How to take care of a senior cat?

The average cat lives from 14 to 16 years old and there are even cats that are over 20 years old! Of course, if they live in an apartment or a house, away from the dangers of the road, if they are spayed or neutered and protected against the most common diseases, the chances of a long and happy life are considerably increased. Caring for an older cat means being even more attentive to the symptoms of different diseases.
Older cats have a more vulnerable immune system and are therefore more exposed to viruses and infections: eating habits (loss of appetite, excessive thirst or hunger and difficulty swallowing) must be constantly monitored.
The beginning of the cat’s aging process is usually around 10 years of age. From this age on, you are advised to proceed to a complete annual health check-up: clinical examinations, blood tests and any evaluation deemed necessary in the case of symptoms of illness. It is also important to pay close attention to sudden changes in the animal’s habits and to avoid, as much as possible, any source of stress.

What are the first signs of aging?

The first signs of aging are visible in the hair, which forms small “tufts”, signs of a certain dehydration and a more basic grooming. Too much thinning (muscle atrophy, reduced efficiency of the digestive system), slower and less agile movements (arthritic pain), a very veiled iris, falling incisors, damaged canines and molars with tartar, are also symptoms of aging.

One of the main requirements for these changes is diet. As with humans, the efficiency of the digestive system is diminished and senior cats may lack appetite and have difficulty chewing. All of these small conditions can lead to significant weight loss.

Especially when it comes to nutrition, the older cat may seem more difficult, as his sensory perceptions diminish and he is therefore less sensitive to odours as before. To better stimulate his appetite, you can, for example, warm his food slightly so that it can spread a more appetizing scent. If you notice chewing problems, you can consider switching from dry to wet food.

The energy needs of an older cat are obviously lower than those of a kitten or an adult cat. To avoid obesity, preferably choose specific foods for older cats and follow the instructions according to the cat’s weight, age, physical activity (depending on whether the cat lives indoors or outdoors) and whether or not it is spayed or neutered.

It is also advisable to supplement his diet with polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The following aspects should be monitored very closely:

  • Teeth: With age the teeth can create problems for the cat and cause repeated and painful gingivitis. It is therefore necessary to check them regularly and to ask the veterinarian for advice if extraction, scaling or any other therapy is necessary.
  • Hair: With age, the cat becomes less agile and can no longer groom as before. His coat then becomes more opaque, greasy and with dandruff. It is not advisable to wash “old cats” unless it is more than necessary: get into the habit of cleaning them with a neutral disposable towel (like the one used for children) and brush them gently. In addition to a better appearance and healthier skin and hair, this will create a moment of great complicity between you and your pet.
  • Arthritis and muscular hypotonia: Older tomcats, through laziness or due to infirmities caused by their age, can suffer from muscular hypotonia, which is a decrease in muscle tone. You should therefore encourage them to move around and play with small balls, or other catnip-based games.
  • Eyes and ears: Hearing may decrease, but generally speaking this does not have a severe impact on the cat’s lifestyle. For the eyes, cataract is one of the most common pathologies, but the cat has considerable adaptability to progressive vision loss. Sudden blindness (the cat is more and more disoriented, with pupils increasingly dilated) is on the other hand caused by a detachment of the retina (due to kidney failure) and is irreversible. Should this happen to your four-legged friend, do not grieve, because in this case too, he will adapt very well to his new environment.
  • Cognitive dysfunction: It can happen that an older cat modifies its behaviour, which cannot be explained by degraded health conditions. This is mainly associated with aging of the brain: it is the “cognitive dysfunction syndrome”, more commonly known as senile dementia. The most frequent symptom manifests itself by the appearance of an altered sleep-wake cycle of the cat who no longer sleeps at night, but walks around the house meowing plainly and without being comforted or calmed. The most indicated treatment to treat and cure this type of pathology is the use of antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C as well as omega fatty acids. Numerous studies have shown that these substances can be very effective in protecting the brain cell.
    They are not very frequent, but neoplasia can occur in cats. Animals suffering from tumors lose weight very quickly and no longer eat. A consultation with the veterinarian is essential, so that he can establish a more complete diagnosis and check for other symptoms, such as jaundice or dyspnea.

Finally, it is important to note that one of the main causes of death in older cats is chronic renal failure. If your cat eats very little and pees very often, take him/her to the veterinarian right away for a blood test to evaluate the presence or progression of a chronic disease.