The Daily Cat: Care for Aging Cats



The Daily Cat: Health Care

Care for Aging Cats

By June Jackson for The Daily Cat

Care for Aging Cats

Just like their human companions, cats experience a gradual decline
in organ function as they age. These age-related changes include a
natural slowing of the cat’s resting metabolic rate (RMR), resulting in
a decrease in muscle and an increase in body fat, which also increases
the likelihood of obesity. While energy needs vary from pet to pet,
cats between the ages of 7 and 9 years are at the highest risk for
obesity. It is important for you to watch your cat’s intake, weight
status and physical activity to help offset age-associated loss of
muscle.

Remember that your aging pet has the same nutrient needs as during
her earlier years, however the quantities and the way in which they are
provided may have to change. As its metabolism changes, select a diet
that’s less energy-dense, while still providing essential nutrients.

Visible Signs of Aging
A sure sign that your cat is
entering old age is when it does not jump onto its favorite perch as
easily, sleeps more, and moves more slowly when awake. In addition, the
skin loses its elasticity and becomes less pliable. The decrease in
skin elasticity may result in areas of hair loss. Old age also brings a
decrease in bone mass. This may be due, in part, to the inadequate
absorption of calcium. The age for these developments is around 12
years in cats. Arthritis commonly occurs in older pets, too, and can be
made worse by obesity. Some of this can be managed by proper nutrition,
medical therapy and nutriceuticals.

Old age in general may result in a reduction in response to a cat’s
surroundings and partial loss of vision, hearing and taste. To avoid
startling your loving pet, it’s a good idea to let your cat see your
hand in front of its face before touching and to call the animal by
name before approaching.

Special Dietary Needs for Your Mature Cat
Try these nutritional strategies to cope with age-related health issues.

  • Hairball Prevention Older cats can still develop hairballs
    and some may even experience an increase in hairballs. To help
    minimize the development of hairballs, feed your cat a diet with a
    unique combination of beet pulp and cellulose fiber.
  • Weight Control Aging pets should be fed a diet with a
    higher percentage of calories from high-quality animal protein and with
    antioxidants and essential amino acids, like taurine, to help maintain
    healthy muscle mass and immune function. A little less fat in the diet
    may also help mature cats if their diet remains rich in fish oils to
    promote overall health and a beautiful, shiny coat.

Special Dental Needs
Proper tooth and gum care is also
important for older pets. Dry foods, may assist in maintaining good
dental and oral health. You may also need to schedule regular
appointments with your veterinarian to prevent dental scaling or
periodontal disease.

Behavioral Changes in Your Aging Pet
One
of the most noticeable changes in mature pets is their resistance to
change in their daily routines. Older cats may become more finicky
about their eating habits. With a decreased sense of smell and taste,
it may be necessary to provide a food with a stronger smell and taste.
Lower quality pet foods are not recommended for elderly pets because
some of them may not offer enough of the right nutrients.

As your cat slows down, short, sustained periods of physical
activity will help to enhance circulation, maintain muscle tone and
prevent excess weight gain. The level and intensity should be adjusted
to your pet’s medical condition. Encourage a healthy exercise routine
by playing games with your cat for 15 to 30 minutes at least twice a
day.

How Old is Your Cat in Human Years?
While the aging
process varies from cat to cat, have you ever wondered how old your cat
might be in human years? Check it out:

Cat’s Age Human’s Age
1 year = 20 years
2 years = 24 years
3 years = 28 years
4 years = 32 years
5 years = 36 years
6 years = 44 years
7 years = 48 years
8 years = 52 years
9 years = 56 years

June Jackson is a freelance writer and writes often about pets. Her work can be seen in magazines and newspapers nationwide.