How to help a cat age well
Long gone are the days when our feline friends struggled with their age. Today, as cats grow closer to humans fostering lifelong friendships of love and happiness, they are proving to us all that age, is in fact, just a number. With growing veterinary services, good quality cat food, and broadened knowledge on feline care, it’s almost too easy for our cats to be healthy and age gracefully - as long as we take good care of them!
How long do most cats live?
Healthy cats, i.e. those that are fed wholesome, balanced, age-appropriate meals in accordance with their activity level, live well up to 15-20 years.
In order for cats to age well, they need to live in what’s called a stress-free environment - one that doesn’t have any behavioural triggers like separation anxiety, excessive scratching, aggressive biting, yowling etc.
What causes early death in cats?
- Heart Attacks
- Cancer - Lymphoma and Leukaemia
- Obesity and obesity-related health complications Stress/Anxiety
- Feline Heartworm Disease
- Viral Infections
How can I help my cat age gracefully?
Remember, ageing gracefully is all about holistic health. A cat might be on the best quality food out there, but if he is stressed, that will take him away faster than any physical disease.
Pay close attention to mental health
As cats age, certain things that didn't act as stressors in adulthood may cause stress in them now. For example, a cat who enjoyed the company of guests may now feel less enthusiastic about playing a good host. Mental health in cats is very fragile - most often, you wouldn't even know that a cat is in pain/discomfort because they are so good at hiding it. However, this pain/discomfort causes stress that in turn affects their mental health.
Routine Veterinary Visits
Once a cat enters seniorhood, veterinary checkups must be scheduled once every two to three months. The reason veterinarians insist on routine checkups is for the simple reason that some diseases are occult (hidden) and don't show symptoms until the very end - cancer being one of them. With routine medical checkups, your cat can benefit from early detection and prompt treatment of any disease/disorder.
Regular Checkups at Home
Always remember to carry out weekly checkups at home - look for lumps, bumps, and sores alongside unexplained bleeding or discharge from the nose, teeth, ears, or penis/vagina. Any sign of vomiting, loose stools, constipation, change in toileting habits, lethargy, stiffness, and confusion must be reported to the veterinarian immediately.
Maintain Oral Hygiene
Tartar buildup on gums can cause gingivitis if left untreated. Hence, regular dental scaling is a must. In addition to looking after the health of your cat's teeth, it is important to pay close attention to any foul odours, broken teeth, swollen gums, pale gums, dry tongue, and bleeding that might occur in the mouth.
Your senior cat may not want to accept it, but he cannot twist and turn to lick himself clean like how he once used to. Weekly grooming can help to spread the coat's natural oils evenly throughout the body and remove dirt and debris - a job once perfected by the tongue. Besides, grooming gives cat parents a chance to check for any abnormalities on the skin like redness, itchiness, dryness, dandruff, flaky skin, foul odours, unevenly shaped lumps, hard bumps etc.
Feed Senior Cat Diet
A senior cat diet is tailored to meet the calorific and nutritional needs of an old cat. Most senior cat diets have lesser calories to prevent obesity, more fibre to ensure smooth bowel movement, more essential fatty acids to provide cushioning to joints, and definitely more taste to stimulate a weak appetite.
Watch For Change in Toileting Habits
Change in toileting habits can signal disorder and disease. This is why every senior cat parent must pay close attention to the consistency and regularity of their cat's urination and defecation.
Make home senior cat friendly
That shelf which was used as a perch to watch the world go by, may no longer be as accessible to your senior cat. As cats age, their joints grow weaker, making it difficult to climb and jump around like before. However, that doesn't mean that they must miss out on their favourite hiding spots. To make your home senior cat friendly, use non-slip ramps, stairs, stools as a means to provide accessibility to the hiding spots your cat likes to climb up to.
Keep your cat indoors
You wouldn't want an old cat running off and forgetting the way back home, would you? As much as they want to explore the world outside, it is imperative for them to stay inside - far from possible infection and accidents. But, no one said anything about being bored inside the house! To ensure that your cat isn't bored or destructive inside the house, you can -
- Have a set of different toys for each day
- Build a perch beside the window
- Have many cat trees in different parts of the house
- Build a cat wheel or a cat patio
- Play treasure hunt by hiding treats all around the house
Never stop working their body and brain!
Old age never translates to just sitting around all day. In fact, the more your cat's brain is exercised through puzzle toys and active toys like balls, ropes, and feathers, the less likely it is to feel stressed.
An ageing cat would definitely prefer a warmer, cosier bed to cushion their joints and keep them warm from the outside cold.
Never forget to stock up on joint supplements to help your cat with mobility and pain as he grows old.
If you want your age to live well into seniorhood, it is imperative that you take these tiny steps to ensure holistic well-being for as long as they live.