Work to develop a close relationship with your cat’s veterinarian while your cat is still healthy. This will allow your veterinarian to get to know your cat and detect subtle changes that may indicate a health condition or disease.
Cats needs to visit their veterinarian more often as they age, even if they appear healthy. Cats age much faster than people and a checkup every 6 months for cats 10-15 years old and every 4 months for cats over the age of 15 is recommended for optimum health maintenance and early detection of disease.
The start of your cat’s veterinary visit begins at home. Use Cat Friendly Tips to reduce the stress of getting your cat into his carrier and allow plenty of time to arrive for your appointment 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 into the exam room when you arrive to further minimize stress.
3. Prepare Ahead of Time.
Bring a list of questions or concerns to ask your veterinarian at your cat’s wellness checkup.
Write down all foods your cat is eating including treats, brands fed, and amounts.
Provide your veterinarian with a complete list of any supplements or medications you are giving your cat including preventives.
Try to record smartphone videos of any concerning behaviors or mobility issues observed at home to show your veterinarian.
Complete any questionnaires your veterinarian shares with you ahead of time.
4. 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.
5. Be Alert to 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.
6. Be on the Lookout for Signs of Pain.
Pain can be hard to notice because cats try to hide signs of discomfort and illness from us.
Any changes in behavior, energy level or sleeping patterns may be a sign your cat is experiencing underlying discomfort or pain.
Degenerative Joint Disease, or arthritis, is present in most older cats. Your veterinarian can determine if your cat is suffering from arthritis and develop a treatment plan to make your cat more comfortable.
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.
Are your cat’s stools softer, harder, or changing color? Is he defecating daily? Not defecating or passing small amounts of hard stool are indicators of constipation, a serious medical issue. If attended to early, your veterinarian can help your kitty to feel comfortable again.
Has the amount of urine in the litter box changed? Even small changes in or around the litterbox should prompt a call to your cat’s veterinarian as they can be indicators of serious underlying disease.
8. Create a “Senior Cat Friendly” Home Environment.
Place resources (food, water, litterboxes, bedding) in multiple locations that your cat can easily access.
If your cat is having trouble jumping to favorite high surfaces add steps or ramps for access.
As cats grow older, they often need extra padding and warmth for comfort. Provide soft bedding at preferred sleeping and resting spots.
Provide raised food and water bowls so cats with degenerative joint disease don’t have to bend to eat and drink.
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.
Maintain a consistent routine.
9. Know How Much Your Cat is Eating.
Senior cats are at risk of becoming underweight due to a decreasing sense of taste or smell, which can cause a lack of interest in eating.
Make sure your cat has access to food resources. Place food where your cat spends the most time and, in an area where your cat can eat quietly and calmly.
Senior cats may prefer wide and low-sided food and water bowls that don’t touch their whiskers.
If your cat becomes picky about food or is not eating talk to your veterinarian right away.
10. Know Common Signs of Disease.
General signs of disease may be hard to notice at first. Be aware of some of the most common signs of disease and consult your veterinarian if any of these are noted:
Drinking more or less
Increased amounts of urine, passing small amounts of hard stool, straining in the litterbox
Nausea, vomiting, or constipation
Decreased appetite, weight loss, or muscle loss
Poor fur/coat and decreased grooming
Changes in behavior including hyperactivity (unusual activity), anxiety, tiredness, or not using the litter box
Abnormal swelling, skin masses (unusual lumps or growths)
Sores that do not heal
Bleeding or discharge
Difficulty breathing, urinating, or passing stools
Difficulty going up or down stairs, jumping or walking
11. (BONUS) Enjoy Your Special Bond.
Caring for your senior cat can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.
We rely on our cats as much as they rely on us. Aging cats often crave more attention than they did earlier in life and spending extra time together will ensure you both get the most out of your cat’s senior years.