We love our cats and want to do everything that we can to keep them happy and healthy for as long as we can. It is now possible for our senior cats to be with us into their late teens and even their twenties!
Elderly cats have some special physical and behavioral needs as they age. Here are my top tips for keeping your senior cat in tip-top shape for as long as possible.
1 – Find a Veterinarian That Both You and Your Senior Cat Look Forward to Visiting
Cats of all ages are masters at hiding illness and discomfort. In a senior cat, this can be dangerous. Your senior cat should see the vet every six months so that the vet can track your cat’s health trends over time and detect problems before they become catastrophic. Now more than ever, you want a veterinarian in your life that knows you and your cat. Make sure that you feel comfortable asking questions and that you understand the answers. A good relationship with your veterinarian is critical when discussing care and quality of life for your cat.
2- Maintain a Healthy Weight
Did you know that 60% of cats in America are overweight or obese? This excess weight takes a toll on our cats as they age. Carrying excess weight contributes to the pain of arthritis and can even accelerate the progression of a disease. This weight puts a strain on aging organs, like the heart, kidneys, and pancreas and increasing your cat’s risk of diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease. Before you start your senior cat on a diet, know that older cats have unique dietary and behavioral needs. It is best to consult your veterinarian to choose the best food for your cat. Your veterinarian will help you assess your cat’s optimum weight and oversee a healthy weight loss plan.
3- Stimulate Body and Mind
Use it or lose it. Yes, you can teach an old cat new tricks. Cat’s who do nothing but sleep all day are at risk. Not only is their body suffering from a lack of activity, but their mind is too. Aging cats need physical activity and mental stimulation. Carve out five minutes three times a day to play with your cat. This might take some extra creativity, as your senior cat may not be used to playing. Try feather toys, laser toys, catnip toys etc to see what gets your cat going. In nature, hunting for food is a cat’s physical and mental exercise. Get your senior cat hunting for their food. Start by training your cat how to use a feeding toy by putting food, treats and even some catnip into a feeder about an hour before mealtime, when they are motivated by hunger. Once they get the hang of it, starting moving the feeders around the kitchen – up on a chair, behind a table leg etc. Make a game of it and gradually get your cat hunting for their food around the house. This is so important for a cat’s physical and mental health that I invented a product for your cat. Check it out https://docandphoebe.com/
4 – Keep your Cat Hydrated
As cats age, they are susceptible to constipation and kidney disease. Good hydration can ease the symptoms of these chronic conditions. Increase water intake by providing canned food and offer more options for water intake. Your cat might not be able to jump up onto counters or access the usual water dish. In addition to your usual water dish, add more water stations around the house in locations that are easy for your cat to access. Consider offering a continuous flow water fountain, treats of ice cubes or frozen chicken broth to entice your senior cat to drink more.
5- Dental Disease
Dental disease is very common in aging cats. Cats can get painful holes in their teeth, broken teeth, gum disease and oral tumors that significantly affect their quality of life. Infections in the mouth enter the bloodstream and can slowly affect the liver, kidneys, and heart. Often, there is no clear sign of the disease to the cat parent. A thorough veterinary exam and dental care can drastically improve your cat’s quality of life, and even extend their life. Learn how to care for your cat’s teeth!
Wags and Purrs,
Dr. Liz Bales
The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Dr. Liz Bales, has only ever wanted to be a veterinarian. She has such a passion for her job, that she says if she weren’t a vet, she would be studying to become one. She loves “helping pets and the people who love them be happy and healthy! Helping people translate complicated medical information into practical tips on how to care for, and connect with their pets is the best part of her job” Not just a veterinarian, Dr. Bales shares her passion through writing, giving speeches, and appearing on shows such as Fox and Friends, ABC News, and Cheddar. She has even started her own company, Doc and Phoebe, and invented a revolutionary cat product—the Indoor Hunting Feeder.
Dr. Bales’ favorite quote reflects her love and compassion for animals: “When a human dies there is a bridge they must cross to enter into Heaven. At the head of the bridge waits every animal that human encountered during their lifetime. The animals, based on what they know of this person, decide which humans may cross the bridge…and which are turned away.” With this in mind, Dr. Bales tries to live every day by her grandfather’s advice: “These days are precious. Don’t waste them.”