Cats are considered “seniors” after age 10, and “geriatric” after the age of 13. The AVMA recommends twice-yearly checkups for geriatric cats. That might sound like overkill, but early detection of common senior afflictions (thyroid problems, diabetes, chronic renal failure, cancer, heart problems and the like) can mean the difference between effectively managing the disease long-term and having to euthanize your beloved pet.
10 Tips to keep your senior cat healthy and happy:
1) Take her in for regular dental check-ups
Cats mask discomfort and pain, and it’s often hard to tell if your cat has dental problems unless her breath is horrific, or her face swells from an abscessed tooth. Regular dental checkups and treatment can save her months of discomfort, and keep her from losing weight – weight that, for a senior cat, might difficult to regain.
2) Groom her often
The benefits of grooming extend beyond keeping her coat tidy. Senior cats are far less aggressive groomers than their younger counterparts, and usually end up with a lot more loose hair … leaving them especially vulnerable to hairballs. Grooming your cat daily will help you learn your cat’s body to such a degree that you’ll be able to recognize tender spots or lumps early on. You’ll be able to spot skin flakes and a dull coat that might be symptomatic of thyroid disease or a poor diet. And it will give you invaluable bonding time — time you won’t have together once she’s gone.
3) Encourage play
It’s easy to forget to interact with older cats, since they sleep most of their days away and don’t seem like they want to play. But it’s worth trying to engage them in play — try their favorite toy and some catnip, and see what happens.
In addition to the quality time you’ll spend together, activity will help keep the cat in better physical shape, and you’ll be in a better position to tell when the cat is lethargic, which could be a clue to a health problem. Be sure to play in a private area, where a younger cat won’t encroach upon the game, which will sometimes cause older cats to back off.
4) Buy bed steps
Older cats often have difficulty jumping up on the bed. If she’s accustomed to sleeping with you, and no longer can get up on the bed to do so, she might feel depressed and alienated.
So, if your senior cat likes sleeping on your bed, consider buying a set of steps for the bottom or side of your bed.
5) Provide a heated cat cup or heated pad
Geezer cats feel the cold more, and appreciate a warm place to sleep.
6) Evaluate accessibility and make changes, if necessary
Consider providing a litter box with lower walls, and raising the height of her food and water bowls.
7) Create a stable environment
Change is difficult for a lot of cats, especially as they get older. For example, adding a kitten to the household may be difficult on an older cat, especially if she’s long been an only cat.
8] Consult with your vet about food supplements
Supplements or special formulations of food can provide additional Omega3 fatty acids, glucosamine with chondroitin, immune system boosters, probiotics, or other supplements that may offer benefits to your cat’s health. Discuss the options with your vet. (Never give your cat supplements designed for humans)
9) Switch to a senior formula cat food
Talk to your vet to determine if your cat might benefit from one of the many senior formula cat foods on the market. These foods typically provide an optimal balance of appropriate protein, fat, calories, vitamins and minerals for older cats.
10) Provide a fresh, appealing source of water
Cat fountains are very popular with cats, and may encourage your senior cat to drink more. Keeping your cat well-hydrated is especially important for proper kidney function and overall health.
And 2 bonus tips from our readers:
11) LOLA SEZ: Get a good pet or baby scale.
Good scales that weigh accurately in ounces may cost $80 to $100. Weight loss is often the first signal of disease or dental problems (as in your #1 tip) but can slip by undetected until its significant. Get a scale, use it regularly for all your cats, not just seniors and catch problems early. You can use a people scale, but it may be hard to detect a few ounces lost, which can be a significant loss for us small cats.
Thanks Lola and Freckles for making it an even dozen tips!