As your cat gets older, its daily requirements start to change. Senior cats, like senior people, often require some extra care and attention. So, finding the most effective ways to look after your cat’s health is really important.
From diet, joint health, grooming, and everything in between, senior cats depend on their owners more as they age. So, identifying any potential problems at an early stage can enable your cat to continue to enjoy its golden years.
Although caring for an elderly cat can be demanding, it can also be extremely gratifying. An extraordinary bond can be formed between owner and feline when a more hands-on approach is taken.
How to Care for a Senior Cat’s Health
In this guide, we will guide you through what is needed to optimize the health needs of your cat. These can play a vital role in keeping your cat fit, happy, and healthy as it enters the twilight of his or her life.
1] Feed Your Cat Meat and Avoid Too Many Vegetables
The dietary hallmark of a carnivore is protein, and cats of all ages need a meat-rich diet. Nutrients such as arachidonic acid and taurine are an essential part of a cat’s diet, and they can only be found in animal meat.
Cats, even senior cats, have unique nutritional needs. Similar to those of lions and tigers, cats require more protein than dogs, pigs, and humans. A quality protein that is highly digestible is crucial for cats at all stages of their life.
Although elderly cats are prone to digestive concerns, it is essential to continue to always feed your cat high-quality proteins. Unless told otherwise by a vet, you should maintain the current protein level.
Additionally, you should never feed your cat human food.
2] Maintain Joint Health and Mobility
Similar to humans, the joints and muscles of cats begin to lose their integrity over time. This can slowly make it more difficult for your senior feline to run, jump, go upstairs, and walk properly. If your cat is approaching the ages of 15-20, basic tasks can become far more demanding.
One way to improve your cat’s joint health and mobility is to increase your feline’s intake of DHA and EPA. These are critical fatty acids that cats need. These additions can decrease the symptoms of arthritis and joint-related diseases.
- As your cat gets older, conditions such as osteoarthritis often become a major issue. Causing the cartilage that is needed for joint support to wear away slowly, these diseases can cause your cat to experience intense pain.
Although an increase in fatty acids can be beneficial, joint supplements should also be taken for added relief. For example, Cosequin can help to rebuild and restore worn and deteriorated cartilage. A Nutramax Cosequin supplement (and similar) can be added to your cat’s food on a daily basis.
3] Monitor Your Cat’s Bodyweight
Keep track of your cat’s weight to ensure that it remains stable. While you never want your senior cat to be underweight, the struggles associated with an overweight cat can be severe.
Obese felines have a much higher chance of developing diabetes, skin disease, liver issues, and cancer.
If are worried that your cat has gained weight, you are encouraged to consult with your veterinarian. With the help of a professional, you can adjust your cat’s diet accordingly for its situation.
While making sure that a feline’s nutritional needs are met is always the objective, this is even more important for a senior cat. Developing a diet that is low in calories but rich in nutrition is crucial.
Some senior cats gain weight due to immobility issues. If your cat’s diet has not changed in years, yet its weight is increasing, the issue could be with the legs.
- Diets that include the amino acid L-carnitine can help your senior cat to lose weight. While L-carnitine does not directly result in weight loss, it can help your cat’s body to break down fats.
4] Adjust Diet for Health Conditions
If your cat has been diagnosed with heart disease, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or any other serious health ailment, you should consider giving them a special diet.
Adjusting your senior cat’s sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and electrolyte levels can be beneficial for many conditions. Your vet can help you select which foods and diet plans are best for its unique needs.
While feeding your elderly cat a balanced and nutritious diet is essential, specific dietary adjustments for diagnosed conditions can be life-saving. Your feline is depending on you to make the right choices.
5] Take Care of Your Cat’s Mouth, Teeth, and Gums
It is normal for both adult and senior cats to develop tartar and gingivitis. This is the byproduct of bacteria buildup. Learning how to take care of your cat’s mouth is critical.
Brushing your cat’s teeth and providing it with specific dental-friendly foods and treats can keep teeth clean and free of disease. One option that cats absolutely love is Purina DentaLife Adult Cat Treats.
- Senior cats can develop periodontitis. This is a condition where a cat’s gums slowly recede away from the tooth due to inflammation caused by plaque. This can create a small hole or pocket. As bacteria fill the gap, the bone under the root of the tooth becomes infected. This will result in tooth loss. Unfortunately, this condition cannot be reversed once it has reached this stage. Almost 40% of cats aged 9 and older suffer from this condition.
