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Caring For A Senior Cat: Tips to Keep Them Healthy

  •   4 min reads
Caring For A Senior Cat: Tips to Keep Them Healthy
by Niko Gabriel Salgado

Every cat deserves optimal care, but senior cats require a more specific focus on their health concerns. As cats grow older, their health needs change, and it is our responsibility to assist them in forming lifestyle “patterns” that account for these changes.

Numerous actions can be taken to instill healthy lifestyle routines for our cats, and initiating these measures is possible. Similar to humans, aging cats encounter age-related changes.

“With good care our cats can live well into their late teens, and even their twenties. But as cats age, their physical and behavioral needs change” said Liz Bales, veterinarian,  in “6 Tips for Caring for Senior Cats” in Pet MD website.

Angel, 10, needs sunlight, and loves to sleep at the terrace. Please make sure to give a senior cat time under the sun. (Photo from file of Save Animals of Love and Light-Save ALL)

When is a cat considered senior?

Cats do not age at a rate of  seven (7) years per human year. They undergo more rapid aging during their initial years, causing them to reach middle age and senior status earlier than one might expect. To offer a general idea, here are the typical life stages for an average cat:

  • Kitten: Up to 1 year old
  • Young adult: 1-6 years old
  • Mature adult: 7-10 years old
  • Senior: Over 10 years old

According to Bales, here are the top six ways to care for aging cats:

1. Monitor your senior cat’s diet and nutrition

As your cat ages, his or her nutritional demands shift. Maintaining communication with your veterinarian is crucial, as they can offer guidance on any specialized needs your cat may have, especially if they are dealing with any illness.

“A cat’s digestion is also improved by feeding them small, frequent meals throughout the day and night. Measure your cat’s daily food and distribute it in small portions” said Bales.

Blue, a 12-year-old cat, loves boiled fish with mashed, boiled pumpkin or sayote. She also loves to play around the house, and plays hide and seek with us. (Photo from file of Save Animals of Love and Light-Save ALL)

Should your cat exhibit reduced appetite, you can attempt to stimulate their eating by transitioning from dry kibble to wet food, warming their food, or opting for a different flavor.

2. Ensure your senior cat drinks enough water

Ensuring your cat remains well-hydrated is important. Hydration supports organ performance and the elimination of waste substances, among various other functions. Several cats can display selectiveness regarding water consumption.

“Increase your senior cat’s water intake by providing canned food and more options for drinking water. Add more water stations around the house with plenty of bowls and/or pet water fountains to entice your senior cat to drink more” Bales suggested.

3. Monitor your senior cat at home for signs of illness and pain

Cats excel in concealing indications of discomfort and illness, making it challenging for owners to detect the initial phases of sickness.

It is important to closely monitor any alterations in behavior, as these changes frequently serve as the initial indications of illness.

Fluffy, 10, loves boxes. She sleeps inside a box, or uses it as scratching pad. (Photo from file of Save Animals of Love and Light-Save ALL)

4. Don’t neglect their dental health

Dental problems are common among senior cats. These issues can result in discomfort and inflammation, affecting their lifestyle.

“Often, there is no clear sign of dental disease. Cat parents see weight loss and a poor hair coat as the vague signs of aging, not an indication of a potential problem” said Bales.

“A thorough veterinary exam and routine dental care can drastically improve your cat’s quality of life, and can even extend their lifespan” Bales added.

5. Provide your senior cat daily exercise and mental stimulation

As senior cats gradually become less active, they might opt for spending more time indoors. Introduce additional toys that cater to their innate behavior.

“All cats need places to climb, places to hide, things to scratch, and ways to hunt and play. All of these things will help your cat stay physically and mentally stimulated as well as healthy” Bales noted.

Mental stimulation has also been proven to help counteract the effects of declining cognition in senior pets. Human interaction holds significant importance for older felines, contributing to their sense of security, contentment, and affection.

6. Take your senior cat for regular vet visits

Regular wellness check-ups with a veterinarian are recommended for both adult and senior cats.

“Ideally, cats over 11 years of age should see the veterinarian every six months” said Bales.

“Blood work done during these visits can detect the onset of health issues—like kidney disease—while there’s still time to make medical changes that will improve and extend your cat’s life” Bales added.

About the Author: Niko Gabriel Salgado is a graduate of consular and diplomatic affairs from De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, and worked at the House of Representatives. He is now an entrepreneur and a volunteer of the animal welfare group Save Animals of Love and Light- Save ALL.

This article also appears in the Manila Standard

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