photos and text by Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret)
The innovative advances in veterinary care have significantly raised our cats’ life expectancy by several years. Although this is great news, it is important for kitty guardians to learn more about our senior cats’ special needs so we can continue providing them the optimum care which can enhance their health and happiness.
Senior cats require more sleep; napping more frequently. Their appetites often change, consuming less food at a feeding. Offering small portions of food frequently during the day can be very helpful in ensuring they consume their calorie requirements. Since their sense of hearing may diminish, senior cats may have increased reactions lots of commotion and loud noises and they may not respond to our voices as quickly as they did when they were younger. Their eyes might appear cloudy, their vision may be less acute, and their coat texture can become be dull and rougher.
Naturally, all of these changes should be carefully monitored by regular veterinary care. Oral care is very important as our cats age. Bi-annual senior wellness exams that include comprehensive blood work and urine analysis are essential. Remember that your veterinarian is your senior cat’s best friend and also is a major source of support guidance.
“Accidents” can and will occur. Older cats may “forget” their once-pristine litter box habits and in their nature calls are urgent and cannot reach the litter box in time, they may soil floors and carpets. Be patient with your seniors; do not admonish them. Arthritic cats can be helped by offering them lower sided litter boxes, or a step that can reach a high sided one. Since urinary tract infections and kidney problems also may cause accidents, it is essential that a prompt veterinary visit is made.
It goes without saying that an appropriate diet for elder cats is one of the cornerstones for more robust health. Many vets offer dietary consultations to ensure that your senior cat gets the best nutrition suited to their individual requirements. Since senior cats generally are not as active as they were in the past, preventing obesity is extremely important since it can lead to many serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease. Many senior cat owners are finding that a well-balanced, nutritional raw diet can offer their kitties both a tempting and calorie-conscious feeding program.
As our senior cats vision and hearing acuity diminishes, kitty-proofing your home becomes very important to keep them safe. Obstacle around the house can become tricky for these cats to negotiate, and climbing stairs may become difficult. The pet-sized stairs available in pet stores and on the Internet can easily solve these problems; making life a lot easier for seniors. Soft beds and Snuggle Safe Heating Pads can help ease the “ouchies” and give senior cats a delightful place in which to nap. Since accidents can happen, be certain that all soft items are thoroughly washable.
The most important thing is to continue lavishing an abundance of love on your aging cats. They feel safer and thrive knowing that you are there for them when they may be feeling anxious about their bodily changes. It is indeed a gift to be able to share many wonderful years with your once young and vibrant kitty who has reached his or her golden years.
This bond is very unique and one, in my opinion, is truly a great honor. Are senior cats very special to you also? Share your feelings with a comment.
Have you cared for a senior pet? Please share any further suggestions for their care by leaving a comment.
Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, is a retired certified Social Worker and Psychotherapist. Her Master’s thesis was written on the subject of therapeutic horseback riding for the disabled. Jo is passionate about cats and horses and is politically active in animal welfare.
Jo lives with her husband Marty in Central Florida.. They are owned by three amazing kitties, Sir Hubble Pinkerton, (geriatric white Oriental Shorthair) and two youngsters, Aki ( blue-ticked tabby Oriental Shorthair) and Edgar Allen Poe, black Domestic medium-haired cat they adopted from Angels Have Whiskers, a no kill shelter in Central Florida.
Jo writes articles about cats for CATNIP ( Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine newsletter) and CAT TALK, (The Cat Fanciers’ Official magazine). In 2016 Jo successfully completed the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement’s online course; receiving her certificate in Pet Bereavement Counseling.