Senior Cat Care

America's most popular pet, the cat, lives more than half of its life in the senior years. Although advances in veterinary care, better nutrition and better educated owners have helped improve the quantity and quality of these years, studies reveal that senior cats continue to struggle with weight as the result of reduced activity levels and a steady decline in senses, nutrient absorption and fat digestion.  


It may be hard for a pet owner to notice a pet cat getting older. Outside, pet cats may show the same things- playing with toys around the home, taking naps sprawled on a favourite spot inside the home, snuggle up with you on the sofa. But inside, it might be a whole different thing.  And health care for cats as they get old may change a little bit. 


When caring your an aging cat, there are some things that a concerned pet owner should know about. When a cat approaches somewhere between the ages of eight or twelve years, this is the equivalent of a human being approaching middle age. This will be the time that your pet cat may be needing a bit of extra attention.  


Most veterinarians generally estimate that cats start their elderly years when they reach twelve years. This will be the time that caring for your pet cat would have to change to accommodate the needs that aging brings.  


1. Feeding: A major part of caring for older pet cats involves feeding them. As cats get older, their digestive systems do not function as efficiently as before. Aging cats may need to eat smaller and easily digestible meals in a day rather than just two square meals. One of the most important goals when feeding senior cats is maintaining an ideal weight and keeping that weight stable. Try also to make sure that you give your cat a variety of food to eat to ensure that it gets a well balanced diet. Owners of senior cats can help their aging felines maintain an ideal body weight throughout the senior lifestage by feeding a diet that addresses their unique nutritional needs.   


There is also a number of cat foods now available as food for the different life stages of your pet cat. There is cat food that is specially formulated for older cats as well as for the less active ones. The best advice in feeding your aging pet cat would be to ask your vet about the nutritional needs of your cat.  


Switch to canned food instead of dried, as water consumption is necessary to stave off kidney issues, a common concern. Low protein food will help make the digestion and elimination process more comfortable for older cats.


The 11-plus years are particularly problematic for cats because their sense of smell and taste often diminish at this time, which affects their interest in food. The ability to absorb key nutrients and digest fat declines, making eating itself less efficient.

The undesirable result is that more food passes through as waste and less is used for energy, causing a drop in lean muscle mass and body fat that leads to potentially harmful weight loss. 


2. Water: Put out multiple water bowls and make sure they are changed regularly.


3. Diseases: When cats age, they start to lead a less active lifestyle. As cats age, there's a gradual decline in the body's ability to repair itself, maintain normal body functions and adapt to stresses in the environment. Disease and weight changes are common throughout the senior life stage. Whereas cats enjoy playing around and hunting during their younger years, older cats seem to prefer spending more time quietly around the home. This would be a benefit for some pet owners since they no longer have to worry about their once playful cat overturning and breaking things around the house. But this inactive lifestyle would not be good for the cat. 


Cats are good at hiding pain, so if yours is more reclusive, sedentary or quiet than usual, head to the vet. Arthritis, for example, is tough to detect but can be treated with supplements, painkillers or diet.

4. Muscle Wasting: Cats are more likely to face weight gain during the mature years when activity level declines and metabolism slows. But around age 11, weight loss becomes a greater concern. Muscle wasting is an issue that most cats face at their senior years. Encourage your cat to eat by providing variety, warm dinners and three or four smaller feedings through the day will help keep him strong.



Even though your pet cat would you may still need to keep them active since the exercise would help keep them healthy. Try to have them active as often as possible to keep them active. As they age, cats may also need to have their vaccinations up to date. Older cats have a less efficient immune system and may need vaccinations to keep them protected from diseases.   


5. Dental Problems: Dental problems may also become a concern for old cats when they become prone to having loose teeth, tartar build-up, and sore gums. This can have a big effect on your pet cat's well-being. Dental problems may be the reason why they are not eating well. A regular dental check up might be needed as part of health care for old cats.


Brush your cat's teeth regularly. As cats age, they are more prone to plaque, tartar buildup and the like. Bad breath or difficulty chewing can be a sign it is time for dental work.


6. Toenails: As a cat ages, he will develop brittle toenails. Check nails regularly and clip when they are getting long.


7. Cognitive Disorders: Cats especially those 14 and over can suffer from cognitive disorders similar to dementia. If your cat begins to miss the litter box, hides, sleeps more often, stops grooming or cries for no reason often at night, he could be ill.


8. Vision Problems: If you notice your cat struggling to move around or bumping into things, she might have a vision problem. A cataract will give a cat's eye an opalescent quality, but a tumour or a retinal detachment can only be detected with an exam.


In addition to providing the proper diet, owners of senior cats should pay close attention to their cats' activity levels, weight, and eating, grooming and elimination habits and report anything new or different to their veterinarian. 


Though many of these changes are a normal part of aging, others may signal a more serious problem. Scheduling veterinary visits at least twice a year is good practice during the senior years as many potentially serious conditions are treatable if caught early.