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How to keep your senior cat happy and healthy

We’ve talked about senior pets and dogs– so now it’s time for senior cat advice. A senior cat is a wonderful pet to have. Cats are wonderfully self-assured animals with lovely personalities. Adopting a cat of all kinds of ages is usually a positive experience.

But like any animal you may have in your family, as they enter the later years of life, they will need extra support to remain active, happy and healthy.

Here are some of the things you can do to ensure your senior cat stays healthier for longer in the twilight years

Regular vet checks to promote health

Cats begin their journey into the senior years usually around 7 to 10 years of age. It will depend on the size and breed of the cat as to when this occurs.

The main issues with feline health in a senior cat are often caused by not properly recognising the needs have changed in your pet. A more mature moggy needs lower stress, tailored nutrition and to be encouraged to keep moving and exercising.

senior cat

Photo by Kari Shea

You’ll also see physical changes in your senior cat such as:

  • Difficulty in maintaining a health weight range and/or susceptibility to obesity and/or diabetes
  • Movement may change with the stiffening of muscles and joints which could be arthritis
  • Thyroid issues and dental issues are common in geriatric cats
  • Skin and coat can also lose health during older age and this is demonstrated in hair loss and skin disease
  • Cats can also show signs of confusion or failure to notice people if they have Alzheimer’s or dementia

Toileting habits also change as your cat gets older. For example, you may have to reintroduce kitty litter to ensure there are no accidents while you are out. Or have it in a couple of places. How your cat urinates and defecates can also signify issues with the kidneys or endocrine system. Changes to the breathing pattern such as extra panting or laboured breath could be signs of lung issues.

6-month vet checks are a great idea with a senior cat. By having a vet to talk to and to monitor changes in the eyes, teeth, coat and general wellness, you can spot issues early. It’s also good to respond to any changes in toileting habits, eating habits, changes in body weight or behaviour with reaching out to us at our Wahroonga vet hospital for advice.

Senior cats and diet

Your cat’s nutrition needs and how much they need to eat will change as they enter the senior cat years.

We stock a wide variety of senior cat food products at Fox Valley Animal Hospital. Our range of food, treats and treat toys can help you manage your cat’s weight.

Obesity and weight issues happen with all elderly creatures. We’re less active, our body metabolises things differently and before you know it, it’s easy to put on a few extra kilos. This can lead to issues with heart disease, diabetes and general ill-health. With obesity comes more pressure on the joints and limbs. It also can lead to diabetes, some cancers and all kinds of difficulty.

Proper nutrition and portion control can help manage this situation better.

Keeping a healthy weight can keep your senior cat active and healthy. If you are struggling with what to feed your cat or you’d like some help and advice, call us on (02) 9489 4805. Or drop in and see one of our helpful vet nurses. They’ll be more than happy to give advice.

Exercising for the older feline

Exercise for senior cats may not be as overt as say a dog who still needs to walk about the neighbourhood. But senior cats can benefit greatly from the physical and mental stimulation that exercise can bring.

Cat exercise is often play-based. While your older moggy may be reluctant to chase the cat toys of their youth, it’s still a good idea to work with your feline friend to encourage movement.

You can exercise your senior cat by:

  • Introducing new cat toys to test if the novelty factor is what is holding existing toys back. You can also restrict access to toys and leave them for specific times when you can play with your senior cat to keep interest for longer. Laser pointers are ideal for this as you can only play together
  • Making a scratching pole available. This will allow your senior cat to scratch, stretch and exercise on their terms. You can also provide shorter platforms to encourage gentle jumps and movement
  • Never forget the power of a well-placed treat toy. Using Kong treat balls and other items can keep your senior cat interested in play through small, nutritious rewards. They may not even notice the mental and physical exercise involved!
  • Consider cat puzzles and other treat-based pet toys. After all, exercising the mind is just as important as the body
  • Look for opportunities to promote movement. Perhaps moving the food bowl an extra room away will be a better walk. Or creating a sunny spot on the ledge will promote climbing and jumping. Think about your cat’s routine and change it to sneak the exercise in

The more your senior cat remains physically and mentally challenged, the healthier they will be.

Cats and stress

Cat stress runs throughout the body and can give your feline a hard time. It influences their sleeping and eating habits, which in turn influences general health. Like us, a stressed cat also finds it harder to ward off disease and they are more susceptible to mental health issues.

Lowering your cat’s stress levels helps maintain a healthy pet.

We’ve talked about spotting the signs of stress and preventing stress in your cat before. For the senior cat being vigilant about stress is extra important. Check them out and if you need further advice, drop into the vet hospital.

Coat and skin hygiene

As we mentioned before, senior cats can often be prone to hair loss and skin issues. Left unchecked, these issues can cause a lot of problems for a geriatric feline.

First things first, ensure you have a good grooming routine with your senior cat. Pick up the brush or comb on a regular basis. And take note of any changes to your cat’s grooming habits as well.

Always make sure your flea and tick prevention are up to date. This should be a regular part of your cat health routine no matter the age of the cat or the time of year.

When you are grooming or patting your cat, take the opportunity to check for any lumps, bumps, bald spots and/or changes to coat you may notice.

If you notice discolouration, damage or any odour, it would be a great idea to visit Dr Katie to have a skin health check-up to rule out any issues and get proper treatment.

The life of a senior cat doesn’t have to be complicated

With regular visits to the vet, the right food, toys and exercise, your senior cat can enjoy all that his or her twilight years have to offer. Staying healthy for longer is about cuddles, grooming and having you on their side.

Want advice on making your senior cat happy and healthy? Call us on (02) 9489 4805 now!

About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.