What special concerns are there for senior cats?
Senior cats are the best. They know how to enjoy a calmer pace of life. Litter box training is a thing of the distant past. Older cats know how to be playful without being all-consuming and overenthusiastic. Wiser than their kitten counterparts, seniors know how to pick their moments. With fully-formed and distinctive personalities, you know what you’re getting with a mature cat. Senior animals of all kinds all seem to share the same trait of appreciation for their owners. After years of companionship, being needed in that way is very sweet. The same goes for adopting a senior cat – you can almost feel the gratefulness.
Just like with animals of any age, senior cats come with their own concerns. If you’re looking into adopting an older cat, you’ll want to be aware of these. Maybe you already have a cat who is getting on in years and want to prepare yourself. Either way, you can know what to expect by learning about some basic concerns specific to mature felines.
One of the most common ailments that older animals of all kinds suffer from is, of course, arthritis. This comes on gradually and is pretty straightforward to recognize. Cats feeling the ache of arthritis are naturally going to move around at a slower and stiffer pace. When getting up or lying down, there will be a level of cautiousness that wasn’t there before. If your cat used to leap up on your bed and now sits next to it waiting for a lift, that’s also a giveaway. If you feel your cat’s muscles, you’ll likely notice either some shrinking or occasional swelling. Arthritis is manageable with medication, so speak with your vet about what can be done for your stiff kitty. Try to make getting around easier for your cat by keeping perches and favorite furniture lower to the ground. Offer plenty of soft, cozy places to curl up. If extra weight on the joints is an issue, keep to a strict diet. There are foods that are specifically designated as “healthy weight” kibble, if needed.
Another frequent problem for senior cats is hyperthyroidism. When this disease strikes, the thyroid glands create an excessive amount of the thyroid hormone. This one is tough because it often creates secondary health issues, including heart and kidney problems. It’s also frustrating because we’re not entirely sure how cats habitually develop the condition. However, there are various treatment options available depending on the individual cat and the severity. This is definitely a situation where you will need guidance from your vet. Signs of hyperthyroidism include weight loss – especially if the cat has continued eating at a normal pace – excessive urination, increased thirst, nausea, and accelerated breathing. Sometimes cats with this problem simply seem irritable and haggard-looking. Since his body is not running optimally, his coat may decline in quality. Behavior changes without explanation should be noted and reported to the vet, as aggression is another possible sign.
Other Common Conditions
Many of the symptoms that suggest hyperthyroidism could also indicate other prevalent cat issues, such as kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer. Whenever you notice these issues in your cat, get into the vet at your earliest convenience. Catching illness early is your best chance at fighting it. Untreated kidney issues can lead to irreversible kidney failure. Additionally, don’t panic if you come across an unfamiliar lump on your cat’s body. Although only a vet can confirm it, many of these bumps are benign tumors, cysts, or fatty tissue (lipomas). Speaking with a veterinarian is the only way to put your mind at ease and give your cat his best shot at recovery.
Signs of Aging
Aside from the medical conditions mentioned above, there’s always going to be a general decline as a cat moves on in years. Hearing loss and faltering vision are two typical complications. If your cat appears to become more dependent on you, this could be a sign that his faculties are beginning to fail him. Just like with people, older cats usually experience some cognitive decline. That lovely coat of hair may not be as robustly shiny as it was before, and your cat might need a hand in the grooming department. Spry kittens have no problem swinging a hind leg in the air and licking wherever needs to be cleaned, but older felines could benefit from extra brushing. These are simply the hazards of old age. Possibly the most troublesome of the deteriorations is dental disease. If your cat is opposed – as many are – to having his teeth brushed, make dental treats and check-ups a regular part of his maintenance.
Keeping a Senior Cat Comfortable
As your cat ages, be as considerate as possible about his daily life. If you have stairs in your home, keep the litter box on the same level the cat normally spends his time. It can be exhausting for older cats to deal with stairs every time they need to use the box. Since seniors are more susceptible to dehydration, it’s particularly essential to always have a fresh supply of water accessible. If there are other animals in the house, make sure your cat always has an opportunity to get away from the noise and disturbances. Having “safe zones” where your cat can escape when feeling overwhelmed is a necessary kindness. Young children in the home might need to be reminded that older cats must be handled gently and not forced into any activities.
Don’t Overlook Older Cats
While older cats do come with their own considerations, they are also worth their sweet weight in gold. It’s a sad truth that kittens in shelters tend to get snatched up faster than their older counterparts, who might spend years waiting to be adopted. If you can open your home to a senior cat in need, you won’t regret it. Sure, kittens are cute. But when it comes time to watch your favorite TV show at the end of the day, would you rather have a warm couch buddy snoozing on your lap, or a high-strung kitty zooming around?