You may notice that your cat’s gums turn black or that black speckles appear (lentigo simplex).
While it can be easy to overlook tooth and gum health when addressing the health needs of your elderly cat, you should always be proactive. In the same way that a senior adult needs dental care, so does your feline friend.
6] Monitor Your Cat’s Habits and Look for Changes
Because cats are good at hiding pain and illness, it is vital to monitor your cat. This calls for both behavioral and physical changes.
If you notice any significant differences in your feline’s behavior such as lack of appetite, sleeping more, hiding, etc., you should consult your vet. This is vital if you have been the only owner of your feline. After 11+ years, such stark behavioral and physical changes should spark your attention and prompt action.
While you should never live in fear, it is wise to keep records. Once a month you should make notes concerning your cat’s habits. Even if those habits are healthy, this can help you to identify changes when they do arise. Changes in bowel movements should also be noted, such as a cat failing to use its litter tray.
If your senior cat has modified its normal behavior and routines, you should act accordingly.
7] Keep Your Cat Mentally and Physically Stimulated
Old cats should be mentally and physically stimulated on a routine basis. You should never neglect your cat. While allowing it to sleep and rest is essential, senior felines need your love and attention. The simple act of speaking to your cat can do more than meets the eye.
The use of interactive toys and games can stimulate your feline both mentally and physically. Allowing your cat to follow you around the house can help your cat to stay in shape, lose weight, and maintain mobility.
Even something as fundamental as playing “follow the stick” can spark mental stimulation.
As cats age, they’re more likely to develop cognitive dysfunction. This can introduce uncomfortable symptoms for your cat when they’re as young as ten.
This condition is similar to Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia that is found in humans. You may notice that your cat has started yowling at night, for example.
Although older cats are easy to keep occupied, you should still explore ways to keep cats entertained when you leave your home.
Listed below are some common symptoms and issues…
- Excessive vocalizing
- Becoming disoriented in otherwise familiar rooms
- Litter box mistakes (Forgetting they have one, forgetting where it is, etc.)
- Aggressiveness towards humans and other animals in the home
- Change in their sleep cycle
- General confusion (Staring at a wall)
- Wandering away from home
- Lacking the desire to play
Although you can’t turn back the hands of time, it is essential to continue to act as a loving guide for your cat. Your senior companion will be more likely to slow down mentally if you begin to pull away. Engage with your furry friend. They will appreciate the love and encouragement.
8] Use Safe Cat Grooming Tools
As your cat begins to age, the natural grooming process can become quite tricky.
Although your feline may want to groom, they may not be physically able to do so. Whether it is due to diagnosed arthritis or joint and muscle stiffness, your cat can begin to look unkempt through no fault of their own. The pain and decreased mobility can become too much.
It is in these times where you can take the reins of responsibility. Through the use of safe grooming tools, you can help your cat to look its best. One option that your cat will enjoy is a Pet Hair Remover Glove. Your cat will thank you, in their own way, for picking up the slack that has been left by their inability to complete specific tasks.
By brushing your cat on a routine basis, you can create a pleasant and much-needed experience. The act of talking softly to your feline while using positive body language can cause your furry pal to feel loved and relaxed.
Listed below are some helpful grooming recommendations…
- Use a soft-bristle brush rather than wire bristle to groom your cat’s fur. Soft brushes are gentler in nature and are safer when being applied to tender joints.
- If your senior cat has developed matted fur, you should take your feline to a groomer. Never attempt to remove mats own your own. Cats have tender skin, and one wrong move with a pair of scissors can cause a serious problem. A professional groomer can take care of matted fur and minimize the risk of injury.
- Nail trimming is important. As cats age, their claws become thicker. Long and thick nails can become ingrown and damaged. This can cause considerable discomfort. Clipping your cat’s nails once a month can prevent many issues.
- If your senior cat has a shedding issue, it is wise to use a pet hair removal glove. With a glove, you can gently stroke your feline while collecting loose fur. These soft and gentle gloves can provide your cat with a relaxing petting session while you remove hair and debris.
9] Check Litter Box Findings and Monitor Changes
Although the task can be off-putting, it is important to check your cat’s stool and urination findings when cleaning out the litter box.
Paying attention to stool color and texture can provide signs (for better or worse) that relate to your feline’s current health.
