Today's pet cats enjoy a longer and simpler life than many of their ancestors. With more and more cats living primarily indoors, cats have a better chance to reach 15, 20, or even more years of age. This is wonderful news for cat lovers, but it does mean that families should be on the lookout to help alleviate natural issues of aging felines.
To help you help your furry friend, here are a few of the most common health concerns for older cats that you should be aware of.
Like many humans, cats experience joint problems as they age. Arthritis is very normal in older kitties, and it is often treated in a similar way. Your veterinarian may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling. A few dietary supplements, such as glucasomine or chondroitin, can also help.
As an owner, you can help manage and treat your cat's arthritis in two important ways. First, be aware of changes in their behavior that indicate they have pain or difficulty jumping, climbing, or getting into and out of areas. Cats are good at hiding pain, so be vigilant and talk with your veterinarian about any concerns.
Second, if the diagnosis is arthritis, you should adjust the cat's living situation so they have to do less of these difficult activities that can cause them pain.
2. Vision and Hearing Problems
Another aging symptom that your pet has in common with humans is a loss of acuity in their senses. Their vision will likely suffer, they may not be able to hear as well as in the past, and their sense of smell can become less acute. Of course, since your pet can't tell you about symptoms they're having, you should keep an eye on your aging pet yourself.
Look for cloudiness in the eyes and unnecessary dilation of pupils. Notice if the cat is bumping into furniture or doorways or seem surprised by new items. Do they not seem to respond well to being called? Are they easily startled? Then they may not be able to hear well.
Regular checkups are key to staying on top of your kitty's aging senses. The veterinarian can check for signs of trouble and work with you to determine how to treat them or what changes you should make at home.
Older cats can often become dehydrated, which can then cause more serious health problems, such as kidney failure. So you should monitor Kitty's water drinking habits on a regular basis. If your cat drinks less than about one cup of water per day — especially if they eat mostly dried cat food — look for signs of illness and dehydration. Check the ability of their skin to bounce back as well as how quickly their gums return to pink after pressing on them with your finger.
You can help encourage your cat to drink more water at home with a few adjustments. Try using a pet water fountain, since many cats prefer running water. A different type of water, such as distilled or mineral water, may also be more palatable. Or try boosting the water content in your pet's food either through a wet cat food or by adding water to dry food.
4. Teeth Problems
Pet dental health is an ongoing struggle for many owners. Brushing a cat's teeth is often nearly impossible if the cat wasn't introduced to the idea as a kitten, and dental health supplements have varied results. So be sure you have your senior cat's teeth cleaned by the veterinarian regularly.
The main sign of dental problems among cats is the appearance of a lack of appetite. If your kitty's teeth hurt or don't work well, they probably won't each much — either from hunted prey or indoor cat food. Your veterinarian can determine if their appetite issues indicate any other health problems instead.
You love your cat, and you want them to enjoy a happy life no matter what age they are. Looking for signs of trouble as normal aging progresses is the best way to care for senior cats. At Pet Medical Center of Vero Beach, we treat pets of all types and ages, and we can make sure your four-legged friends stay as healthy as they can be.