Cats are known to live a long time and many of them survive well into their teens. Just like with people, they undergo physical changes as they age. To keep them happy in their later years, we need to accommodate these changes.
Many pet food companies are formulating diets specifically for old cats. This takes into account their reduced activity level which means they don’t need as many calories. Senior diets often also have added fiber to keep their bowels moving. As they age, cats may start to prefer canned food over dry food, especially if they have lost a few teeth. Canned food usually also smells stronger and this may tempt the appetite of fussier eaters. Some old cats benefit from a prescription diet which is designed to help manage medical conditions such as kidney failure or osteoarthritis.
Most cats enjoy sitting up high, surveying their surroundings. As cats age, they become less agile and can’t jump as high as they used to. If possible, arrange your furnishings to give him some steps to his favourite vantage point. That way he can still get up to where he wants to be without having to jump there.
You’ll also find that your feline senior citizen sleeps a lot. It’s a good idea to provide a number of soft beds in different locations for him to choose from. He might like to lie in the shade of the couch during the day, but snooze in a sunbeam near the window in the afternoon.
Failure to groom effectively can lead to a rough matted coat which is uncomfortable for your cat. This can be caused by arthritis in the back which makes it difficult to twist around. You’ll need to take on this role, brushing him frequently to keep his coat free of mats. Another thing to watch for is his toenails. Because he is likely to be less active, there’s less opportunity for his nails to wear down naturally. You’ll need to give him a manicure regularly to keep his nails trim and stop him getting caught in the carpet or soft furniture.
Old cats can suffer from a couple of specific health conditions. Like people and dogs, they develop arthritis. Unfortunately, there are very few drugs that are safe for cats with arthritis so you need to rely on weight loss and more natural therapies such as green lipped mussel extract.
Kidney disease is relatively common in senior felines. Early symptoms are drinking more water than usual and weight loss. It can be managed with medication and a very well controlled diet.
If your elderly cat is eating constantly but still losing weight, he may have hyperthyroidism. This condition is caused by an overactive thyroid gland which increases his metabolic rate so he loses weight in spite of a good appetite. It also increases his heart rate, and may lead to behavioral changes such as going to the toilet in odd spots.
All of these conditions can be managed with help from your veterinarian, and the modifications to your home and your cat’s diet can be easily done. This will make your cat’s twilight years most enjoyable for him.