Like all of us, our cat Alia is getting older. She is 11 years old and getting to be a senior kitty. Although "geriatric" status for cats is said to be around 13 years old, Alia is definitely looking like an older cat. Her once full and beautiful tail has gotten skinny and her muscles aren’t as toned as they used to be. But she can still zoom around the room and put the obnoxious younger cat in her place when necessary.
Most indoor cats live to be 12-18 years old. Outdoor cats normally only live to be 4 or 5 years old because they are more likely to be hit by a car or subject to other accidents or diseases. As cats age, they sometimes develop health problems, so it’s especially important to pay attention to your cat as the years go by.
While your cat is happily snoozing in your lap, take the time to run your hands over his body and be on the alert for any potential problems. Early diagnosis is important for pets too. You should contact your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your cat’s physical appearance, behavior, or eating habits.
Like any pet, your senior cat should have access to good food, water, and clean living conditions. You also should avoid overfeeding your cat. As cats age, their metabolism slows down and they often sleep more, so it’s easier for them to gain weight.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you cat is losing weight or stops eating, it can signal liver or kidney problems, so be sure to discuss any weight changes with your vet. If your cat is overweight, your veterinarian may recommend special "low cal" food. Although your senior cat may not be as agile as she once was, you should still make time to play with her because she still needs her exercise.
If your cat has particularly bad breath, it can signal illness. Tooth or gum disease is likely in older cats, so you my need to get her teeth cleaned. If the smell is more than just bad "cat breath," and seems odd in some way, it can signal diseases such diabetes, liver, or kidney disease. Excessive thirst is another symptom of diabetes, which is fairly common in older cats.
Like older people, older cats may develop vision or hearing problems. If you notice your cat bumping into things, try to avoid rearranging your house too much, so he can adapt. Deaf cats actually can be taught to respond to hand signals. Many also are sensitive to vibration, so they will still respond to some loud noises. As your cat’s vision and hearing declines, it’s even more important to keep her inside for her safety.
As your cat ages, you can still enjoy time with her, even if it’s not in exactly the same way. You may not be able to play acrobatic "chase the mousie" type games anymore, but you can still play in a somewhat more sedate way. Older arthritic cats also often love being massaged. Kitty massage can be soothing for the human, and it’s good for the cat’s joints and muscles too.
Caring for an older cat isn’t really very different from caring for a young cat. Just be sensitive to changes, add a little extra dash of TLC, and you’ll enjoy many happy years together.