Care For Older Cats

Your cat”s muzzle is getting gray and her pounces are slower than they once were. Against your will, you finally begin to realize that your constant companion is getting a little old. Now is the time to learn more about care for older cats.

Health Issues for Older Cats

When your cat reaches old age, she faces the possibility of many problems, including:

  • cancer
  • disorders of the hormones
  • joint stiffness
  • organ disease
  • osteoarthritis
  • weight problems.

Because of these possible health problems, most veterinarians recommend that your senior cat see his vet at least twice a year. Taking your cat in for regular exams can help catch problems before they get too severe.

At your cat”s appointment, be ready to answer questions about how your cat is acting and how much exercise she gets. Your veterinarian will probably want to draw blood to check for different diseases or conditions, such as anemia or hyperthyroidism. Veterinarians may use a urine sample to see if your cat suffers from:

  • dehydration
  • diabetes
  • kidney problems
  • urinary tract infection.

You might need to bring a recent stool sample from your senior cat to the exam. The veterinarian will examine it for blood, parasites and evidence of pancreatic problems.

Sometimes the veterinarian will recommend additional tests. In general, however, this is only done if your senior cat is showing signs of a problem.

Behavior Changes in Senior Cats

Sometimes cats begin acting differently as they age. For instance, senior cats may begin spraying outside of the litter box. While this may be due to a health problem, such as liver disease or a urinary tract infection, there could be other reasons for the change. For instance, if the litter box is located at the top of a flight of stairs, he may be having trouble reaching it.

Older cats may also become stressed by the unexpected. To keep your cat as happy as possible, try to keep your home quiet, if possible, and also keep your cat on a regular routine. If you will be having a large group of people at the house or if people will be coming in to perform work on the house, consider putting your cat in a quiet, isolated part of your home.

Another common complaint among owners of aging cats is feline aggression. Sometimes older cats become prone to attacking for no apparent reason. This might be caused by pain, which makes pets irritable and less tolerant of petting. Another reason for sudden aggression might be that your cat”s vision is declining, making her more likely to be startled.

Senior Cats and Sleep

Occasionally, cats” sleep cycles become erratic as they age. If your cat”s antics keep you awake at night, try to relax her by playing with her or grooming her before you go to bed. Sometimes, moving your cat”s meal to a different time can also help with sleep problems.

Caring for Your Senior Cat”s Mental Health

Some cats suffer from increased fear and anxiety in their golden years. If your cat is acting scared, try to find out what is frightening her and either eliminate or reduce it.

If you can”t discover a reason for the fear on your own, take your cat to the veterinarian and see if there is a physical cause that can be remedied. Your veterinarian might decide to prescribe an anti-anxiety medicine for your cat if she can”t find a physical reason for the problem.

Many of the annoyances that come with owning an aging cat can be traced to medical problems. With regular check-ups, you can improve you senior cat”s health and provide your cat with a high quality of life for a long time to come.

Resources

American Animal Hospital Association (2007). Senior pet care. Retrieved October 1, 2007, from the AAHA Web site: http://www.healthypet.com/library_view.aspx?id=141.

Nash, Holly (1997). Older cats: Common behavior changes. Retrieved October 3, 2007, from the Pet Education Web site: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?cls=1&cat=1387&articleid=610.