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How To Care For a Senior Cat

By Edited Jun 14, 2014 1 3

My cat Roxy
Credit: My own image

I've been a cat owner for many years.  During that time I have lost pets that were very dear to me.  Currently I have a cat named Roxy, who is pictured here.  This article will explain the physical and emotional changes cats commonly experience as they age.  

They can develop many health challenges similar to humans.  This includes such things as diabetes, arthritis, hypothyroidism, and even cancer.  The older they get, the more at risk they are for developing health problems.  

However, there is a lot we can do to increase the chances of them living for a long time.    

What to Feed a Senior Cat

Cats are primarily meat eaters.  Any brand of food you feed your pet should have meat or fish as the main ingredient.  This isn't the case with all brands. Many of them use cheap fillers such as corn and wheat, which a cat does not need to be healthy. 

I recommend buying only organic foods for a kitty.  By doing so you will avoid feeding your pet food that contains artificial flavors and ingredients and unnecessary fillers such as those just previously mentioned.  

Some brands of food are suitable for a cat of any age.  There are others that are made specifically for seniors.  This may be beneficial if your cat has a weight problem or health issues.

In addition to meat, the food should contain plenty of fiber for the pet's digestive health.  It also can help prevent hair balls, as they will be eliminated in the cat's stool.  

Changes in a Senior Cat's Behavior

As your cat gets older, he or she will become more dependent.  They often start demanding lots of attention and want to be cuddled more.  This is very normal behavior.  Their hearing isn't as acute, and often their vision won't be as sharp either.  Therefore, the pet will be depending on you more for security and comfort.  

One very annoying problem that can occur is the cat howling for no apparent reason.  They usually will meow for some purpose,although it may not be obvious at first.  They may be anxious, afraid, bored, or simply wanting assurances that you are there.  

Roxy

Using night lights will enable the pet to navigate much better in the dark, as their eyesight is not as sharp as it is with younger cats.  It also can be helpful to have the pet sleep somewhere not far from you or other family members.   Being isolated from others, such as sleeping downstairs while everyone else is upstairs, can be frightening to an elderly cat.  

Playing with the pet in the evening can help them to tire so they will sleep better.  They are natually nocturnal, but if you stimulate them in the evening with play, grooming, or other activities,  they will sleep more at night.  

It is important that you don't reinforce the cat's behavior.  If you respond immediately to the cat's meowing, he or she will learn very quickly the behavior works, and it will become a habit.  

Common Health Problems For Senior Cats

Arthritis is a common condition in elderly cats.  It's usually not difficult to identify the problem.  The cat may not go up and down stairs as often, and may find it hard to jump on furniture.  They often will not be as active as they used to be, since it may be painful for them to get around.  

8 Year Old Roxy

We can make it easier by keeping the items they need, like the litter box and feeding dishes, easily accessible.  There are supplements available in pet stores which can reduce inflammation and give the pet a better quality of life.  If the cat seems to be in a lot of discomfort, they may need medication from a vet.  

Diabetes is another condition that cats can develop at any age, but are much more likely to as they age.  If the pet is overweight, the risk for diabetes increases.  If the cat is eating or drinking more than normal, he or she should be seen by a vet.

The older the pet gets, the more likely it is that health problems will occur.  It is not that unusual now for cats to live to be 20 or even older with good food and care. 

Senior Cats and Urinary Problems

A cat with a urinary tract infection should be treated by a veterinarian as quickly as possible.  This is a very treatable condition, but can become life threatening without intervention.  

Be observant of any changes to their normal litter box routine.  The cat may also become incontinent, meaning they are eliminating outside the box.  These are signs of possible urinary problems.  

Chronic kidney failure often occurs in senior cats.  If the condition is not too severe, the pet can be treated and may be able to live quite comfortably for quite some time.  

 

How To Prevent Hairballs

Almost all cats have hairball problems from time to time.  Long haired felines are more at risk, but any cat can develop them.  From time to time some of the fur caught on the tongue when they are self grooming will end up being swallowed.  A small amount will just pass through the digestive system and be eliminated, but if there is enough, a hairball will form and the cat ends up vomiting to get rid of it.    

Roxy after her bath

One way to help reduce hairballs is to assist the cat with grooming, either by combing or brushing them regularly or even giving them a bath.  If you have not bathed your pet before, it may be a good idea to get a professional groomer to do this.  My cat has a bath about every six weeks, but I have a mobile pet groomer who does this.  

Bathing and brushing a cat gets rid of a lot of the excess fur that would otherwise be swallowed.  It makes a huge difference to their comfort as well.  Although many cats do not like having a bath, they almost always enjoy being brushed.  Senior cats often find it difficult to groom themselves, so regular brushing will keep them more comfortable, and help reduce hairballs. 

There also are kitty food brands as well as treats available that have extra fiber.  This fiber makes it easier for the hair to pass through the digestive tract so it can be eliminated in the stool.  

Some Final Thoughts

I am a big believer in feeding cats wholesome, organic food and supplements when appropriate.  This does not guarantee they will never get sick of course, but it does reduce the odds.  Just like people, cats need the right nutrition, along with exercise and stimulation, to be happy and healthy.  

Medical care for pets can become very expensive.  However, that is something most of us have taken into account when we adopted our pets.  Keeping your cat indoors and feeding them a high quality brand such as Blue Buffalo or Organix are two of the most important things to help them live a long life.  

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Comments

Nov 15, 2013 11:05am
WriterJoanne
Thanks for stopping by.
Jan 23, 2014 5:23am
Yngwie
Cute cat in the pics.
My cats are around 12 years old now, they certainly don't like being handled as much and require a little more care.
Jan 23, 2014 2:15pm
WriterJoanne
Thanks. She's my cat Roxy.
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