As with people, cats slow down as they age. They may want to exercise less, they may start to gain weight, and their personality may change. Some cats become friendlier and want to spend more time with their owners. Others become more grumpy and don’t like to be touched. Many cats sleep more and go out less.
However, personality changes can be a sign of pain or illness , so it’s worth checking with your vet. Don’t forget that older cats still need regular vaccinations , flea and parasite treatment.
How does old age affect cats?
Aging affects the skin and it becomes less elastic. The coat loses its shine and white hairs may appear. Hearing and vision deteriorate, and your pet’s memory can be affected . Sleep patterns often change as many older cats sleep longer, although some do wake up at night.
Muscles and bones become weaker and the immune system doesn’t work as well, making your cat less able to fight infection. Internal organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys can deteriorate. Other changes make the mouth dry and eating can be more difficult.
However, improvements in medicine mean that treatments are available to help reduce the worst effects of aging in cats. Age is not a reason to accept health problems and even old cats can lead happy and active lives . Keeping your cat mentally active can help her feel young – try new toys , just like kittens, older cats like to play.
When do cats start to get old?
Currently, the average age of aging for cats is considered to start at seven years for most cats.
Many veterinarians are beginning to provide “elderly cat care” programs and these are worth considering. Recognizing early changes in your pet allows for early diagnosis and treatment and can greatly improve quality of life.
As your cat ages, it is good to provide an indoor litter box , even if your cat normally uses the outdoor toilet. Due to slowing down, older cats may feel vulnerable outside, and providing an indoor litter box will help prevent potty problems. Low-sided litter boxes are best for older cats to get into comfortably.
Feeding an elderly cat
Throughout your cat’s life, you should weigh him every month or two. If the weight is steadily increasing after 12 months of age, you should start reducing your cat’s diet . Weight loss can be an early sign of illness, so check with your vet.
It is common for older cats to develop medical conditions that cause them to lose weight, such as kidney and thyroid disease. If your cat is losing weight, it is important that you see your vet as soon as possible. Other cats gain weight easily as they get older and it is important to keep this under control . Overweight cats are unlikely to live long and are prone to serious illness.
If your cat is losing weight, you should consult your vet in case there is an underlying medical problem and discuss whether it is advisable to follow a diet for seniors. The vet may suggest special foods for elderly cats with weight loss.
Grooming an elderly cat
If your cat looks unkempt or develops matted fur, go to the vet for a checkup. There may be dental disease or joint problems that are affecting the ability to groom. Regular grooming is important for your cat.
Keep a check on your kitty’s nails. Younger cats often do not need to trim their nails, but reduced activity can cause the claws to grow too long. Have your vet check it out if you’re not sure.
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