absorption; beet pulp offers prebiotic effects to keep senior cat microbiomes healthy. Omega 3 fatty acids also play a role in maintaining digestive health.
Older cats may suffer from chronic kidney disease and urinary problems. Phosphorus restriction in the diet, as well as wetter foods or foods that help increase water intake support kidney function, and also help lower the risk of mineral stones forming.
While it all sounds like a lot to learn and understand, your veterinary team will be happy to address dietary concerns and remedies for your cat.
Changes at Home
If your cat isn’t snacking or playing, they’re probably having a nap, and that doesn’t change as they age. You can help your senior cat by creating more comfy, safe spaces for them to sleep. Those older joints might not be up to jumping onto beds or be up for travelling up and down stairs, so ensure your older cats have multiple snooze-spots.
Keeping a regular nail-trimming routine as cats age is important as well. Appropriate scratching surfaces can help, but keeping thick, brittle nails trimmed at home or during vet visits will reduce nail-related issues in older cats.
Always keep multiple sources of fresh water around for your senior cat. Their water needs increase as they age, and water plays crucial roles in kidney function. A variety of bowls, locations and possibly even the option of flowing water can encourage your cat to stay hydrated. Pay attention to which vessels they drink from most and see if including more of that kind encourages more drinking.
Vet Visits – An Ounce of Prevention…
Senior cats need more frequent veterinary visits, so be sure to schedule regular checkups at least twice per year. Their health can change quickly, and more visits mean more chances to catch changes before they become a problem. Regular blood tests, urinalysis and blood pressure are recommended to help nip problems in the bud. Your vet will also look for dental disease, which is common in cats (after three years of age), is painful, and can discourage cats from eating. Your cat won’t make signs of dental disease obvious, but regular vet visits will ensure you stay on top of it.
What to Watch For
While the following isn’t an exhaustive list, keep your eyes on the following in your older cats:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Digestive problems (diarrhea or constipation)
- Decreased mobility
- Behavioural changes
- Lumps anywhere on the body
If you notice any of the above, visit your vet right away. They can be indicators of underlying diseases that need to be identified and treated.
Regular vet visits, paying attention to changing nutritional needs, and adapting your cat’s home environment, will help you enjoy life with your cat as they move into their later years.