Caring for your cat as it gets older

Do you have an older cat?  You can help ease your cat into its senior years if you schedule regular vet visits, make simple changes at home and keep a watchful eye.

Don’t Be a Stranger to the Vet

You probably know the checkup routine by now: teeth, weight, heartbeat, temperature, followed by vaccinations if needed. During a geriatric exam, the veterinarian may also monitor your pet’s blood work, urine, blood pressure and/or radiographs for problems such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or arthritis. By  11 or 12 years, your cat should ideally be seeing the vet every six months.

Watch for Changes

Stay alert for changes in your senior cat’s appearance or behaviour  – eg weight loss, alterations in litter box habits and stool consistency, an increase or decrease in appetite or thirst and changes in activity level. Increased thirst can be a sign of kidney disease or diabetes. A reluctance to eat could mean your cat has a dental problem or a more serious condition such as oral cancer.

Choose the Right Diet

Your senior cat requires a complete, balanced diet in the right amounts to keep it in a healthy condition. Dental problems, some diseases, such as hyperthyroidism, and a diminishing sense of smell can affect your pet’s appetite. Your pet may require a diet change if it has dental disease or diabetes.

Make Simple Changes at Home

  1. Provide an accessible, abundant supply of fresh water. Older cats are prone to dehydration.
  2. Help maintain the health of your cat’s coat and teeth. Dental problems, changes due to old age or arthritis can make it difficult for your pet to groom itself efficiently. Daily grooming helps keep your cat’s coat in good condition and reduces hairball problems. Regular teeth cleaning also promotes good health.
  3. Make sure litterboxes are clean and accessible. Also, some health conditions may increase urine output, and if an owner cleans the litter only twice a week, the cat may avoid the box because it’s too dirty
  4. Make sure your senior cat exercises moderately. Watch for laboured breathing or other difficulties.
  5. Minimize household stress. Senior cats tend to be less adaptable to adjustments in their environments. New pets and places, like boarding catteries, can be stressful.
  6. Pamper your cat. If it seems stiff, install steps or a ramp to its favourite perch. If a thinning coat makes it more susceptible to cold, give it a warm bed to snuggle in. Give extra hugs and kisses, Your loving attention, along with regular veterinary care and a proper diet, will help ease your cat happily into its senior years.

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