There are now more pet cats than dogs in North America. With the better care available today, there has been a 15% increase in the number of cats over ten years of age and the proportion of cat population aged 15 or more has increased from 5% to 14%.
How to spot signs of ageing?
Many aged cats are affected by osteoarthritis, which contributes to reduced activity. This drop in activity worsens the symptoms of arthritis, affecting the cat’s ability to jump, climb or exercise. Also, this reduces activity results in a fall in energy requirement and if your pet maintains a good appetite, its daily food intake must be reduced to prevent excessive weight gain. Inappetance or lack of desire to eat may develop in some senior cats since the smell and taste become dull with age. Periodontal (dental) disease is common in senior cats.
My senior cat is losing weight, what can I do?
As the body ages, a number of organs start to fail or have difficulty. Weight loss is a sign of something not going well. A physical exam and a wellness blood test, along with a urinalysis, will give us a snapshot of your cat’s health and could flag problem areas that we could treat. Problems such as kidney disease, hyperthyroid disease are often seen. Cardiovascular problems or liver problems are also an issue that could affect appetite and hence, weight loss. Periodontal (dental) disease can also be painful and may contribute to inappetence. By addressing any identified problem, it may be possible to reverse the weight loss.
How can I care for my senior cat?
Most cats age gracefully and require very little. Since older cats do not generally respond well to change, it is important that any changes be introduced slowly. Elderly cats should have easy access to a warm and comfortable bed, situated where the cat can sleep safely without fear of disturbance. You should feed your cat a high-quality, easily digestible food that addresses senior issues such as Mature diet or Senior diet. Also, many cats have subclinical or underlying disease involving the liver and kidneys. Hence a diet with moderate protein restriction is usually recommended. Geriatric cats should have easy access to fresh water at all times. As cats age, some will experience reduced ability to control urination and defecation, so to reduce risks of “accidents,” provide easy access to multiple litter boxes located on each floor, near the favourite sleeping and drinking area.
What are some common health issues?
The major health problems seen in older cats are obesity, periodontal disease, hormonal disorders such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, neoplasia or cancer, infections such as ‘feline immunodeficiency virus” (FIV) and finally, osteoarthritis. You should remember that older patients may have several concurrent diseases at any given time.
Why is my senior cat having behavioural issues?
As cats age, we generally see changes in their behaviour. As our cat ages, they go from crazy kittens to relaxed adults to sleeping seniors. However, some behaviour changes in ageing cats arise from pain are definitely not normal. One of the most common pain associated behaviour change in ageing cats are decreases in grooming and self-care. Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common chronically painful ailments in cats, affecting more than 90% of cats 10 years and older. Spinal arthritis makes it difficult to twist and turn so grooming also becomes difficult. There are various scenarios like this when pain is in the joints or other body areas and may only want to hang and avoid being touched or are grumpy. The takeaway message is if your cat’s behaviour changes, think pain and have him examined!