Cats are living longer than ever, so it is especially important that we as cat guardians know what the normal aging process looks like. I have outlined some of the normal signs of aging below and have also provided suggestions for ensuring your feline companion’s golden years are as pain free as possible.
What are the Signs of Aging in Cats?
Aging is a natural process and the following can be common in cats as they grow older. I suggest taking a baseline measurement as soon as you can and note any changes on a set date every year. This will allow you to determine what is out of the norm for your individual kitty. If the changes are extreme or happen suddenly, please take your cat to the veterinarian.
As your cat grows older, they may:
- Sleep more
- Play less
- Have different dietary needs (both food and water)
- Experience an increase digestion issues like constipation, diarrhea, hairballs or vomiting
- Act increasingly affectionate and social
- Become upset when a routine changes
- Want or need more human interaction and reassurance
- Lose some or all of their hearing
- Lose some or all of their vision
- Lose muscle tone
- Show signs of joint stiffness or pain
- Gain or lose weight
- Become increasingly vocal
- Have fur that appears dull or is matted
- Develop dental issues like tooth loss and bad breath
- Get chilled or overheated more easily
Senior Cat Care
The following are tips and suggestions for taking care of your aging feline friend:
DIET & NUTRITION
- Increase your senior cat’s access to water by adding fountains, or water features. Put multiple bowls of water in different rooms.
- Transition your cat from a dry food diet to a wet or raw food diet. This is better for their digestion, kidneys, and overall health and may be necessary due to tooth loss. For more about cat diet and nutrition, go HERE.
- Consider adding the following to your cat’s diet:
- Probiotics aid in digestion and some studies show they improve dental health as well.
- Coconut oil or pumpkin (canned or pureed) can help if your older kitty has started to have constipation.
- Glucosamine chondroitin works well for stiff joints.
- Provide perches at a lower height and add stairs to get into a favorite nook or bed.
- Purchase litter boxes that are lower to the ground and provide plenty of room for a cat who has stiff joints to move around.
- If your cat is indoor/outdoor, consider a catio or a window perch as an alternative and keep your older cat inside. Older kitties are more vulnerable to the dangers of the outside, like predators and territorial feral cats.
- Add a night light to help your senior cat navigate when it is dark.
- Keep your house warmer in the winter or add heating pads or heated beds to the home.
- If you live in a hot climate, ensure your cat has plenty of water and cool places to hang out.
It is critical that you continue to provide enrichment activities for your cat as they age. Patience is required, as it may not be as exciting or fun for you as it was when they were young. If they are tracking with their eyes and their whiskers and ears are at attention during play, that might be it for that play session. Be sure and try again and aim for at least two sessions a day. Go here for more ideas on cat enrichment. Be sure the activities are suitable for your cat’s health and age.
Here are some great ways to keep your senior kitty active and engaged into their golden years:
- Fish tank (live or faux fish)
- Apps for your phone or laptop that mimic the behavior of potential prey
- Cat grass
- Kitty massage
- Catnip and other types of aromatherapy
- Catnip bubbles
- Provide more one on one time
- Sing or read to your cat
As your cat ages, they have less energy to groom and changes in the mouth or tongue can make their grooming less effective. For example, Duffy’s tongue, which is almost always out, has missing or dulled barbs – making his grooming efforts less effective. Consider the following grooming suggestions:
- Brush your senior more often
- Have them professionally groomed and consider a belly shave or lion cut in the summer
- Use softer, shorter brushing strokes in case there are tender spots
- Try out different brushes
- Use a damp cloth to wipe off dirt or loose fur
Your cat will need a yearly check-up with a veterinarian by age 9, which should include an elder cat blood panel, heart disease test (See the test Paw Project vets recommend HERE), and vision/hearing/dental check-up. Finding a competent, feline oriented vet that specializes in your breed of cat is important at this stage. See Finding the Right Cat Veterinarian for tips.
Take your senior cat to the vet immediately if you see the following warning signs from messybeast.com :
What has worked for you when caring for a senior cat? Squish Delish wants to hear from you!
Special thanks to @standpoorstudios for the use of his illustrations. Check out these designs and more at TeeSpring.com.