You see your feline friend every day, which can make it difficult to notice the subtle differences in their appearance and behavior as they get older. In this post, our vets in Mandeville share the age at that your cat will be considered a senior, the changes that occur as they age and how your vet can help.
Your cat is getting older, but when are they actually a senior?
You love your cat and you spend every day showing them loads of love and affection. But can you tell that they are starting to age? Do you know the signs to watch for?
Each cat will age differently making it difficult to actually know when your cat specifically has entered old age.
There has always been a saying that 1 cat year is equal to 7 human years but that's not entirely true.
Typically, you can expect your cat to be considered a senior by the time they are 11 years of age. If a cat lives beyond 15 years of age, they would be a "super-senior". It can sometimes help to think of your cat's age in human terms when caring for older cats.
What can you expect as your cat enters old age?
Humans are not alone in experiencing the signs of aging. While aging in cats is not considered a disease in itself, keeping your vet up to date on changes in your senior cat's personality and body will help ensure they receive the most comprehensive wellness care possible. Some changes to watch for include:
Physical Changes in Your Senior Cat
Changes in Your Cat's Appearance
As your cat ages, they may be unable to keep up with the same grooming standards that they once had. This can lead to matted fur which can result in inflammation and skin odor.
Your older feline companion's eyes and vision may also change - you may notice a slightly hazy lens and a 'lacy' appearance in the iris (the colorful part of the eye). While there is little evidence that this alone significantly impacts their sight, numerous diseases (especially those related to high blood pressure) can have serious and irreversible negative effects on a cat's ability to see.
You will need to spend some time focusing on the care of your cat's claws as they may begin to run into issues with these over time.
Unusual Weight Loss
If your senior cat is losing weight, this can point to any number of problems, from diabetes to kidney and heart disease. Dental disease is also extremely common in senior cats. As they age, dental issues can impair eating, causing malnutrition and weight loss along with causing significant pain in their mouths.
Daily Exercise & Activity
Arthritis or degenerative joint disease often becomes a problem for older cats. This condition makes it difficult to access food and water bowls, beds, and litter boxes. This fact is especially true for a cat that needs to climb stairs or jump.
While changes in sleep are a normal aspect of aging, a significant increase in sleep or depth of sleep is a concern and your vet should be notified. If you notice your senior cat's energy has suddenly increased, this may indicate hyperthyroidism and should be checked by a vet.
You may notice that your cat becomes less responsive over time which can indicate hearing loss. If this happens you should contact your vet for a hearing examination.
Behavioral Changes in Your Senior Cat
Cognitive Issues Affecting Cats
If you notice that your cat has started being confused by tasks or objects that are part of their daily routine, this may be a sign of issues with memory or cognition. Behavioral changes such as litterbox accidents or avoidance, new or increased human avoidance, wandering, excessive meowing, and seeming disorientated, are also potential signs of mental confusion or feline senility and should be examined by your vet.
Repercussion of Diseases
As your cat ages, they may begin to experience issues related to their dental care or joints. This can cause severe discomfort which can be hard to notice as cats are excellent at hiding any pain or discomfort. Diseases and disorders affecting urination (e.g. diabetes, kidney failure) can cause an increase in litterbox usage, which may lead to cats eliminating in inappropriate areas.
Cats that are experiencing mobility problems due to joint inflammation may have challenges accessing or even climbing into their litterbox, especially if stairs are involved. This may also lead to your senior cat eliminating in inappropriate places and should be addressed by a vet.
What are some ways that you can care for your aging cat?
Your observations are some of the most important tools available to help keep your senior cat happy and healthy. Incorporating simple changes to your grooming, feeding and general interactions with your cat can be a low-pressure way to watch for any changes in your aging pet so your vet can provide geriatric care geared to your pet's needs.
Senior Cat Grooming
Brushing your cat's fur, trimming their claws, and brushing their teeth are great ways to keep older cats clean and healthy, while also checking for changes in their fur, skin, nose, eyes, ears, and claws.
Nutritional Care For Senior Cats
A lot of senior cats get heavy or even obese as they age, which can be controlled with diet and activity if the weight gain is non-medical. Other weight issues include elderly cats being underweight, which may be caused by a variety of medical conditions and should be assessed by a veterinarian.
Making Your Home Accessible
Older cats can be more sensitive to changes in routine or household, which can lead to stress. Patience and accommodations (extra affection, a favorite toy or blanket, a quiet room for them to stay in) go a long way to helping your senior cat adjust to upsetting changes. Don't forget to keep playing with your cat as they age; mental and physical stimulation is beneficial for their well-being.
Ongoing Veterinary Care
Because cats are adept at hiding illness until it is advanced or severe, it's important to take them regularly to the vet for wellness checks even if they seem perfectly healthy. Your veterinarian will also be able to monitor any conditions that your senior cat may have, and catch any potential or emerging issues early when they're more treatable. their behavior and health.
What can your Mandeville vet do to care for your senior cat?
Your knowledge of your cat's activities, health, and personality, and any observations you may be able to offer, will serve as an important guide for your vet. These should be paired with regularly scheduled routine exams. Depending on your senior cat's age, lifestyle, health status, and a few other factors including any ongoing needs they may have in terms of medical conditions, your vet can tell you how often to come in for a visit and may recommend increasing the frequency of physical checkups.