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The Older Cat

| November 30, 2013
The older cat

The most important aspect of living with a geriatric cat is to understand their needs. In human terms cats are considered to be elderly when they reach about 8 years of age. Equally a cat at any age may be sprightly, playful and healthy but the process of aging is irreversible and gradually wear and tear begins to show.

Ask anyone who has shared their home with an older cat and they will most likely answer “I just don’t know what I would do without him”. This is despite the extra time and attention they demand and the more frequent visits to the vet. While they quietly go about their life, we take it for granted they are there in the background, however we really do miss them when they are gone.

The most important aspect of living with a geriatric cat is to understand their needs. In human terms cats are considered to be elderly when they reach about 8 years of age. Equally a cat at any age may be sprightly, playful and healthy but the process of aging is irreversible and gradually wear and tear begins to show. Therefore it is easier to deal with these changes when you know what is possible.

They will begin to slow down, lose their sight, sense of smell, get arthritis, go deaf, go potty or get cranky. There are some things which can be done to keep our cats healthy and comfortable in their old age. Allow the cat a warm and sheltered environment – if this means keeping the cat indoors at night always ensure a litter tray is available at all times. Some cats may become lazy are prefer not to go outdoors at all. But if your cat does venture out of doors bear in mind that roaming cats may start to threaten his territory when he can no longer defend it adequately. He might become anxious and unsettled with unwanted visitors, particularly if you are not home or asleep. Perhaps letting him out when you are home and then indoors when you are either out or sleeping would minimise this stress.

Provide ramps for him so he is able to get to his favourite spots with minimal fuss, move bedding and litter trays downstairs (if you have stairs) so that access is easier for him. Grooming your cat is also important because as he gets older, reaching those hard to reach places such as the base of the tail, becomes difficult. A daily groom and wash over the face, eyes and mouth and bottom will help ensure your cat is clean. Grooming is such an integral part of your cat’s regimen, so helping it along in this area will surely brighten his day.

Two important preventative health measures for the elderly cat are regular (6 monthly) checkups at the vet as well as a good quality, complete and balanced diet. Regular check ups might help pick up early signs of disease such as cancer, eye problems, kidney disease, arthritis and heart disease etc. Many disorders can be treated, others monitored and some prevented. Because old cats are generally less active, they require relatively less food. The goal of nutrition for old cats is to maintain a healthy body weight. Your vet can also recommend a diet which suits your cat’s needs depending on the situation – weight loss or weight gain.

It is important to allow your cat to lead a relatively unstressed life. Keeping to a routine with feeding, grooming and regular sessions of watching the TV or reading a book together are intrinsic to maintaining overall wellbeing. Watching the first white whiskers appearing is sometimes sad, but the later years of a cat’s life can also be the best – old cats have had time to really develop their character and purrsonality and are a delight to have around.

Finally there comes a time when important decisions need to be considered. There are no easy answers to the subject of euthanasia and everyone will have a different approach to this emotional time. Always involve all members of the family in this process so that they have time to say goodbye and prepare. Close consultation with your vet should help you make your decision but if you don’t feel right about it take your time. Most suffering can be relieved to a certain extent with medication and you may have a little more time to prepare. When the decision is made, expect to feel the same grief that you would feel if a family member has died. In essence this is what has happened. You have lost the companionship and unconditional love of your cat. Grieving is very normal. In time, the sadness lessens and is replaced by fond memories, and in time, who knows? You may even be ready to open your heart and home to another whisker embellished friend. The company of a cat is truly therapeutic to a sad soul.

Copyright & Credit:© CATMATCH Reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from Catmatchwww.cat-match.com.au
CATMATCH began with an idea to help reduce the tens of thousands of cats and kittens that are put to sleep each year because they can’t find a home and someone to care for them. And yet there are people like you who would enjoy life with a cat.

Photo copyright and courtesy:Michelangelo Di Schiena

Category: Feline Articles, Feline Health and Care, Feline Resources, The Golden Years

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