Accommodations for Your Senior Cat
Cats are amazing creatures. While they don’t really have nine lives, they can live into their teens and twenties with good care and good health. Time does march on, though, and many changes that accompany aging may go unnoticed or misinterpreted.
For example, owners may think that a senior cat who suddenly starts urinating or defecating in inappropriate places is incontinent. On questioning, it is not unusual to find that the litter box has always been kept in the cellar. It may not occur to owners that their kitty’s muscles may be weaker and their joints may be painful with arthritis, and that trip down the cellar stairs has become difficult and painful. Moving the litter pan upstairs and choosing a pan with lower sides and a bigger surface area often solves the problem. ( Yes, we know it’s inconvenient and maybe stinky for the humans, but senior kitty deserves to be comfortable!)
Weight loss is another important clue to changed medical and social issues and is not simply caused by “getting old.” Yearly visits with comparison of annual weight checks might reveal substantial change. Is the kitty used to eating from a high place that is hard to get to? Is there a new animal in the house who won’t allow kitty easy access to the food bowl? Are there any dental problems going on?
Bloodwork and urinalysis are needed in addition to a yearly physical examination to detect underlying medical causes that manifest as weight loss. Hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and kidney disease are common and, in many cases, manageable. It might be necessary to give daily medication and special diets that now come in chewable or liquid tasty flavors or can come as a cream that can be applied to the ear.
Special diets for kidney disease and other problems are now available by prescription in different flavors and smaller cans.
Cats who have always groomed themselves perfectly may now need help (often not appreciated!) Gentle combing and brushing may be necessary to prevent mats. The claws of an older cat often become thick and fail to shed their outer layer. Arthritis may again be the cause, The claws may fail to retract, making walking uncomfortable. At times, owners fail to notice that a claw has grown so long that it becomes embedded in the footpad, and the kitty may not give much of a clue until the foot is badly infected.
The message here is to watch for your senior kitty’s signals that they need some help as they get older. Watch and listen and accept that age catches up to them.
Kathleen -Marie Clark,DVM