As cats age, they can “slow down” significantly, but it is important to note that age is not a disease. While some changes to a pet’s behaviour and attitude are expected with age, which may be considered as “slowing down”, there are certain health concerns that are more prevalent with advanced age, such as kidney failure and arthritis which are important to identify. It is, therefore, crucial to continue with regular veterinary care even more so during a pet’s senior years. Regular visits to see a veterinarian can help identify signs of these age-related conditions early and help to improve your pet’s quality of life in their senior years.
What are the stages of a senior cat’s life? How do you spot signs of aging?
While there is some ambiguity or subjectivity to when a cat is considered to be a senior, the transition to senior years can be thought of as the range of 8-10 years of age. Signs of aging can include changes in weight, changes in sleeping patterns (usually sleeping more), changes in attitude or behaviour (less playful), and changes in mobility (the first sign in cats is a reduction in jumping ability). Changes in things such as behaviour and weight can also be related to disease and should be discussed with your veterinarian when they occur.
My senior cat is losing weight, what can I do?
If your senior cat is losing weight, it is important to have them examined by your veterinarian, as there could be an underlying medical problem.
What are some tips for how to care for my senior cat?
Medical problems in senior animals can seem to arise suddenly and progress quickly. We recommend considering a biannual check-up for seniors to ensure we are identifying any changes in their health early on. Early diagnosis and treatment of medical problems can improve long-term prognosis and your pet’s quality of life.
Consider transitioning your senior to a formula made for this stage of life. Senior diets are typically lower in calories, but higher in protein overall to meet the changing needs of a senior’s metabolism. You may also need to alter your senior cat’s environment to help aid in their changing mobility. Low entry litter boxes may be helpful, and consider how many stairs your cat must contend with to reach their litter box. Weight control is of crucial importance in maintaining your senior cat’s mobility. Discuss how best to manage your senior cat’s body condition at their next check-up.
What are some common health issues experienced by senior cats?
Some common health conditions that may affect senior cats include kidney disease, dental disease, osteoarthritis, hyperthyroidism, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer.
Why is my senior cat having behavioural issues?
If you see changes in your senior cat’s behaviour, it’s possible that it could be caused by a medical condition. If you observe changes in your senior cat’s weight, thirst and urination, energy or attitude, or their mobility, then please contact your veterinarian for a consultation. Changes that may initially seem to be behavioural in nature, such as eliminating outside of the litter box or hiding, could also be related to a medical problem.