Ah, the wisdom that comes with age. Your 5-year-old cat is now a full-fledged adult, and she has likely settled into a routine and life that suits her personality, her preferences and her place in your home. She has learned the ins and outs of family life, and she has probably trained you — and other family members — to keep her life on an even keel.
These adult years bring their own care requirements. As your cat’s caretaker, maintain and enhance her ideal lifestyle by scheduling an annual vet visit, monitoring her weight and activity levels, and noting any changes in her usual behavior.
Let’s get physical
Regular veterinary visits remain a priority for your cat throughout her life. As she enters her fifth or sixth year, your vet may recommend lab tests to identify any potential issues that typically affect cats in their later years. The doctor will likely recommend a dental cleaning and will ask if you have noticed any changes in your cat’s health. Some of the items you can check at home include:
- Eyes: Make note of any redness, discharge or tearing.
- Nose: Again, look for discharge. A healthy nose is cool and moist to the touch.
- Ears: Your cat should not be scratching at her ears. Ensure that they are clean, without a noticeable odor.
- Teeth: Hopefully your pet allows you to clean her teeth, but not all cats are amenable to this task. Still, make note if your cat has bad breath or any yellowing of the teeth. Also check to see if the gums are pink, not gray or red.
Another potential cause of concern is diarrhea, though it is not always a sign of illness. “All cats occasionally experience a bout of diarrhea or constipation,” says Arnold Plotnick, MS, DVM. “In most cases, it resolves on its own or with minimal intervention.” Still, Dr. Plotnick recommends that if diarrhea persists for more than a day or two, schedule a vet visit.
If you see any other outward signs of illness or injury — such as constipation, vomiting, limping, bleeding or any type of discharge, among others — take your cat to the vet right away.
Sound of mind
While your familiarity with your cat’s physical condition can help you identify health issues early on, so can your knowledge of your pet’s typical behavior. “It’s important to know your cat’s normal behaviors — any changes may indicate health problems,” says Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behavior consultant (thecatcoach.com) and author of Naughty No More!. “Sometimes the changes are subtle, such as an active cat becoming lethargic or a cat who normally loves to play declining a play session. Other subtle signs include standoffish cats becoming clingy or clingy cats becoming standoffish.”
If you notice these changes, Marilyn recommends that you take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible. She also suggests a trip to the vet if you notice behavior changes such as “urinating and/or defecating outside litter boxes, straining to go to the bathroom or vocalizing when eliminating.”
Take note of any mood swings your cat exhibits, as well. “Sudden aggression toward people or other animals can also indicate a medical problem or that the cat is in pain,” Marilyn explains. “Cats who don’t eat, hide or are lethargic can also be sick and need immediate veterinarian attention.”
At this stage in your cat’s life, not all behavior changes are caused by illness or injury. Changes in your 5-year-old’s environment can disrupt her established routine, and she may let you know by acting out.
“There are many triggers that can cause behavior changes in adult cats, including health problems, changes in the environment, introducing new animals to the household, neighborhood cats around the home, poor litter box maintenance, not enough approved objects to scratch, [lack of] enrichment, as well as many others,” Marilyn says, though she adds, “Whenever cats exhibit changes in behavior, they need to be examined by veterinarians in order to rule out any possible medical problem that may be causing the problem.”
Help your cat adjust to any changes in her environment and help restore good habits by sticking as closely as possible to her accustomed routine. “Consistency is important,” Marilyn says. “Keep to the schedule that the cat is used to, such as feeding meals at the same times, playing, grooming as well other enjoyable activities. Make sure toys, beds, scratchers and other objects the cat likes remain with the cat.”
Fit and trim
A regular feeding schedule can also help control your cat’s weight, a factor that can become more of a concern as a 5-year-old cat settles into a less active lifestyle. If you’ve noticed that your cat seems to be gaining weight, make a few adjustments to get her back to her optimal weight (consult with your veterinarian as well).
Do not “free feed” your cat. Establish regular mealtimes — Marilyn recommends multiple small meals throughout the day — and dole out only the portion that is appropriate for her size. Your vet can guide you in this.
Make time for play. Regular exercise remains a priority throughout your cat’s life, though Marilyn reminds owners to never push a cat to play beyond the limits of her age and ability.
Combine play with food. Marilyn recommends treasure hunts as one method. “Place little pieces of dry food and treats on cat trees, in boxes and in toys,” she explains, adding that your cat may need to be shown the treats at first until she catches on. “Dry food tosses and rolls also will burn calories. Roll or toss the dry food for the cat to run after.”
Feed your cat a high-quality diet formulated for her adult nutritional needs (your vet can provide recommendations). Doing so can contribute to the overall good looks of your cat and make grooming tasks as minimal as possible.
Typically, a healthy adult cat does not need extra grooming attention, Marilyn says. “A 5-year-old cat’s grooming needs is the same as other adult cats. The health, fur length, condition of fur and the breed dictates how much and how often individual cats need to be groomed.”
Overall, your 5-year-old feline friend will continue to live a healthy, full life with regular attention to her health. You are likely already attuned to her personality and behavior, so with your continued focus on her needs, you can both enjoy these steady adult years.
Thumbnail: ©Sviatlana Barchan | Getty Images
About the author:
Stacy N. Hackett is a lifelong cat owner and freelance writer based in Southern California. Her life has been enriched by many wonderful cats, including her current pet, a senior red tabby named Jack. She also shares her home with a Cocker Spaniel/Lab mix named Maggie.