Caring an Older Cat
Behavior OF Older Cats
It's important to pay close attention to your elder cat's behavior as many neurological changes are taking place during this time that can affect his/her normal behaviors. If you notice any of these signs, you should consult a veterinarian.
• Eats more food than usual but is not gaining weight
• Drinks more water than usual or drinks more frequently (especially if muscles are weak)
• Chewing is difficult; eats less; unable to hold food in mouth while eating; bleeding gums; bad breath; loose teeth
• Frequent colds, infections, and generalized illness
Preventative Health Care
You can help ensure that your senior cat lives an active, pain-free life by providing proper preventative care. Just six months for a senior cat is the equivalent of about five years for a human. Given this rapid "aging" process, your cat should have more frequent health exams - at home and with the veterinarian. Visit the veterinarian every six months, so any illnesses during this life stage are caught early, including cancer, cardiac, renal and thyroid problems.
Because their metabolism has slowed down with age, older cats may be prone to gaining weight. Excess weight can contribute to or exacerbate certain age-related health problems such as diabetes. So make it a point to provide your senior cat with some form of physical activity for at least a few minutes a day. You should consult your veterinarian for recommendations on appropriate activities for your cat's age and health condition.
Veterinarian Care Guidelines for Senior Cats
Regular health care is essential throughout your cat's adult life, particularly as your cat gets older. In general, healthy senior cats should visit the veterinarian every six months. Use this checklist to help guide you through your cat's senior years and ensure you're on top of all your cat's physical health needs, but work closely with your veterinarian to establish the appropriate health plan for your cat. As an easy reminder to keep on track with the bi-annual veterinarian exams, you may want to schedule the six-month check-up six months into the year.
AGES 7 AND ABOVE
Visits may include:
1. Physical examination
2. Weight analysis and Body Condition Score
3. Nutrition counseling as necessary
As recommended by veterinarian:
4. Blood drawn for CBC
5. Blood chemistry profile
6. Thyroid profile
7. Fecal examination
8. Heartworm test
9. Annual Core Vaccinations Boosters For:
• Feline Distemper
• Calicivirus (FVR-CP)
10. Non-Core vaccinations may include:
• Rabies Vaccination (each year according to local law by your veterinarian)
• Chlamydia (Pneumonitis)(where chlamydia is a concern)
• Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
• Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
IMPORTANT: As your cat gets older, give it a thorough home health check every week to catch any signs of ill health.
Things to discuss with your veterinarian:
• Any changes in behavior, activity level or appearance
• WEIGHT - Is your cat a healthy weight? If not, how can you tell?
• EXERCISE - Is your cat getting any? What type and how often? Is the activity still appropriate for your cat's age and health condition?
A FEW THINGS YOU CAN DO AT HOME:
• Check your cat's eyes for discharge. Has your cat shown any sign of decreasing vision like bumping into things?
• Check the ear for a bad smell, which could indicate an ear infection.
• Check the fur and scalp for any black specks of flea dirt. Increased dandruff can be a sign of poor diet, fleas or underlying liver problems.
• Look for matted fur: if mats occur in a shorthaired cat, painful gums could be preventing your cat from its usual grooming routine.
• Check your cat's anus: a small white rice grain may indicate your cat has a tapeworm.
End of Life Options
Even if your cat isn't extremely old, you may have reason to consider the emotion-laden option of euthanasia - also called putting a cat to sleep.
It may be time to end your pet's life if his/her condition is irreversible and in spite of medical care, his/her quality of life is inadequate. But even knowing that these situations hold true for your cat doesn't mean it's easy to consider euthanasia. Many experts advise that the whole family should decide as a group whether to have their cat euthanized. Parents with younger children may choose to make the decision and then give the children a chance to say good-bye to their pet.
Though it's a commonly used phrase, be careful about using the phrase "put to sleep" when explaining the decision to children, who then may be afraid to sleep themselves or may expect the cat to wake up in the future. Tell them that your cat isn't going to get better and that ending his/her life is a loving way to end your cat's pain. Answer your children's questions as honestly as possible, and let them cry and grieve. Some veterinarians let the pet owners be present when the cat is euthanized, but check with your veterinarian ahead of time if you would like to be there.
In addition to euthanasia, ask your veterinarian about other diagnostic tools/treatments available for your cat. Fortunately there are also counseling services available for pet owners as well as groups and hotlines for support through these difficult times.