Did you know that when cats reach the age of 7, they are considered to be mature adults, and at the age of 11, they are considered to be seniors? As cats get older, they go through many changes that make them more at risk for certain conditions and require a bit of extra care (just like humans!), but making sure they receive regular veterinary care combined with supporting them at home will help your cat live a long, happy life.
Visits to the Vet
One of the most important things you can do for your cat is to take them to the vet for their routine exams. For seniors, this means every 6 months. Did you know that after the age of 2, just 1 year in a cat’s life is equal to about 4 “human” years? A lot can change in that amount of time!
Not to mention, cats are experts at hiding illnesses/injuries because they use this as a survival strategy for living in the wild. Unfortunately, that means your cat could have a problem but not show any signs until it has progressed to a more advanced stage. Thankfully, veterinarians are experts at detecting things that may seem invisible to the naked eye.
Make sure to pay attention to any changes such as appetite, litter box habits, weight loss or weight gain, meowing at night, increase or decrease in their level of activity, being more or less affectionate, stiffness, and lumps or bumps. While it’s easy to assume that it’s just old age, these changes are actually a sign that your cats needs to go to the vet. Arthritis, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, etc. start to emerge as cats get older, and the earlier you find them, the greater the chances that your cat will live longer with a better quality of life.
Note: If you have trouble getting your cat into their carrier, visit our article “I Can’t Get My Cat Into Their Carrier!” for some helpful tips.
Make sure to feed your cat a healthy diet that takes into account any of their current conditions. Ask your vet for recommendations if they have a condition that requires a special diet or supplements. Provide them with multiple sources of water as well. Cats prefer their food and water to be in separate locations (and far away from the litter box).
Remember: Cats are carnivores, and in the wild they must hunt several times a day to stay healthy so it’s important to feed them small, frequent meals that mimic their natural habits. Canned food is especially important for cats because they aren’t naturally inclined to drink enough water. You can even try mixing extra water into their canned food for added hydration.
It’s important to regularly trim your cat’s nails, especially as they start to age because they are more vulnerable to getting ingrown nails which can grow into the pads of their paws and be very painful.
Sometimes, older cats aren’t able to groom themselves as well so gently brushing them on a regular basis can help prevent mats. If your cat has long fur and it’s difficult for them to keep themselves clean, you might want to consider having the fur trimmed around their backside. Here at the clinic, we call it a sanitary clip.
Don’t forget that older cats need enrichment too! Try toys and puzzle feeders to help keep them active and perches on your windows, scratching posts, extra quality time with you, etc. to help keep them happy.
Make sure your cat has easy access to basic needs (such as food, water, and the litter box), and provide them with lots of soft bedding so they have warm, comfortable places to rest.
If your cat has arthritis, you can put steps or a ramp up to their favorite places or buy raised food and water bowls. And if they have any vision loss, you can set up a night light and keep all of their essentials in the same places so they always know where to find them.
Lastly, it can be more difficult for older cats to climb in and out of the litter box so make sure they have lower sides and are placed in areas that are easily accessible. You can even put a litter box on each floor of your home so they don’t have to climb the stairs to get to them.
If you have further questions or concerns about your cat, we welcome you to contact us at our Lake Oswego veterinary clinic and boarding facility. We look forward to hearing from you!