Caring for an older cat
As cats start to get older they begin to exhibit signs of their age that you’ll need to look out for. A decrease in activity mixed with a tendency to sleep more is usually the very first sign that a cat is beginning to age. Older cats may start to suffer from more serious conditions, many lose the use of senses such as sight and/or hearing, while others can suffer from senile dementia and can experience a loss of memory, accidents involving urination/defecation, increased vocalisation or a reduced ability to cope with changes in their routine.
An old cat tends to be more susceptible to illness and injury making it a great idea to arrange regular check-ups with your vet. In addition to the usual procedure your vet may want to test your cat’s blood levels, blood pressure and urine. Often, diseases can be controlled much better when they are diagnosed early.
Cats that have deteriorating hearing or eyesight may be less aware of their surroundings meaning they will be easily startled and, at times, confused. To help keep them comfortable and settled try not to move anything around in terms of furniture or the layout of your rooms.
Older cats need a soft, warm bed that is well out of the way of the hustle and bustle of everyday life; it is essential that they have a place where they can relax and rest-up.
You may find that an older cat will need help with grooming as they get older. Grooming is very important to cats and it is excellent for an elderly cat’s wellbeing if you able to assist with this. Brushing their coat will help to keep them in good shape and can prove to be very comforting. Another point to take into account is that older cats are often less able or willing to groom their nails. This can be dangerous as, if a cat’s curved nails are left for too long, then they can grow into the paw causing pain and leading to infection. Therefore it may be necessary to trim their nails on a cyclical basis.
The older a cat gets, the more likely it is that they will not want to go outside to relieve themselves, to help with this provide them with a litter tray. If your cat is having trouble with mobility it can be a good idea to have a few litter trays around the house. Getting an older cat to use a litter tray has the added benefit of being able to monitor them for signs of constipation or urinary problems, both prevalent in older cats.
Once cats reach old age their weight may start to noticeably change meaning that diet can play a vital part in helping an older feline to stay healthy.
Some cats will put on weight due to the fact that they are less active and spend more time sleeping. Weight gain can be a difficult subject to approach and indeed, many owners may not even classify their cat as obese, but it is much more common than thought. Obesity is dangerous as it can negatively contribute to conditions such as arthritis or heart disease.
Other cats will experience the opposite problem and start to lose weight and, whilst this can be down to a general loss of appetite with age, it can also be a sign of an underlying illness or disease. If you notice that your cat is starting to lose weight then please book an appointment with your vet.
Should your cat suffer from any weight issues then you may find that your veterinarian places them on a prescription diet specifically tailored to their health needs.
Many cats tend to drink less as they grow into their old age but it is still imperative that they have access to fresh water at all times. In some cases it can be a good idea to move an older cat onto a tinned diet so that they receive more water that way, in others something as simple as a water fountain can encourage an older cat to start drinking more again. If an older cat starts drinking more this can be an indicator of a disease or condition.
The key to caring for an older cat is to stay vigilant, keep any eye out for any changes, no matter how small they may be, and make sure your cat is kept as comfortable as possible.