Caring for the older cat
As cats age there are a number of things you as an owner can do to help them stay happy and healthy in your home.
Mobility can become markedly decreased with age. Arthritis and subsequent muscle wastage is a common problem of older cats, however with regular veterinary checks this can be managed quite successfully, there are medications available specifically for the treatment of arthritic cats.
Environmental modification can make a huge difference to your cat’s ability to get around. Consider where they like to jump up – a step or a chair can be placed to help them up to a higher level such as a windowsill – cats do love to be able to look outside. Ideally beds need to be extra comfy, warm and easily accessible too.
Older cats are less able to groom efficiently as they can suffer with dental disease or, as discussed previously joint problems.
Regular grooming is essential for mental wellbeing and to prevent mats. It is also an excellent opportunity to check them over for any lumps or bumps you may not have previously noticed.
Claws will need regular checking and clipping. As cats age they are less able to retract their claws and can end up getting
them caught in things or, in the worst case they can actually grow so long they grow into their delicate pads causing much pain and discomfort. Feel free to ask the nurses to show you how to do this, most cats will tolerate it well at home.
Older cats should always be offered a litter tray, as even if they have access outside there often comes a time when they no longer wish to go outside to go to the toilet. In a multicat household it is advisable to have one tray per cat, plus one extra as a minimum, the tray should be away from other resources, such as food and water and preferably in a quiet area.
If you have a cat flap that is at a height either inside or out, it is sensible to think about a step to assist your cat in negotiating the cat flap.
Cognitive dysfunction is a common condition of older cats- leading to altered, senile like behaviour. If you have concerns regarding this in your cat, veterinary examination is recommended.
Loss of hearing and vision can also occur, so it is advisable to avoid any major household changes, particularly moving of the furniture.
Regular Veterinary Health Checks
Regular veterinary health checks of the older cat can really be of benefit as many age related conditions can be improved with medication, supplements or even simple diet modifications.
Health check blood tests can pick up many age related conditions, sometimes before any clinical signs become apparent.
It is essential to monitor the weight of your cat frequently on some accurate scales, as even a seemingly small amount of weight loss can actually be quite significant for a small cat.
Despite all of the potential problems that can occur in the older cat, they make wonderful companions and we should endeavour to make their final years happy and comfortable ones.