Caring For Mature, Senior, and Geriatric Cats


Understanding The Changing Health Needs Of Mature, Senior, And Geriatric Cats

If you have lived with your cat since it was young, then you have a good understanding of what is normal for your them in the way of behavior and habits. Any changes in their behavior or habits can be a sign of illness. Because signs of illness in cats can be so subtle, even the most astute owner may miss some of these changes, especially when the onset is so gradual. For this reason, it is important to bring your cat to your veterinarian annually until 8 years of age, and then semi-annually after 8.

During the visit with your veterinarian, you will review habits and behavior that may signal changes in health. In addition, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam which will play a significant role in determining where your cat is in the aging process, and what can be done to keep them as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

There are many illnesses which can be managed with diet, and sometimes medications.

Specific Age-Related Issues For Senior Cats

Changes in your cat's body that are common as they age include:

  • Altered sleep cycle
  • Changes in thyroid function
  • Decrease in kidney function
  • Changes in vision
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Brittle/ingrown nails
  • Heart or circulatory problems
  • Decreased digestion and ability to absorb nutrients
  • Reduced ability to handle stress
  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in mobility/arthritis

Your Role As The Caretaker Of An Elderly Cat

The most important role when caring for an elderly cat is being aware of their behavior and habits. While older cats may sleep more, they still need interaction and a stimulating environment to keep their bodies active and their minds engaged. Especially for indoor cats, the need for engagement is very important. All cats need to hunt, play, and interact.

In addition to a stimulating environment, owners of elderly cats can expect to be responsible for things such as:

  • Making sure sleeping and eating areas are easily accessible
  • Adjusting physically challenging areas for easy access
  • More frequent veterinary visits
  • Dispensing medication

Understanding your expanded role in the life of your elderly cat is essential to helping them age gracefully. At your next appointment, one of our veterinarians would be happy to give you some insight and guidance on how to ensure your cat enjoys a smooth transition into its golden years.

Wellness Visits For Senior Cats

The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that senior cats be seen by a veterinarian every six months. Because cats age faster than people, that means almost two (kitty) years will pass between visits. It is important to monitor elderly cats in between visits, because cats are very good at hiding symptoms of disease or illness.

A typical wellness visit for senior cats includes checking:

  • Habits and behaviors
  • Weight and Body Condition
  • Skin and Coat Quality
  • Mouth, Gums, and Teeth
  • Ears and Eyes
  • Thyroid Gland
  • Heart and Circulatory System
  • Lungs and Nose
  • Abdomen
  • Joints and Muscles
  • Any condition changes since the last visit

Additionally, wellness visits for senior cats can also include vaccinations, parasite prevention, and treatment for any specific conditions that your senior cat may be developing.

Senior Cat Diet

Feeding a mature, senior, or geriatric cat an age specific diet can help:

  • Manage Weight
  • Increase Lifespan
  • Reduce or eliminate pain
  • Maintain healthy skin, coat, and bodily functions

Senior cat food is formulated specifically for the nutritional requirements of aging cats. Because aging cats require increased daily water intake, serving canned food and/or leaving multiple water dishes around the house is a good idea, when possible. Feeding small, frequent meals 3-4 times a day will help senior cats digest food easier than serving fewer, larger meals.

Dental Care In Senior Cats

As cats enter their senior years, those who have addressed dental care with regular dental checkups throughout their life have a significant advantage over cats who have ignored their dental issues. However, regardless of whether dental care has been a mainstay of your cat's preventative program, it will be extremely important as it ages. Dental disease is a gradual but painful and degenerative condition. Living with chronic pain is very stressful and will significantly impact your cat's well being.

Managing Disease In Elderly Cats

As your cat ages, he or she becomes more susceptible to the myriad of diseases commonly found to plague elderly cats. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Kidney Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Hypertension
  • Gastrointestinal Issues
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Memory/Comprehension Challenges

Managing disease requires a knowledge of the ailment, and also spotting symptoms in elderly cats before they become full-blown emergencies. This is why it is essential to monitor your cat's behavior and routine, and note any changes, including:

  • Weight Loss
  • Increase in thirst and urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Appetite
  • Litter Box Habits
  • Lethargy

End Of Life Decisions For Your Cat

End of life decisions are always difficult, but when you feel supported by our veterinary team, you will feel more comfortable and accepting of your choices.

At Southern California Veterinary Group of the Inland Empire, our compassionate and supportive veterinary team is here to help you in any way that is in the best interests of you and of your feline companion. We understand this is a very difficult time regardless of the situation. You have lived with your cat for a long time and have a strong bond with your cat, and the grief process is real and should be taken seriously.

Schedule an Appointment at our Norco, Lake Elsinore, or Murrieta Locations

Contact us to schedule an appointment today!

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