Senior Cat Month: Help! My cat is 80!
October 7, 2018
Cats can often have long lifespans – some reaching well into their 20’s; the equivalent of being over 96 in human years. But what does that mean in terms of their health? Just as with humans, we can expect to see some changes with our older feline friends.
Typically, cats are classed as ‘senior’ over 8 years of age; equivalent of 48 in human years. Many of you might be thinking “Fluffy is that age and is fit as a fiddle….but she does sleep a bit more than normal.” There are subtle changes that happen without much thought – such as sleeping more, moving around less – which many owners put down to old age. However, simple behavioural changes such as the above could be due to arthritis; making it painful or difficult to move as freely as before. Less movement could result in claws that grow longer and become ingrown, increases in weight and reluctance to move which continues the downwards spiral. As always, every cat is different and some can display signs of aging sooner or later than others.
We’ve briefly mentioned arthritis – but what other conditions typically affect older cats?
Chronic Kidney Disease or CKD is an irreversible loss of kidney function, which 33% of cats over 12 develop – with it rising as cats continue to age. Typically, it is only detected when up to 75% of kidney function is lost, making it important that the remaining functioning portion is supported as best as possible. While it is irreversible; there are a few steps which your veterinary team can advise you of; sometimes just changing the diet to a low phosphorus and high-quality protein can be a sufficient helping hand.
Cats like humans can develop diabetes, as they can become insulin resistant due to obesity. Diabetes can be managed successfully by owners and the veterinary team working together. Like with hyperthyroidism, diabetes can cause changes in coat condition. Cats may drink and urinate more frequently and may also display depression and signs of anorexia. Dietary management and insulin therapy is adequate management of the condition.
Common in older cats, and rare in dogs Hyperthyrodismcan display signs such as; unexplained weight loss, coat and nail changes, increase in appetite and periods of aggression and hyperactivity. There are many different treatment options for hyperthyroidism, from tablets, solutions to surgical intervention.
Older cats, just like humans, may lose some teeth as they age. Often having painful teeth or gums will prevent cats from eating or eating as much as they used to.Brushing your cats teeth is the ‘gold standard’ in dental care – however many cats would disagree! Feeding dry food is considered much better for teeth and gum health then a wet diet, with a special dental diet being top of the list. Dental diets have kibble which is specially shaped and designed to remove tartar as the animal bites through it, whilst still providing the nutrition your cat needs. A veterinary nurse can help provide you with all the information to help keep your cats teeth in top condition.
What can you do?
Prevention and early detection are essential to senior cat care. Owners can help their feline companion by ensuring the following:
- Have annual health checks – with cats over 8 years having blood pressure and their urine examined to help catch anything early.
- Cats over 11 have a health check every 6-12 months to include the above and have a blood test.
- Cats over 15+ years; a health check every 3-6 months along with the above. This is very important as a lot of changes could be happening at this time and early diagnosis can help improve quality of life and longevity.
Helpful behavioural signs for owners to watch out for:
- Increase or decrease in vocalisation – especially at different times; do they vocalise at night when they haven’t previously?
- Not jumping or climbing as much as they used to; are they staying in one ‘favourite’ spot more frequently?
- Do they seem to be confused or frightened more then ‘normal’ for them
- Do they display aggression when they previously did not or show it for no apparent reason?
- Are they grooming themselves less; is there coat condition in a steady decline?
- Are they urinating more or less frequently then before?
- Are they drinking more than before?
IN ORDER TO HELP OUR SENIOR CAT OWNERS WE ARE LAUNCHING ‘SENIOR CAT MONTH’. All owners of cats between 8 and 15 years old can book a check up with the nurse for only £20! The offer will run from 21st of October till the end of November 2018. Your cat will receive a ‘head to tail’ check by our lovely nurses. We will also check their weight, measure a blood pressure, check urine, clip nails and do a full nutritional assessment. Any health concerns will be then passed to the vet who can decide if your cat needs any further consultation.
It will be helpful if you could collect a urine sample prior to your visit as some cats will have their bladder empty.