Dr. Hush Puppy and Sir Hubble Pinkerton enjoying an afternoon siesta. Photo by Jo
However when the reality sets in that Dr. Hush Puppy had already turned fourteen this past January and Sir Hubble will be fourteen this coming October, I am forced to face the sobering truth that both of our cats are senior “catizens”; starting to show various signs of age-related physical changes, commonly associated with growing older.
Perhaps it’s just my denial system working overtime, or anticipatory grief setting in, but over the past two weeks, I catch myself wishing deeply that both of them were still kittens; those healthy, young and playful felines who were constantly full of themselves and experts at dreaming up some highly unique creative methods to get into mischief. There was never a dull moment in our home; especially when the boys decided it was time to watch our reactions to their comical behaviour, and perhaps even delight in the fact that their antics struck “pay dirt” when they saw us pulling out our hair while they wreaked a bit of havoc around the house. I know that there’s no going back- they will never be kittens again. But at times that still doesn’t dispel my melancholy.
But, on the other paw, the heartening news that over the past decade the number of cats living well over the age of six has nearly doubled is certainly comforting to me. Being able to give our kitties an opportunity to have a longer life expectancy is certainly good news for all kitty guardians. By providing our cats with the highest and healthiest quality of life, feline old-age doesn’t have to result in premature death. While many of the physical and emotional conditions that often affect older cats cannot be corrected, fortunately today, many of them can be controlled.
What physical and emotional changes can we expect in our ageing kitties?
The immune system in older cats is weaker than that of younger kitties, making it less effective in fighting off disease. Additionally, cats with chronic illnesses common in cats as they age can further stress their immune system. Older cats often tend to groom themselves less frequently, which may result in inflammation, skin odor, and matted hair. Older cats tend to become dehydrated as a result of several conditions found in elderly kitties which causes poor blood circulation; leaving them open to infection.
As cats age their skin becomes less elastic and thinner. Nails can become thicker and more brittle. Impairment in both hearing and eyesight can cause some cats to vocalize incessantly and loudly. Aging cats may lose interest in playtime, avoid social interaction, become confused and disoriented, and litter box habits may drastically change. Arthritis, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure (usually the result of hyperthyroidism or kidney failure), dental disease, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer are all conditions to which elderly cats are at risk.
Therefore it is crucial for elderly cats to receive semi-annual wellness exams in order for a prompt diagnosis of any underlying medical/psychological conditions can be made. Any necessary dietary and exercise changes can also be initiated. Regular follow-up veterinary care is also essential so that the health of our beloved senior “catizens” can be monitored. By paying close attention to both the physical and emotional needs of our senior cats, we help to ensure them a higher quality of life for their remaining years they have with us.
What other suggestions can you make to make to enrich the lives of our elderly cats? Share them in a comment.
Note: This page was first published on June 11th 2014. I am republishing it because it has been forgotten. I was written by Jo Singer, who at that time wrote for PoC.
- Source: Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine: Senior Cat Health Resources.
- More reading: Geriatric Cat Care