How will getting older impact the health of my cat?

Some conditions, syndromes, and diseases can develop as a cat ages. The big ones that I tend to worry about the most are kidney disease, liver disease; sometimes, these guys are more prone to developing diabetes as they get older. They can also develop an overactive thyroid gland as they get older, or even, and I hate to say it, sometimes cats develop cancer. But a lot of these things can be diagnosed with routine blood work, which is wonderful.

Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

How do a cat's nutritional needs change as they age?

Many times, senior cats need a little bit more fat in their diet, especially if they need to help maintain weight as they get older. A lot of things like Omega-3s are being put into senior cat diets and things like glucosamine and chondroitin to help with joint support management. There are also sometimes nutritional requirements where we may recommend a prescription diet if your cat develops something like diabetes or renal disease.

What are some signs and symptoms that your cat may be slowing down?

Some owners will notice that their cats used to jump up onto the counter or up onto the bathroom sink, and they're not doing that as much anymore. We all know how much cats like to catnap, but sometimes their sleeping patterns get a little longer, and their active patterns get a bit shorter. Occasionally we can notice that they're eating a little bit less, or in some cases, they're eating a ton more. And those are all excellent reasons to have your cat checked out by their veterinarian.

What kinds of preventative care can help extend the life and health of my cat?

Once cats start reaching about six to seven years old, I strongly encourage that they have complete blood work done at least every year to make sure those vital organs are working the way they're supposed to and that we can monitor those kidneys. We can make sure that we're not developing diabetes or an overactive thyroid.

Another big part, too, is taking care of senior cats' teeth. Often, as they get a little bit older, we get more aggressive with their dental management. So it might mean that they need to come in every year, every couple of years, just to have their teeth cleaned by us.

And then the last thing is going to be joint management and joint care because we do see senior cats develop arthritis, and we want to make sure that we're keeping them as comfortable as possible. And so, like Sunny here, we give him injections every month with this Chondroprotec to help manage his arthritis and help keep his joints nice and healthy. Since starting him on it almost a year ago, we have noticed a huge difference in his mobility and activity levels. So those three are the big ones.

What is the most important thing to know about caring for a senior cat?

Senior cats are going to require a little bit more care. You might be bringing them to the vet a bit more often to have them checked out. I like to see these guys on a six-month schedule to make sure everything's okay. And as I said, we can do blood work annually, but sometimes they need things like steps or assistance if you keep their food or water elevated. Sometimes you have to adjust their litter boxes if they have trouble stepping into a higher-walled litter box or things like that. We also need to ensure internal organ function's okay, their dental care is okay, and that we're managing any developing or potential arthritis in their joints.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Senior Care - FAQs

Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

When is my cat considered a senior?

Well, that's a good question. For the most part, my rule of thumb is any pet who kind of hits that seven to eight-year-old mark is a senior pet. Of course, cats tend to live longer, but I still generally put them in that senior category at seven to eight years of age.

What are the health needs of my senior cat?

Bringing them to the vet every year or even every six months is recommended. I like to run annual blood work on senior cats to screen for anything that could develop or are more common in senior cats. The next two things are going to be taking care of their teeth as they get older because they can sometimes run into some issues there and make sure that we're taking care of their joints the best that we can.

Does my senior cat still need vaccinations?

That's a conversation to have with your veterinarian. Depending on some of my patient's lifestyles, we'll do a rabies vaccine because that one's required by law. And, of course, rabies can be transmitted to humans from pets. If they have a very active outdoor lifestyle, sometimes we'll keep them going on all of their core vaccines. It's a case-by-case situation, but you can have that conversation with your veterinarian.

Should I encourage my senior cat to exercise?

Once they get to that senior age, I let them choose their own speed and their own pace. So if they're showing that they want to play or are interacting with you, I say go for it, but just be sure to tune into when they're ready to stop so that you stop too. If they're feeling like having a lazy day, I say let them have a lazy day. It's kind of your cat's preference to tune into.

How can I make my home more senior cat-friendly?

Some things to think about changing would be if they have an elevated food or water dish, like on a counter and having difficulty getting up there, bringing those down to floor level, or maybe provide some stairs or a ramp or something so they can get up there. Make sure that you're providing some comfy places for them to nap or lay or sleep, as well as making sure that if you notice they're having any issues getting in and out of the litter box if the sides of the litter box are too tall or things like that, they need a bigger one to help them posture. Those are some adjustments to make to help out your senior cat.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.