I decided to create this series of articles to address the top questions I’ve been asked as a veterinary technician. I’m a CVDT (Certified Veterinary Dental Technician), have been in the field for over ten years and have noticed a trend in the most commonly asked questions by pet owners. The answers found in these articles will reflect how things have been done in my experience only; keep in mind that all veterinarians and veterinary hospitals have varying policies and techniques.
For the purpose of this article, I will discuss some of the things in particular to take into consideration for your senior cats. As they age, cats have special needs just as we as humans do. So let’s take a look at some of the ways we can help accommodate these aging felines and make their “golden years” the best years.
1. Make an attempt to limit or avoid any unnecessary stress.
Older cats are less adaptable to change. Because of this, it is important to do your best to try and keep the daily routine and home environment as close to normal as possible.
A big challenge may come into play here when families take vacations. If you must board your senior cat in a boarding facility, try to take some familiar objects that your cat will have access too. Take things like his own food and water dishes, bedding and toys.
Another way to help avoid a spike in stress levels is to avoid getting any new pets when you have a current feline senior resident. Just adding one new cat or kitten, or a new puppy can really cause turmoil with a senior cat.
A move to a new home may be unavoidable but even though it may cause some additional stress for your cat, there are things you can do to help him along this difficult time. Make sure he always has access to his familiar bedding, food and toys. Allow him to take his time investigating his new surroundings and always give him extra attention and affection. It may take some time for adjustment but letting him go at his own pace will go a long way.
2. Always feed a diet that is appropriate for the cat’s lifestage.
Find a good quality diet that will give your cat the proper nutrition he needs. A good food will have different types that are formulated for the different ages of cats; kittens, adults and seniors.
Many senior cats require a food that is specially formulated to help treat or prevent specific medical problems. There are even prescription strength foods for things such as obesity, urinary conditions and kidney problems. As your veterinarian for the right food for your particular cat.
Always make sure you’re feeding the right quantity of food. Even if you are feeding the highest quality food, if you aren’t feeding the correct amount, you could be doing more harm than good. It is important for senior cats to be at a proper weight; avoid overfeeding and even underfeeding. If you are unsure of the correct amount of food to feed your senior cat, simply ask your veterinarian!
3. Exercise is still important even at the senior stage.
Ensure that your senior cats gets exercise on a daily basis. We all know how hard it is to get a cat to exercise; it can be even more difficult with senior cat. However, even through moderate playtime, exercise can do wonders for a cat. It not only helps prevent obesity, but it also helps increase blood circulation and promotes muscle tone, which can be a real issue with aging cats.
When a senior cat exercises, take this opportunity to observe for things you may not otherwise see another time. If you notice any labored breathing or feel that he is tiring too quickly, take note of it and mentioned it to your cat’s veterinarian. These can be signs of an underlying condition and should be treated as soon as possible.
Older cats can suffer from arthritis just like dogs so it’s important to take that into consideration when coming up with your senior cat’s exercise plan. You should also take it into account for some of the simpler parts of your cat’s routine; like the litter box. A senior cat can greatly benefit from having ramps put onto the sides of his litter box. Or you can try getting a litter box with very low walls. Climbing over the high walls of standard litter boxes can be difficult enough that the cat simply stops using the box altogether.
4. Your cat may begin to rely on you to do his grooming for him.
Older cats groom themselves less often than when they were younger for a number of reasons. Therefore, you, as the cat owner, will need to step in and give him a hand. Brushing your cat daily has many benefits. First, you’ll remove any dead or loose hairs and prevent any mats from causing discomfort. Grooming also helps prevent hairballs as the cat will ingest less hair when he does do his own grooming.
Don’t forget to check his toe nails. As cats age, they are less able to retract their nails and because they tend to use scratching posts less frequently it is important to trim the nails as needed.
5. Keep up with those vet visits!
All pets should go see the vet twice a year for a routine check-up but even more so with a senior pet. These cats are aging very quickly and will need the help of the veterinarian to stay on top of any potential problems. These visits are also important for cats with current health conditions to make sure they are kept under control.
This is a great time to also monitor your senior cat’s weight. Not only is it important to stay ahead of any weight gain and help fight obesity early on, it is imperative to know if your cat is losing weight. This can be the first sign of an underlying condition and should be monitored closely.
Senior cats simply need a little bit more help along the way. Take into consideration some of their special needs to help make him as happy and comfortable as possible.