Did you know that November is Senior Cat Month? Cats begin to be considered senior around seven years old, so there’s a good chance that you have a senior kitty in your life. This month is a great time to give extra appreciation to your senior cat and be aware that she may have special needs as she ages.
Watch for Changes
Cats are good at hiding illness, but if you know what is “normal” for your cat, you can be on the lookout for changes that could be early signs of illness in your senior cat.
Keeping Track of Changes
You don’t have to trust your memory to remember how many poops you scoop a day from the litterbox. Write it down!
Tracking your cat’s appetite, vomiting, and litterbox output is a great way to find problems early, especially if you can enlist the help of other household members to record incidents you aren’t home to see.
Changes in Weight
Gradual changes in weight can be hard to notice, since you see your cat every day. But weight changes can be an important sign that something is going on with your senior cat’s health. Don’t assume that your cat eating as much as ever means she is maintaining her weight, since some common diseases can cause weight loss while kitty is still eating big meals.
If you have a scale in your house for weighing yourself, give your kitty a big hug and step on the scale together. You can then put your cat down and weigh yourself again and subtract the two numbers to get the difference.
In a cat, ounces count, so if there is a weight loss noticeable enough that you can see it from your scale made to measure humans, it’s time to visit the vet to see what’s going on!
Changes in Mobility
If your kitty is slow to get up after a nap, don’t write it off to your senior cat slowing down with age. Arthritis is common and underdiagnosed in cats. Arthritis happens when cartilage, the smooth tissue that protects the ends of bones from rubbing against each other in a cat’s joints, wears away, causing the bones to come into direct contact.
Since the wearing away of cartilage happens over time, it is most likely to be found in senior cats. A study found that 90% of cats aged 10 and over had evidence of arthritis, so if your cat hesitates to make jumps she used to, talk to your vet about ways you can help her feel better.
Visit the Vet
Your senior cat will probably need to visit the vet more often for health screenings than she did in her prime. This is just like the way doctor visits become more frequent for senior humans. Since diseases and conditions common to senior cats can progress rapidly over 3 – 6 months, your vet can help detect the health issues you can’t see with your eyes before they progress too far.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends senior cats visiting the vet twice a year for wellness visits.
Special Household Accommodations for Senior Cats
Your senior cat probably can’t jump like she used to. A strategically placed footstool can serve as a way to help your cat to get up and down from locations she used to enjoy but arthritis makes too big a jump as age sets in.
Arthritis can also be tough when it’s cold. Making sure your kitty’s bed is in a warm, draft-free location can help ease some of her discomfort.
So can a heated bed. Just make sure you are heating the bed with something that is safe to be left on all day when you are out of the house. Most heating pads made for humans are specifically designed not to be left unattended, but there are low-power heating units specifically designed for pet beds.
Litterbox Accommodations for Senior Cats
Senior cats can seem to get poor litter habits because things like undersized cat boxes may begin to bother them more as they age. Some senior cats have a difficult time holding the necessary position to take care of business in the shifting, soft surface of the litter box. Making sure you don’t overfill the litter tray so that your kitty doesn’t feel like she’s sinking into quicksand may help.
Also, be aware that some litter boxes that require a cat to jump in over a high entry may be difficult for an aging kitty. This is a reason your cat may go next to the box instead of inside, so be sure it’s easy to get in and out to take care of business.
A little bit of extra attention can go a long way for your senior kitty so you can enjoy a lot of comfortable, happy years together!
Research and Further Reading
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