Vets recommend that cats around 7 or 8 years of age have a senior blood panel ran, which also includes a urinalysis, to check for certain conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism. If your cat’s blood work does start to indicate any of these conditions, it is best to find them early so proper measures can be taken to address the issue, rather than finding such a condition in an advanced stage.
Dental health is another concern for aging cats. Healthy teeth and gums are very important in maintaining the overall health of your cat. Infection in the mouth enters directly into the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body, so regularly scheduled teeth cleanings are vital. It’s also important to note that most cats tend to become less active, sleep more, and gain or lose weight as they age; however, these health and behavioral changes could indicate a serious underlying condition and should be mentioned to your vet and not simply chalked up to the natural aging process.
Along with ensuring your cat has a healthy blood and urine report, it’s also important to speak to with a vet about your cat’s diet, so she is receiving the appropriate nutrition, coupled with plenty of water to help any kidney issues. And make sure your cat has easy access to her food and water bowls, as well as the litter box. Older cats can experience stiffening of the joints, arthritis, and incontinence, so make sure they can easily climb into the litter box – use boxes with low sides – and it’s a good idea to place a litter box on each floor of the house. Stiff joints and arthritis can make accessing favorite windowsills, chairs, or other sleeping spots difficult for older cats, so make sure to add ramps and pet stairs covered with carpet to provide secure footing and to prevent slips or falls.
As your cat ages, here are a few other things to take into consideration:
- Provide warm beds with extra soft blankets in rooms that aren’t drafty; cats like to seek out warm places to sleep.
- Gently groom your cat. Older cats can have a difficult time cleaning themselves, especially long-haired cats. Regular brushing helps improve circulation and stimulate secretion glands that improve a cat’s coat. Plus you cat may enjoy the extra attention!
- Turn on nightlights to aid older cats with poor vision, and keep furniture and food/water bowls and litter boxes in the same place for cats who are blind; moving or rearranging the house can disorient a blind cat and cause unnecessary stress.
- Be sensitive of cats with hearing problems. Always approach a deaf cat from the front, never from behind to prevent startling her.
- It is not recommended that a kitten be adopted to “reinvigorate” a senior cat. Though it may seem like a good idea, a rambunctious kitten can cause unnecessary stress and potentially injury an older cat, so it is best not to introduce a kitten family member.
- Keep senior cats indoors, especially those with sight and hearing problems. As cats age their reflexes slow down and they aren’t as responsive as they once were. To keep older cats safe, it’s best to keep them indoors or only allow them outside under direct supervision.
- Stick to a regularly set schedule. As cats age, it’s vital to create a set schedule for your cat to reassure her that life is good and to alleviate any undue stress. If you don’t leave food out all the time, make sure mealtime occurs at the same time every day. And some older cats may become more dependent on human interactions, so make sure to include some scheduled snuggle time.
For more detailed information on caring for elderly cats, including common health conditions and tips on creating a safer home for senior cats, click here.