Work to develop a close relationship with your cat’s veterinarian while he is still healthy. Your veterinarian can get to know your cat and detect subtle changes that may indicate a health condition or disease.
Your cat needs to visit their veterinarian more often as they age, usually about every 6 months, even if your cat appears healthy. Please remember 6 months in cat years is roughly equivalent to 2 years for a person and a lot can change in that time.
2. Set Your Senior Cat Up for Success.
Reduce the stress of veterinary visits by getting your cat comfortable with his carrier. Make the carrier cozy with soft, familiar bedding. This makes it easier to get your cat into the carrier on the appointment days.
Leave plenty of time to arrive so you are unhurried and calm.
Ask the veterinary office if they have a cat-only waiting area, cat concierge service, or if you can go directly to the waiting area. This helps keep your cat calm.
Prepare a list of questions or concerns to ask your veterinarian at your cat’s wellness check-up.
3. Learn Your Cat’s Habits and Pay Attention to Changes.
Cats are masters at hiding illness. Changes are often subtle and easily missed.
If you notice a difference in behavior, such as sleeping more or hiding, don’t ignore it! Speak up and tell your veterinarian.
Tell your veterinarian about any changes in your cat’s behavior, even if they are minor. You know your cat and his routines better than anyone.
4. Beware of Changes in Weight.
Both weight gain AND unplanned weight loss requires a visit to your veterinarian.
Weight gain can make your cat more likely to get chronic diseases and have a shortened life span.
Weight loss in senior cats is usually a sign something is wrong. Some of the most common diseases causing weight loss – hyperthyroidism, intestinal disease, and diabetes – occur with a normal or even increased appetite.
Gradual changes in weight are hard to notice. Monitoring your cat’s weight is one of the most important reasons for regular wellness examinations by your veterinarian.
Arthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease) is present in most older cats. Appropriate treatment can help him remain active and engaged.
If your cat has difficulty going up or down steps, does not jump like he used to, or isn’t using the litter box, talk with your veterinarian.
6. Look When You Scoop.
Are your cat’s stools softer, harder, or changing color? Is he defecating daily? Constipation is a common, yet under recognized, sign of dehydration in older cats. If attended to early, your veterinarian can help your kitty to feel comfortable again.
Has the amount of urine in the litter box changed? Increased urine output can signal some of the most common illnesses in elderly cats – from diabetes or an over active thyroid gland to kidney disease and high blood pressure.
Urinary infections, constipation, arthritis, and muscle weakness are just a few of the reasons an older cat can develop litter box issues.
Your veterinarian can look into medical issues and help you with home or environmental concerns that may be causing the changes in your cat’s behavior.
Is the litter box easy for your elderly cat to get in and out (i.e., there isn’t a high step into the box)?
Does the location make it easy for your cat to access so he doesn’t have to go up or down stairs?
Is the litter box in an quiet area that is protected from other pets that may startle or frighten your older cat?
Are you scooping and cleaning the litter box often enough to keep up with that increased urine output?
Is the litter gentle on your senior cat’s paws?
8. Your Cat’s Needs Will Change.
You will need to make some adjustments in your household for your senior cat.
As cats grow older, they often need extra padding and warmth for comfort. Provide soft sleeping places and make their preferred sleeping and resting spots easily accessible with stepping stools, ramps, and other assistance.
9. Know How Much Your Cat is Eating.
Nutritional needs change for healthy older cats and those with chronic diseases. Discuss nutrition with the veterinarian and get recommendations for your cat.
Cat caregivers are often unaware how much their cat is actually eating on a daily basis, especially in households with multiple cats.
Monitor food intake so you know immediately if your cat is eating less. This helps your veterinarian intervene when there are problems.
10. Enjoy Your Special Bond.
Bonds with our older companions are special. We rely on our cats as much as they rely on us. Elderly cats often crave more attention than they had earlier in life.
Continue to provide physical and mental stimulation by petting, playing, and interacting in your special ways.
Help out with grooming by gently brushing or combing, and keep nails from becoming overgrown with regular nail trims. The nails of older arthritic cats sometimes overgrow into the paw pads, and this is painful.