Caring for a Senior Cat

We will love our cats till the day they die, so there will come a time your cat reaches its senior years. Here are some things you should look out for when your cat becomes old.

Veterinary check-ups: These should now be scheduled 6-monthly instead of annually when your cat gets older. Apart from checking for onset of feline diseases by doing blood tests, also get your vet to check its teeth, and for growths. This is important because early detection of feline illnesses is important to ensure quality treatment and the prolonging of your cat’s good life with you.

Grooming: When cats get older they will groom themselves less. This may mean more showers are necessary. However, older cats tend to have drier skin. So you need to select a shampoo that is more moisturising, or use conditioner. Also, blow-dry your senior cat after showers, because they may not have the energy or dexterity to lick themselves dry. This is to prevent fungal growth from moisture collecting in their fur. You may need to brush your cat more often as well. Also pay attention to their ears and clean them from wax buildup to prevent fungal growth.

Claws: Cats are less prone to stropping to keep their claws in check when they are older. They are also less able to retract their claws when scratching themselves, and may end up getting claw wounds which will need first aid attention to prevent inflammation. You will need to check your senior cat’s claws more often and help them to trim their claws to prevent claw wounds as well as ingrown nails that overgrow.

Diet: Do not feed your cat less. A protein level of 30-40% is still ideal for senior cats unless your vet advises otherwise. Also they will need the vitamins and minerals from their diet. Consider adding supplements to your senior cat’s diet. Calcium is one important mineral. Also, probiotics, essential for cats every age, may become more important in their senior years due to a weaker digestive system. You can also consider supplements good for cardiac health such as the omegas (fish oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil) and CoQ10.

Incontinence: Your senior cat may be less able to control its urination and bowels and may need more litter boxes, especially closer to where they like to hang out around the house. Stock up on paper towels and toilet paper because there might be more ‘accidents’ outside the box. Likewise because of this your senior cat definitely will need more conditioning showers and grooming to keep themselves clean from peeing and pooing on themselves.

Fur loss: Your cat may begin to show signs of fur loss, be it when you stroke her and find your hand full of her fur, or simply bald patches appearing on her body. Her fur will also grow less slowly than before. 

Safety and solitude: Your cat may now prefer quiet activities such as suntanning and snoozing more than other things. Ensure that there are quiet corners your cat can spend its days in, especially if you have a multi-cat or noisy household. You can consider igloo beds or cat baskets specially for your senior cat.

Exercise: Because your senior cat will not be really into playing on its own anymore, you will need to ensure it gets enough exercise. You may find that your cat only responds to some toys only, and no longer others. Pay more attention to which toys she prefers and play with her using them more often to ensure her mind and body are engaged.

Planning for the inevitable: When your cat eventually goes over the rainbow bridge, allow some time for the rest of the family members to grieve, even the pets. It is normal for the other pets to wonder where their older brother or sister has gone. Eventually they will accept that nature is as such and continue in their daily life – this is one thing animals can teach us about resilience and of the natural order in life. You may also have to make the difficult decision of euthanising your cat if she is in suffering, or to let her live out her live naturally. Either choice is a difficult one to make. Also note that it is illegal to bury pets in public areas. Cremation rates start at $80 for a cat, including pick up. To enquire more on pet cremation rates, call Alvin of Mobile Pet Cremation Services at 94556355 from 8am to 5pm daily.  

Be prepared: Your senior cat may develop a chronic feline condition that will need routine care. You will have to be mentally prepared that he or she will need daily medication, regular visits to the vet, injections and such. Just as we need to be prepared to take care of our senior parents, we need to be prepared for our senior cats. 

This article is inspired by the senior foster cats that have come into our lives: Helga and Manja.

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