If you have had your cat since he or she was young, then you probably have a good understanding of their typical behavior. Changes in a cat's behavior or habits might be a sign of illness. Because symptoms of illness in cats can be subtle, even the most discerning owner may overlook some of these changes, especially when the onset is gradual. For this reason, it is vital to bring your cat to your veterinarian at least once a year until he or she is seven years of age and then semi-annually after that.
During your visit to Warwick Animal Hospital, we will assess habits and behavior that can signal your cat's health changes. This assessment will help us understand what changes might be occurring and what your cat needs. We will also perform a physical exam that will play a significant role in determining your cat's aging process and the next steps for keeping him or her as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
Senior cat veterinary appointments focus on identifying illnesses that might be in an early stage. During these visits, we create a plan for treatment and management of any symptoms that might be causing discomfort. We can manage many illnesses with diet and medications that may noticeably improve your cat's well-being. Through the cat owner and our veterinary team's partnership, we can best address and manage senior cat issues for the optimal outcome.
Senior Cat Age-Related Issues
Changes that are common as a cat ages include:
- Variations in behavior
- Changes in mobility (i.e., arthritis)
- Altered sleep cycle
- Change in thyroid function
- Decline in kidney function
- Loss or change in vision
- Brittle or ingrown nails
- Heart or circulatory problems
- Digestion issues
- Reduced ability to handle stress
How You Can Help Your Senior Cat
One of the most important things you can do when caring for your senior cat is to observe their habits and behavior. Their needs may change subtly over the years, but they still require primary care, including social interaction and an enriched environment. While older cats might sleep more, they still need interaction and a stimulating environment to keep their bodies active and their minds engaged. Cats of all ages need a stimulating environment to stay healthy. For indoor cats especially, the need for engagement is essential. All cats need to hunt, play, and interact.
In addition to a stimulating environment, owners of senior cats can expect to be responsible for things like:
- Accommodating their lifestyle changes
- Providing sleeping and eating areas that are easily accessible
- Adjusting physically challenging areas for easy access
- Scheduling more frequent veterinary visits
- Dispensing medication
Understanding your expanded role in the life of your elderly cat is essential to helping them age gracefully. At your next appointment, one of our veterinarians would be happy to provide insight and guidance on how to ensure your cat enjoys a smooth transition into his or her elderly years.
Wellness Visits for Senior Cats
The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that senior cats visit a veterinarian every six months. Cats age faster than humans. Almost two cat-years will pass between the six-month visits. It is important to monitor elderly cats in-between visits because cats are incredibly good at hiding disease or illness symptoms. As cats age, illnesses become increasingly common. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that mature cats, senior cats, and geriatric cats will likely begin to develop one or more conditions that will significantly affect their quality of life.
During a typical wellness visit for senior cats, your veterinarian will:
- Perform a thorough review of habits and behaviors
- Check weight and body condition
- Examine skin and coat quality
- Observe mouth, gums, and teeth
- Inspect ears and eyes
- Test the thyroid gland, kidneys, and other internal organs
- Check the heart and circulatory system
- Assess the lungs and nose
- Evaluate the abdomen
- Test joints and muscles
- Look into any conditions that have changed since the last visit
Additionally, wellness visits for senior cats can also include vaccinations, parasite prevention, and treatment for any specific conditions that your senior cat might be developing.
Managing Disease in Senior Cats
As your cat ages, he or she can become more susceptible to the many diseases that commonly plague elderly cats. Some of the more common ones include:
- Kidney disease
- Thyroid disease
- Gastrointestinal & digestive issues
- Memory and comprehension difficulties
Managing disease, whether via prevention or treatment of one or more at a time, requires a knowledge of each disorder. Understanding these disorders is essential to identifying symptoms in senior cats before they become life-threatening.
It is essential for you to monitor your cat's behavior and routine and note any changes, including:
- Litter box habits
- Weight loss
- Increase in thirst and urination
If you observe or suspect any behavior or routine changes for your mature, senior, or geriatric cat, we recommend making a veterinary appointment immediately. Call Warwick Animal Hospital in Newport News, VA (757-595-3337), and our friendly staff will help you schedule your next appointment.