Caring for Your Senior Cat
It is good news is that humans are living longer, healthier lives. But the great news is that our cats are living longer, healthier lives too! Our feline companions used to be considered “getting up there” at around age 10 or 12 years of age.
Now, according to Cornell University Feline Health Center (CFHC), that figure needs to be adjusted downward to 6 to 7 years of age. According to CFHC, the idea that one human year equals seven cat years is incorrect: a 10-year-old cat is really closer to 53 in human years, and a 15-year-old cat is more akin to a person aged 73!
Your Senior Cat: How Old is Old?
Many cats are now living into their early twenties and beyond. Even the toughest, healthiest cats eventually start to show their age. When that happens, we need to adapt to their changing physical and mental needs. Caring for your senior cat isn’t difficult, it just requires a bit more attention and a proactive approach.
Issues to Keep an Eye Out For:
- Obesity: Overweight cats have a higher incidence of diabetes, liver disease, circulatory conditions, painful arthritis, and cancer. Pay close attention to their weight and appetite.
- Dental health: Infected teeth may cause internal system or organ infections, heart dysfunction and other serious problems. Regular inspection of the mouth and teeth can detect problems earlier and prevent permanent complications–we asses your cat’s dental health at every visit to prevent crisis and pain.
- Arthritis: Limping, licking, and an unwillingness to jump to or from favorite high spots may indicate age-related arthritis. However, don’t forget that these are signs of Pain. It is always best to have your baby evaluated by your veterinarian, rather that wait and see what is next.
- Hyperthyroidism: Your older cat’s thyroid may become overactive, causing a serious condition called hyperthyroidism. Cats that are eating more but losing weight, overly thirsty (seeking running water, toilet water, drinking the bowls dry or low), hyperactive, nervous or agitated, are common signs of hormone imbalances.
- Diabetes: Like humans, older cats may develop insulin deficiency (diabetes). Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, lethargy, and overeating with a voracious appetite. By the time some of these signs are seen, diabetes may have been well-established already.
- Kidney problems: Chronic dehydration, anemia, high kidney-associated toxin levels (BUN, creatinine, phosphorus) can cause outward signs of general depression, lack of appetite, increased water intake or urination, and low energy. These signs are often subtle, since many cats sleep many hours a day!
- High blood pressure: This condition most often silent and is life and sight-threatening. The most common sign we see when a cat presents to our hospital is sudden blindness, often irreversible; as well, they risk strokes, heart failure, kidney and other organ failure. The longer the elevated blood pressure goes untreated, the more likely the blindness and other complications are permanent. Any cat approaching the age of 7 should have blood pressure screening during their veterinary visits to ensure this very treatable disease does not go undetected.
This list is by no means complete… but the best way to monitor and combat these conditions is with regular biannual exams and blood pressure monitoring. The earlier we detect even subtle changes, such as mild weight, appetite or water intake fluctuations, the less likely you will find reason to seek critical care in an emergency room. Emergency care is a vital service for animals and incredibly skilled and knowledgeable veterinary staff perform miracles every day, but prevention with regular medical assessment is best.
Owners sometimes struggle to get their cat into the carrier and make the trip twice annually, but all agree that an emergency visit is far more stressful and costly with a much lower chance of a good outcome once the crisis is in play. Truly, biannual visits with your cat to the veterinarian prevent crisis and emergencies.
Consider scheduling a wellness exam for your little elderly one. And of course if you have any questions about caring for your senior cat, just give us a call. We are at your service and thank you in advance for trusting us with your precious little one’s care.
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