If you have a senior cat, chances are you are concerned for their health and longevity. It’s true: senior cats have special needs. Let’s talk about 5 steps you can take to ensure that your cat enjoys quantity, and quality of life in the golden years.
Tip Number one: Get an Annual Exam In my experience, cat clients can sometimes only visit their veterinarian for vaccine visits. But by missing your senior cat’s annual/biannual exam, you decrease the likelihood of your veterinarian catching treatable diseases early. Annual blood work is particularly important on cats older than 7 years of age. There are new tests (such as the SDMA test for early kidney disease) that can catch problems early and help your cat live longer and healthier. Other important tests in older cats include eye exams, cardiac exam, blood pressure checks, and dental checks. Don’t miss your cat’s annual exam to avoid big health problems and big bills.
Tip Number Two: Be a Feline Super Sleuth This is not news to cat lovers: cats tend to be private individuals and notorious for hiding disease. Unless you are in tune with your kitty, most cat owners tend to only notice a problem when it has become advanced. By the time I see a lot of older feline patients, I am diagnosing them with fulminant kidney disease, dental disease, heart failure and a whole host of other problems. Pay attention to little clues, like the amount your cat is drinking, your cat’s appetite, and litter box patterns. Note any diarrhea or inappropriate elimination. A change in any of these parameters can signal a myriad of health problems and definitely indicate a need for a veterinary visit.
Tip Number Three: Treat Dental Disease From a veterinary health standpoint, oral health is utterly important in overall health. When a cat has dental disease, it causes pain and infection that not only decreases your cat’s quality of life, but also puts additional wear and tear on internal organs. Cats with dental problems also might have a hard time eating, be aggressive, hide more, lose weight, and lose their playfulness. I’ve seen aggressive cats turn into playful, purring machines when their dental disease is treated. Don’t neglect your cat’s teeth: have them checked yearly, offer dental treats, and have them cleaned BEFORE dental disease sets in.
Tip Number Four: Maintain an Ideal Weight In practice, I see a lot of heavy cats. Sometimes, it’s because the owner doesn’t know that their cat is heavy. How can you know? Feel your cat’s ribs when he or she is standing up. If they feel like the back of your hand: your cat is at a healthy weight. It they feel like your palm, too heavy. If they feel like your knuckles: too thin. Unhealthy weight gain in cats increases the likelihood that your cat will develop arthritis and type 2 diabetes. The standard recommendation for indoor cats is 250-270 kcal/day, but talk with your veterinarian about a healthy daily portion amount for your cat, and if your cat is losing weight, schedule a veterinary visit asap. If your senior cat doesn’t have any dietary restrictions, feed a high quality diet, and feed a combination of canned and dry to prevent strong food preferences, and with the canned diet, deliver high quality protein along with hydration.
Tip Number Five: Comfort is Key Senior cats are likelihood to have arthritis and have a harder time regulating their body temperature. You can create warmth for your cat by putting a heating pad on low under their cat bed, or purchasing a specially made heated cat bed. This simple gesture of love and kindness will go far in increasing your cat’s quality of life.