My Cat is Getting Old…What Should I Expect?

A cat’s average life span is around 15-17 years, but it can be more or less depending on their lifestyle. And just like humans, there are a variety of bodily changes she will encounter. Regular veterinary checkups are important to monitor these changes and make sure your cat is comfortable throughout his life.

Nutrition

Unlike dogs, a cat’s energy needs stay relatively the same as they age, so there’s no need to change their calorie intake unless their health requires it. Obesity tends to affect middle age cats more than senior cats, but weight control is important throughout the cat’s life to ensure quality of life. If your cat has weight problems, diseases affected by nutrition or a deficiency in certain nutrients, their diet may need to change. Talk to your veterinarian to find the ideal diet for your senior cat.

Dental Disease

One of the most common problems in older cats, over 70% of senior cats have signs of gum disease. This makes good oral hygiene extremely important in your cat’s younger years, and especially as they get older. Plaque will start to form tartar if it is not removed, leading to gingivitis and other periodontal diseases. This can also affect their eating habits – your cat may have pain or discomfort while eating dry food, so you may need to transition to canned food.

Arthritis & Joint Care

Over time, your cat’s regular activity and movement will cause gradual degeneration in their joints and cartilage. Those stiff, aching joints can cause a lot of pain and slow your cat down if not treated regularly. Joint supplements have the necessary ingredients to help replenish the lost cartilage and synovial fluids, while heated or orthopedic beds can warm up their stiff joints or give them the support they need as they sleep. Do NOT give your cat anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, unless directed by a veterinarian. Cats are very sensitive to these drugs, and they can cause a lot of problems, including death, if not given as directed.

Constipation

As your cat’s gastrointestinal tract gets older, the movement of food through the digestive tract slows down, causing constipation. This is especially common when cats have hairballs, or with cats who have pain while defecating. However, constipation is also a sign of many other diseases, so check with your veterinarian if your cat has problems. Common solutions include enemas or laxatives.

Activity Levels & Behavior

A decrease in your cat’s activity levels may just be a sign of getting old – or it may be an indication of other diseases. Arthritis or joint pain may cause their movements to slow down or change. Dental disease or a loss of smell may change their eating habits. Their ability to deal with stress also decreases as they age, so times of fear or aggression may pop up more often. Cats are experts at hiding disease, so pay close attention to their movements and attitudes – it can give you clues about their health and wellness.

Loss of Senses

Hearing loss often becomes severe before the owner notices it is happening. Your cat may act surprisingly aggressive from being startled, or she may ignore you even more than usual because she can’t hear you. You may notice vision loss when she won’t follow the movements of her toys, has trouble finding things or bumps into furniture more often. Loss of smell may be one reason your cat loses interest in her food – it no longer has an appealing aroma.

Immune Function

Over time, the immune system will begin to slow down. It won’t be able to fight off disease as effectively as it could before, resulting in more severe, longer lasting infections and diseases. Supportive care and medication will be necessary to help your cat’s body fight infection and heal completely.

Skin & Hair Coat

Your cat’s hair will become drier and thinner, and black hair coats have the tendency to turn gray. They will also need your help grooming more often, reaching places where they might have missed and removing hair to prevent hairballs. This extra attention also gives you a good time to check for injuries or abnormal lumps.

Temperature Sensitivities

The older your cat gets, the harder it is for her to regulate her body temperature in response to the environmental changes. As a result, you’ll need to give extra efforts to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Limit their time outdoors when temperatures are extreme, and make sure they have ways to cool down or warm up.

Your cat may be getting older and dealing with a few more problems, but she’s still the same cat. It’s important to keep them as comfortable as possible in their last years, adjusting your habits and schedules as needed. In response, your cat will reward you with a lifetime of their love and trust.





The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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