If you notice an increase in the amount of urine in the box, this could be a sign of illness. Older cats often urinate a lot when suffering from diabetes, kidney disease, and high blood pressure.
While you should never become afraid as to what you might find, it is vital to be alert. The key to your cat’s health (and continued life) could be found in the contents of the litter box.
If your cat is finding it difficult to poop, you can find some useful tips in this article.
10] Accommodate Your Cat to Meet Their Physical Needs
You should accommodate your cat to meet their ever-changing physical needs in the same way you would a senior person. As your cat becomes unable to access critical items, you should make it easier for them by providing new outlets.
- If your cat has difficulty bending their legs, you can lower the sides of their litter box. If “stepping up” has become a significant concern you should eliminate that task entirely.
- Elderly cats need physical comfort in the form of soft bedding. Supply your senior cat with plenty of blankets and towels to sleep on for the sake of comfort and convenience.
- Make sure your feline can get access to water and food without much effort. Never force your cat to travel up and down stairs to get a drink. Reduce the walking distance and simplify the consumption process.
Always monitor your cat and make a list of ways that you can better accommodate them. If you see your cat struggling with a situation, then adjust it ASAP. This will take a lot of the burden away.
11] Only Allow Your Cat Outdoors at Specific Times
Although elderly cats are easier to care for from a search and retrieve standpoint, this should not be an excuse to leave your cat outside for hours at a time. While you may feel inclined to put your cat outside with your other animals, older cats can quickly fall victim to harsh environmental conditions.
While this does not mean that outdoor life is off-limits, time spent outside should be monitored.
When the weather is comfortable, you can allow your cat to set up residence in an area just feet from the nearest door. Place a soft bed outside without eyeshot so your cat can feel at home and secure.
Fresh air is vital so time outdoors can be beneficial to their routine.
Additionally, your senior cat may enjoy watching younger cat housemates run and play. This is another way for your old feline to stay mentally active.
- Keep track of the time. Your cat should stay outside no longer than 2-3 hours in one session.
- Make sure weather conditions are no cooler than 55 degrees and no warmer than 80. The ideal day should be the setting for your feline. No harsh winds or rain.
- Keep an eye on your cat and let them be your guide. If your cat rises from its slumber and wants to return inside, you should always grant this request. While you can choose to give your cat outdoor time, you should never force him to remain outside.
- Make sure the immediate area is free of potential harm, such as stray cats, snakes, raccoons, etc..
- During times when your cat is unable to go outside, provide for them a way to look outside. If your cat loves the great outdoors, you should provide them with the visual appeal and mental stimulation. Cats often like to see what’s happening even if they are unable to participate. Your elderly cat, if of sound mind, is likely still an eager kitten at heart. Allowing your feline to witness nature through the looking glass can be beneficial.
12] Schedule Routine Visits to the Veterinarian
Although you can look after the health and well-being of your senior cat in your own time, felines need professional care.
Scheduling regular trips to the vet can ensure that your cat receives the best examinations and treatment possible. Your vet can also pass along some helpful advice.
From a financial standpoint, establishing vet care is a wise move. It is easier to prevent than treat illness. Pet bills can be high, and that can leave you in a bad situation with decisions to make.
Here are things you should ask your vet during a check-up…
- Make sure your cat receives a full body evaluation. This includes weight, posture, mobility tests, etc. These basic tests can unlock many answers and allow you to make proper adjustments based on the findings. For example, dietary changes that should be made if your cat is deemed to be medically obese. Also, what joint supplements that should be taken if your cat is showing signs of arthritis. If the vet spots an area of concern, you should ask questions.
- Ask about basic senior cat care tips. Even if you have read everything that’s available online, there is always more to learn. In many ways, the vet visit is for you just as much as it is for your feline. Tell the vet what you are actively doing to care for your senior cat. By detailing daily routines, your vet can tell you if you are doing the right things.
Caring for your cat with your eyes is invaluable. If you begin to notice a problem, then you should act swiftly. Although everyone can pull from their own examples and experiences, it is wise to think of an elderly cat as an older adult.
If you have ever had the first-hand experience of taking care of a senior family member, you can put that experience to use. Comfort, securing, stability, and being mindful of adverse changes is the key. This applies to senior cats and seniors. You will likely be surprised how the care for both is similar.
Sharing the final stages of your cat’s life is a gift. Always take the time to appreciate the bond. Just being mindful of the moment is, in itself, an excellent example of care.