Aging is a natural part of life, and cats, as individuals, experience old age in different ways. Cats can live to 20 years, although the average lifespan is usually in the teens. When your cat reaches the age of 8 or 9, you can expect to see some age-related changes occur.
Signs of age in cats
Physical signs of aging can include thinning fur, cloudy eyes, dislike of cold temperatures, prominent hips and spine, joint stiffness, hearing loss, and increased sleep. Older cats can also be less adaptable to changes in their routines, and even get a little cranky.
Nutrition and the older cat
Make sure to feed your cat high quality cat food. If your cat begins to lose his appetite as he ages, you can entice him to eat by adding small amounts of protein with appealing smells and flavors, like cooked eggs, turkey, and fish or freeze-dried salmon and chicken treats. Weight loss in older cats can be a sign of a serious medical condition, so be sure to check with your vet if you notice unusual weight loss.
Grooming your senior cat
Older cats may have difficulty grooming themselves. Regular combing or brushing will help prevent hairballs and stimulate circulation in the skin. Trim your cat’s nails if she uses the scratching post less often. Older cats are more likely to suffer from tooth and gum problems. Your cat may require a cleaning (and possibly tooth removal) at the vet, especially if you’ve never brushed her teeth at home. It’s never too late to start brushing your cat’s teeth, so give it a try.
Common diseases in older cats
Kidney failure can be common in senior cats. Look for signs of weight loss, increased thirst and urination, poor appetite, and bad breath. Your vet can talk to you about medications and special diets. Other health problems of older cats include constipation, diabetes, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and heart disease.
Sadly, a cat’s chances of getting cancer increase with age. Experts believe this is due to both a weakened immune system and years of exposure to carcinogens (don’t smoke around your cat!). Cats with FeLV (the feline leukemia virus) are at risk for developing lymphosarcomas, which are tumors of the lymph nodes, kidneys, and intestines. Older cats can also get meningiomas (tumors of the membrane that covers the brain).
Be sure to monitor your older cat’s well-being and talk to your vet about any concerns. Senior cats, even those with some chronic health conditions, can enjoy a good quality of life with proper care and attention from their human companions.
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