Aging has numerous effects on the body, and the changes that occur within a geriatric feline can sometimes require specifically tailored care plans. There are variations in what is considered old age based on breed and lifestyle, but most cats are considered to be seniors when they reach 11 years old.
This is not a reflection on the expected lifespan of the cat; advances in veterinary medicine and feline care have made it so that the average lifespan of a cat has increased dramatically from even 20 years ago. With the proper care, a senior cat over 11 years can still have a very long and healthy life ahead of them.
Veterinarians recommend annual wellness visits for all feline patients, but once a cat is considered a senior, they should transition to semi-annual visits every 6 months. Blood work should be run annually to watch for any changes in the level results that could be indicative of a disease process within the body. Having a close relationship with a specific veterinarian can be helpful, especially if they have seen the cat for its whole life, because they will know the best way to treat any possible age-related scenarios that may arise.
Elderly cats are subjected to the same physical ailments that humans are. Their bodies become stiff and sometimes achy, and they can develop arthritis. If this is seen, a vet should be consulted immediately to possibly begin a treatment of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to combat the arthritis.
Eyesight and hearing begin to fade, and it is important to keep a cat’s routine fairly regular while keeping them indoors at this point. Furniture should not be shifted, as a cat who has lost most of their vision will still navigate the home with the knowledge of it they have always had. Making changes to the layout of the home, the position of the litter box, or location of the food dishes can make an elderly cat uncomfortable and uncertain.
Changes in Food and Water
Fresh water should always be available to all cats, but elderly felines especially are prone to dehydration issues. Adding water to wet food can help decrease occurrences of this. Dry food may become difficult to eat, and if a cat’s sense of smell begins to fade, they may turn away from wet food as well. Small bits of unsalted chicken broth or fat can be added to the food to make it more palatable and enticing. If a cat is not eating well, a diet of wet food can be supplemented with baby food, but this is something to be cautious about. Salt, garlic powder, and onion powder are all ingredients in baby food that are bad for cats, and it is not balanced for them, particularly with regard to the essential amino acid for cats, Taurine, so it should not make up the whole diet.
Follow these recommendations, and your senior cat can continue to give you joy for a long, long time.