When it comes to senior pets, November is chock full of many “holidays” featuring the needs of our senior pets. This month we celebrate National Senior Pet Month, Adopt a Senior Pet Month, National Pet Awareness Month, Pet Cancer Awareness Month and Pet Diabetes Month.
Since PoC is mainly focused on issues pertaining to felines, I have taken the liberty to include all of the above categories into one, and proclaim the month of November as National Senior Cat Month.
At what age is a kitty considered to be a senior “Catizen”?
At one time the popular cat-age formula was that a cat year was equivalent to seven human years. However many experts have changed the formula of assessing a cat’s age because the old one wasn’t accurate. Today it is thought that a one year-old cat’s age is approximately equivalent to a 16-year old teenager. When a cat turns two years old, the kitty’s equivalent human age is approximately 21 years old. After that, four human years pass for every year a cat ages. So you can readily see that a kitty can reach seniority from kittenhood in a relatively short time compared to ours.
In fact, according to The American Association of Feline Practitioners cats advance to a mature age by the time they are between 7 and 10. When they reach between the ages of 11 to 14 years they are considered “seniors” and from 15 years and up, they are considered “geriatric”.
Just like aging humans, as cats age they are prone to many of the health and emotional issues as their human companions. What often makes recognizing some of these “aging” concerns difficult for their guardians is because cats are both predators and also are prey; so as a survival strategy they often hide any physical problems. As a result it can be hard to precisely know when a cat is in pain. In order to help our kitties it is essential to learn how to “listen” to what our cats are telling us by observing any subtle changes in their behavior.
Some signs of pain that warrants a visit to the vet include a loss of or diminished appetite, hiding under furniture, depression, yowling and pacing. It’s important for senior cats to have more frequent visits to the veterinarian. Since cats age more quickly than humans, experts suggest that healthy seniors receive senior wellness examinations every 6 months. During senior wellness exams the veterinarian will take a thorough history and perform a complete physical to look for tumors, dental problems and eye health. Also generally included in the senior wellness exam are blood and urine tests as well as monitoring blood pressure. Having these tests on a regular basis is an excellent way to keep on top of your cat’s ongoing health, to catch any major issues, such as diabetes, kidney disease and cancer early on.
Be proactive with your senior cat: In between visits guardians should monitor their kitties for early signs of possible medical conditions such as unexplained weight loss or gain, increased or decreased appetite and thirst. Any of these signs should be reported to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Behavioral changes can be quite common in aging cats. Some cats stop using their litter boxes. Often this is because the litter box is in an inconvenient location or the size of the box is hard to access, especially for arthritic kitties. With appropriate changes the litter boxes can become more appealing to the kitty once again.
While playtime is generally associated with younger cats, senior cats also need some intellectual and physical stimulation to keep them happy. The type of exercise and stimulation will of course depend on the cat’s health so consulting with your veterinarian is important. A resting spot that’s built into a sunny window location will both entertain kitty watching birds and other wildlife and will be a comfy warm place in which to snooze.
While senior cats can be more “work intensive” they make remarkable pets. They truly appreciate the love they receive from their guardian- so if you are thinking about adopting a kitty, why not consider a senior cat?
What special things do you do to care for your senior cat? Tell us in a comment.
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