CARING FOR OUR OLDER FELINE FRIENDS

Most cat owners are used to seeing their feline friend lounging around for a large part of the day, so we tend to forget that they begin to suffer age-related problems too. Just like people our cats are now living longer, and they all experience ageing in their own way. According to Cornell vet, the common belief that each cat year is equivalent to seven human years is optimistic. In reality a two year old cat is more equivalent to a 21 year old human, and every year after that for a cat is equal to four human years. This means that a 15 year old cat is actually about 73 in human years. That’s the age that most of us hope to be retired and living a leisurely life caravanning around Australia!

Remember, old age is not a disease.  It’s a natural process that is often accompanied by many physical changes that can be controlled or managed. As with any kind of degeneration, the success of management is dependent on early recognition and intervention. Also just like us, keeping active, happy and healthy will help delay the sign of ageing and make the twilight years more comfortable.

So what happens as your cat ages? What signs might you see?

Grooming: Cats are very good at looking after themselves and often the signs that things are starting to slip are subtle. A rough coat possibly with more mats is an early sign of older age, as cats tend to stop grooming.  Overgrown claws that get stuck in the carpet, increased wandering, excessive vocalisation, disorientation or avoiding people may be other things you notice.

Increased water intake & Kidney Disease: Does your feline friend drink a lot? Cats are desert animals by evolution and as a result they are excellent at concentrating their urine and making the most out of any water they can get. Because their kidney’s work hard to do this their whole life, they are often the organ that starts to wear out first.

Kidney disease is a common condition seen in geriatric cats and early detection again is paramount. There are a range of other clinical signs that you will see if your cats’ kidneys are struggling.  If you are worried that your cat’s water intake has increased or you are worried about their renal function, we recommend a screening blood test to check their kidney enzymes. If detected, we can help their kidney function with special foods that limit large molecules such as phosphorous, often present in high amount in fresh meat.

Do they prefer drinking from the tap or the shower? Providing running water in the form of fountains often encourages them to drink a little more which means their kidneys don’t have to work as hard. Fresh water should always be available and easy-to-access. Moving water down to ground level is also great for older cats that may not jump as much.

Skeletal Pain: Just like a human, arthritis and skeletal pain is often one of the most common signs of ageing. Sometimes this is hard to see as cats are mostly sedentary animals and they don’t go for a walk with us every day unlike their canine counterparts. Common signs that your cat may be experiencing some arthritic pain include; difficulty gaining the litter box, reluctance to jump on the bench or spending more time asleep in the day. If you think your cat is a bit stiffer than normal we can help by starting them on long-term anti-inflammatories such as Cartrophen or 4cyte.

Dental Disease: Dental disease is also a common problem in older felines. Just like when you have a tooth ache, dental pain makes us uncomfortable and often cranky. Plaque build-up can make eating uncomfortable and cats will often start to lose weight. Weight loss can also be a sign of several other age-related diseases common in cats.

Close observation of your senior kitty is important in early detection of changes and possibly intervention. An annual routine check of your cat’s teeth, body condition score, coat, and other vitals is extremely important and should be done more often than in our younger feline friends.  Here at South East Country Vet’s we are committed to ensuring your feline friends live long and happy lives and that is why we recommend annual health checks at a minimum. Contact us if you have an older cat who you think age may be catching up with.

This information sheet is not intended as a substitute for a veterinary consultation.
It is recommended that a consultation be arranged with a veterinary practitioner if you have any concerns with your pet’s health.

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