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Signs your cat is getting older

Cats are generally living longer and longer. In the veterinary world they are considered “senior” at the age of 11 but many will live to be 20 and beyond.

This is due to advances in veterinary care, nutrition, and a better general understanding of feline needs. This means that more cats are living well into old age and whilst we are thankful of the extra years of companionship, we need to be accepting and considerate of their changing needs.

Cats are subtle creatures and so you may not notice the slight changes to your cat’s behaviour and appearance as it ages. Their survival instincts will often mean that they will try to hide signs of age as it shows that they are vulnerable.

As they start to age, cats can suffer from similar conditions to humans. These can include less mobility, loss of weight, increased urination, thirst, cloudy eyes or other sight issues, changes in appetite, behavioural changes and differences in skin / coat. We look at some of these in more detail below:-

Skin and coat:

The most obvious thing you might notice is the odd white hairs in your cat’s fur. This is due to the same natural process that causes human hair to go grey. However, the greying process in cats is much less pronounced than in humans and dogs. You may also find that their coats are less soft and shiny, this is because they will have less productive sebaceous glands. Their coats may also be suffering from a lack of grooming due to reduced mobility, this will be especially noticeable in the hind quarters. You may find that you need to groom your cat with a soft brush more often as they get older.

Mobility:

You may observe reduced mobility overall; signs include reluctance to jump up onto furniture and taking more time to go up and down the stairs. Some reduction in mobility is to be expected as your cat ages, but if their movement is impaired so much, that normal tasks like climbing in and out of the litter box becomes difficult, it could be a sign that your cat is in pain and suffering from a condition, such as arthritis. If your cat is finding movement difficult there are lots of things that you can do to make life a little bit easier for them. For example, raising their food bowl off the ground so that they don’t have to stoop down to reach it, and making sure they have access to everything they need on the ground floor.

If you live in a neighbourhood with other cats, you may spot your cat is less confident about going outside, this is because they feel less prepared to defend their territory from other cats. If possible, make your garden inaccessible to other cats to ensure your cat feels comfortable in their own garden.

Weight loss:
Some pet owners may notice a slight weight loss, and this can be caused by several age-related reason such as:

  • Less sensitive sense of taste and smell may have an effect of their appetite.
  • Dental problems.
  • A reduced ability to absorb and use nutrients.
  • Decreased appetite due to a less active lifestyle.

However, be wary when attributing weight loss to old age because what we would consider a small weight loss in human terms is much more significant in a cat and could be a sign that there is something more serious wrong.

Despite these natural aging symptoms, there are ways to help keep them ‘young at heart’.

  • Ensure they are provided with plenty of toys to keep them mentally & physically active.
  • Provide them with a healthy, biologically appropriate diet that is high in quality meat protein, which they require in even higher amounts as they begin to age. Like humans, cats can lose muscle mass as they age. This should also help prevent any longer-term health conditions.
  • Maintain good fluid levels in your cat, through a raw diet and providing a water fountain.
  • Keep an eye on general skin / coat / dental health.
  • Holistic treatments, such as laser acupuncture, can assist with mobility issues.

If you are concerned about any issues in your aging cat and it develops any lumps or bumps or shows dramatic changes in litter box habits or temperament, always seek veterinary advice. It is important to ensure that any serious conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease or potential cancers, are treated as soon as possible.

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