You may have a geriatric cat who doesn’t seem to have slowed down one bit or maybe your cat is barely making it to the litter box these days. Just as with people, each cat handles the aging process differently. Some are active all through their senior years and some show obvious signs of slowing down when they pass through those years and enter the geriatric phase. For many cat parents though, it can be easy to overlook subtle signs that the cat isn’t quite as active and youthful as she once was. Here are 10 reminder tips to help you care for your geriatric cat.
Pay Attention to Changes in Your Cat
This applies to behavior, eating, water intake, litter box habits, activity level, vocalization, affection, and so on. Since cats are creatures of habit, a change – even a subtle one – can be a potential red flag that something is brewing. If there is an underlying medical problem, the sooner it’s addressed, the better the chance of it being corrected or maintained successfully.
Don’t Skip Veterinary Visits
When your cat was younger you probably brought her for an annual check-up and vaccinations. Now that she’s older, consider bringing her in every six months. And even if you have opted to no longer have her vaccinated, she still needs to be examined. Take advantage of any senior wellness packages your veterinarian offers.
Maintain a Sound Nutritional Program for Your Cat
Your veterinarian may recommend that your cat stay on her current food but he/she may advise switching to a senior formula or even a prescription diet based on a diagnosis of a particular medical issue. Every nutrient counts! If you’re feeding raw or a homemade diet be sure to consult with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to add if any changes need to be made or if you need to tweak things a bit based on your cat’s specific situation.
Don’t allow your cat to become overweight. Obesity isn’t healthy for a cat at any age but for an older kitty, those added pounds put extra stress on joints which can be very painful if arthritis is present. Obesity can also increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
For some geriatric cats the problem becomes trying to keep weight on. If your cat isn’t able to maintain a healthy weight, talk to your veterinarian. After a thorough examination, supplements may be prescribed or flavor additives may be recommended. Some older cats lose their appetite as their sense of smell deteriorates. Your veterinarian can advise you on whether to include additives with a strong aroma or taste to entice your cat.
Maintain Your Cat’s Good Oral Health
If you haven’t been regularly brushing your cat’s teeth, it’s never too late to start. If you can’t brush the teeth, talk to your veterinarian about using an oral hygiene spray. In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend a professional cleaning. This is done while the cat is sedated. If your cat isn’t eating well, there’s a possibility it could be related to periodontal disease so it’s important to maintain your cat’s oral health. Periodontal disease can also affect the health of your cat’s organs.
Grooming is an Essential Part of Being a Cat
As your cat ages, she may no longer have the desire or strength to maintain her coat. Help out by gently brushing her every day. This will help distribute skin oils. It will also feel like a wonderful massage if done correctly. Grooming your cat is also a time when you can gently examine her body to check for any suspicious lumps or bumps.
Maintain Age-and-Health-Appropriate Activity for Your Cat
Keep those joints lubricated and muscles toned by encouraging your cat to participate in some degree of play and activity. She may not leap six feet off the ground when chasing a toy but any form of exercise is beneficial.
Make Environmental Changes as Necessary for Your Cat
This may include getting a low-sided litter box to make it easier for an arthritic cat to get in and out as well as increasing the number of boxes. Your cat may not have the bladder control she did as a younger cat so provide more boxes in very convenient locations. Place boxes near where she spends the most time so she doesn’t have far to walk.