When is my cat considered to be elderly?
Life expectancy in cats ranges from breed to breed, genetic influences, lifestyle and surprisingly; we should start to manage the aging process in our cats earlier than we once thought. As described above, wear and tear and the bodies deceasing ability to repair itself, accompany ageing. However it is not all bad news, because we now understand when the ageing process starts to affect our cat's health, we can start to minimize the progressive deterioration and maintain or improve our cat's quality of life.
As a general rule an elderly preventative medicine regime could begin at the following stage:
Cats - 7 years
What can I do to help my ageing cat?
Fortunately, we can assist our cat through his golden years in many ways, and it is much easier to care for the older cat than the older human. Below is a list of tips you may wish to follow for your older cat:
- Respect, by all members of the family including other pets and children, do not allow them to bother your older cat, her patience may be wearing thin and she could become less tolerant as she gets older.
- If your cats sight and hearing is deteriorating, do stick to her normal routine, do not move furniture around and keep her feeding routine to a regular time and place each day.
- Regular exercise is important to maintain bone strength and muscle tone, however your cat may have a locomotive problem such as arthritis, degenerative joint disease or just have difficulty on standing up, if this is the case you may have to adjust limit her access outside. Speak to the vet, who will advise you.
- Be understanding of them if they do fail to respond to you, hear you, or have little accidents.
- Keep their bedding comfortable or warm, if they are used to sleeping outside on hard concrete surfaces, consider bringing them indoors on softer bedding, they are more prone to developing sores, or hard callous on their joints such as elbows or hocks, these can become extremely painful or ulcerated.
- Keep them clean and groomed more regularly, as they may have difficulties in grooming themselves. It is also an ideal time to notice any changes or abnormalities.
- Keep their nails; trimmed short, you may have to have them clipped more regularly.
Preventative health care programmes
You have the opportunity to work with the Veterinary Surgeon, to establish a preventative health care programme for your cat, properly applied, a preventative health care programme can lessen existing problems of aging, slow or prevent disease processes and add high-quality years to your cats life.
Preventative health care measures
Measures we can take ourselves to support our cats in their older years are:
- Take him or her for a regular check up at the Veterinary Practice, at least twice a year.
- Keep their vaccinations up to date, their immune response starts to decline in later years, so up keep of vaccinations are just as important as early on in their lives.
- Regular teeth cleaning, scaling and polishing, to help prevent against bad breath and dental disease - See dental care
It is also useful to use the following checklist to monitor any changes in your cat's health status. Take this along to the Veterinary Surgeon with a urine sample when you attend any appointment, to assist them in the programme.
Nutrition for the older cat
Nutrition plays a vital part of the process of preventative health and commercially produced foods contain more than the adequate levels of all of the essential nutrients needed by normal cats. In fact cats, fed commercial foods are consuming anywhere between three to five times their daily protein requirement, three times the daily calcium requirement and phosphorus requirement and ten times the daily requirement of salt. The older cat, on the other hand would benefit from a diet with reduced levels of protein, calcium, phosphorus and sodium. This kind of diet may be helpful in the onset of clinical diseases common in older pets. Also keep a close eye on your cats weight, as cats grow older they are more prone to weight gain due to a reduction in exercise and their ability to metabolise energy is reduced. Speak to the Vet who will advise you on the correct food for your cat at her stage of life.