As pet parents, it can be really difficult for us to face the fact that the rambunctious, young kitten we got home few years back, has now grown into a somber senior cat. It’s now that your kitty needs more attention, love and care. Here’s how to keep her healthy and happy in these years.
In cats, the biological age depends on various factors like the quality of living conditions, her diet, general state of health and her genetic background. Cats over eight years are generally considered senior. Ageing can have the following effects on cats.
- With ageing, cats become susceptible to arthritis. This restricts their movement and makes it difficult for them to perform activities like climbing and jumping, which they would earlier perform with ease.
- The diet needs of cats change as they age. Their body’s ability to digest fats and proteins decreases which may lead to weight loss, if sufficient amount of fats and proteins are not supplied through diet. Your cat might also eat less due to the loss of her sense of taste, smell or interest in food. On the other hand, some senior cats are prone to weight gain due to the lack of mobility and decline in the body’s metabolic rate.
- Like humans, ageing also affects the mental agility of cats, thereby causing the loss of memory, cognition and degeneration of brain cells. Look out for signs of age-related deterioration of brain cells like excessive meowing, pacing around in circles, aimlessly wandering around the house and avoidance of social interaction.
- The skin loses its elasticity and is prone to skin infections and inflammation in senior cats. The claws become thick, overgrown and brittle.
- Ageing weakens the immune system and that makes older cats sensitive to common illnesses and infections.
- Dental diseases are quite common in senior cats and often cause pain and discomfort while eating.
- Eyesight and hearing power diminishes with ageing. Older cats also show discolouration and cloudiness of eyes.
Though there is nothing we can do to suppress the aforementioned signs of ageing, we can surely do our bit to slow down the process of ageing, by taking proper care of our kitty. Here are some of the steps we can take to ensure that our senior cat leads a comfortable life in her golden years.
- Provide your cat with nutritious food. The diet requirements of cats change as they age. Consult your vet to know more about the diet needs of your cat. Also older cats have increased water requirements and can easily get dehydrated. So, make sure you provide your kitty with sufficient drinking water.
- Keep the food, water bowl and litter boxes in places that are easily accessible and your cat does not have to struggle to jump and climb up to reach for them. You can also help your cat climb up to her favourite spot by placing stools and cushions as steps.
- Cats can groom themselves well but an older cat would need some external support in keeping herself clean and tidy. Give your cat regular brushing to remove loose hairs and detangle matted hair. Brushing also stimulates blood circulation and sebaceous gland secretion ensuring healthy skin and coat. Regular cleaning of teeth is essential to ward off dental problems. Occasionally, you can also give your cat a refreshing bath. She would surely come out feeling more youthful and energetic after a warm bath.
- A daily dose of moderate exercise cannot only control weight gain but also improve the physical and mental fitness of cats. You can take short walks with your kitty or play fun games with your cats.
- Senior cats love being in a familiar environment and are less adaptable to changes in their environment. New places and constant changes in the surroundings put them under stress. Maintain familiarity in your kitty’s environment and avoid changing places of things like your cat’s food bowl or the bed where she rests.
- Observe for changes in your cat’s eating habits, sleeping patterns and behaviour and seek the help of vet if you notice something unusual. Have regular health checkups with the vet. This would help detect health problems at an early stage and prevent them from growing into something serious.
- Provide your cat with all the love and emotional support she needs to be happy in her senior years.
Ageing is inevitable and we cannot do anything to prevent our pets from ageing but it is possible for us, the pet owners to help our pets age gracefully and keep them healthy and happy in their golden years.