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Expert Advice: Senior Cat Care Tips Straight from a Veterinarian

April 1, 2024

As your feline friend starts to age, are you observing any subtle changes? While cats are typically considered seniors around the age of 11, many are living much longer these days, sometimes well into their teens or even twenties. Although these changes may be gradual, they still require your attention. Your senior cat may need some extra care and consideration as she enters her golden years. In this article, a Fort Myers, FL veterinarian from your local area offers valuable insights and advice on how to provide the best possible care for your aging companion.

Taking Care of a Senior Cat: What Are the Best Practices?

Fluffy’s essential needs, like quality nutrition, a tidy litter box, regular vet visits, and affection, remain consistent with any cat. However, some adjustments might be necessary to cater to her aging requirements.

Should Older Cats Use Larger Litter Boxes?

To accommodate your aging cat, opt for a litter box with lower sides. Senior cats often experience stiffness and discomfort, making it challenging for them to navigate high walls. A wider and shallower box might be more comfortable for her than a deep, narrow one.

Is Grooming Necessary for My Senior Cat?

As Fluffy ages, you may notice a decline in her grooming routine, resulting in a somewhat disheveled appearance. This can be attributed to age-related stiffness, making it difficult for her to reach certain areas for thorough cleaning. Additionally, senior cats may experience an increase in oil production on their skin, leading to a greasier coat. These factors combined contribute to Fluffy’s less-groomed appearance in her senior years.

However, it’s crucial to understand that unkempt fur could indicate your cat’s poor health. If you’ve observed rapid deterioration in your cat’s grooming habits or noticed other concerning signs like withdrawal, don’t hesitate to contact your Fort Myers, FL veterinarian for assistance.

Gentle brushing can assist your feline friend. While cats typically don’t require baths, some owners opt for them. When grooming Fluffy, be gentle to avoid causing discomfort. Senior pets have sensitive skin, so it’s essential to handle them with care. Consult your vet for personalized guidance on grooming practices.

Is Playing with My Senior Cat Beneficial?

Engaging in playtime with Fluffy is highly recommended! It’s not only enjoyable but also beneficial for her well-being. Pouncing and jumping during play sessions provide excellent physical exercise for cats and also stimulate their minds, which is crucial for older felines. Just like humans, senior pets may experience cognitive decline, making mental stimulation essential. So, encouraging activities like chasing a laser pointer can help keep Fluffy’s brain sharp and active. Plus, it is undeniably precious to watch.

If Fluffy is in the mood for playtime, she’ll happily join in. However, if she prefers a nap, she’ll simply walk away, and that’s perfectly okay. Cats won’t push themselves to please us like dogs do, so there’s no need to worry about her overdoing it. Just follow her lead and enjoy the time together, whether it’s playtime or naptime.

Opt for soft surfaces like carpets for safety when choosing play areas.

Are Older Cats in Need of Special Care?

As Fluffy grows older, her needs will evolve slightly. It’s important to ensure easy access to her food, water, and litterbox. For larger homes or multiple floors, distribute litterboxes and water stations on each level to minimize stair climbing for your pet.

Ensuring your senior cat has ample comfortable sleeping spots is crucial as she ages. Surprisingly, she may spend even more time asleep than before, becoming a true napping champion capable of snoozing up to 20 hours a day. Providing plenty of cozy beds and resting areas is one of the most important ways to care for your drowsy pet as she enters her golden years. There are various options for providing comfortable sleeping spots for Fluffy. You can purchase beds or make them yourself. Alternatively, fold blankets and place them in baskets, chests, or ottomans. Fluffy will also appreciate boxes for sleeping. For added enjoyment, position these spots in sunny areas or near windows with scenic views to earn bonus purrs.

Consider turning on a night light for Fluffy. As she ages, her vision may decline, making it difficult for her to see in the dark. Additionally, she might become forgetful and lose her way to the litterbox.

For additional assistance, consider placing pet ramps or steps for your furry friend. Footstools can also serve the purpose. Consult your veterinarian for further guidance and information.

Discovering the Key to Senior Cat Happiness

As cats age, their preferences often remain similar to when they were younger. Ultimately, Fluffy desires love, security, and comfort. Many of the aforementioned suggestions address these needs. It’s vital to keep your cat engaged and stimulated. Dedicate ample time to bonding with your feline companion, providing affection and cozy spaces to relax. When handling your kitty, always do so with gentleness and care.

Best Practices for Keeping a Senior Cat Healthy

As cats age, they can experience similar health issues to those commonly seen in older humans. These may include the following concerns:

  • Loss of Hearing
  • Kidney Disease
  • Heart conditions
  • Cancer
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Loss of Vision
  • Arthritis
  • Dental Issues
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

More frequent visits to the vet clinic may be necessary for your furry friend. These appointments also provide an opportunity to receive updated advice on Fluffy’s diet and care.

If you notice any signs of illness between appointments, please contact us immediately.

How to Recognize Signs of Illness in My Senior Cat

Be attentive to changes in Fluffy’s behavior or appearance, as cats often hide signs of illness. Monitoring these shifts can help you detect any potential health issues early on.

Keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Lethargy
  • Drooling
  • Litterbox Issues
  • Fever
  • Poor Grooming
  • Vomiting
  • Weight Gain/Loss
  • Withdrawal
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Hiding
  • Respiratory Issues
  • Diarrhea
  • Limping
  • Stiffness
  • Discharge

Sudden changes in vocalization patterns can indicate potential issues. If Fluffy is typically silent but starts crying excessively, it’s worth investigating with your Fort Myers, FL veterinarian.

What Causes Increased Meowing in Older Cats?

Elderly cats often become more vocal, which can be attributed to several factors. Cognitive decline is a common reason, leading to confusion and distress in senile cats. Fluffy might also crave more attention and affection as she ages, or her increased meowing could indicate discomfort. To understand this behavior better and address any underlying issues, seek guidance from your veterinarian, who can offer valuable insights and advice tailored to your cat’s needs.

Is It Safe to Leave My Older Cat Alone?

Whether it’s advisable to leave Fluffy alone hinges on her age and health. Typically, most cats can manage being alone for a day or two, given they have essentials like food, water, and clean litter, and someone checks in on them. However, for older cats, especially geriatric ones, leaving them alone for over a day isn’t advisable. Boarding may be a preferable alternative.

How to Ensure Safety for My Older Cat

For your older cat, apply the same pet-proofing measures you would for a younger one. Though Fluffy may not be as playful as before, she might still attempt to nibble on your houseplants.

Erring on the side of caution, we strongly advise keeping your furry companion indoors. While we advocate for indoor living for all cats, older felines are particularly susceptible. Their fragility and potential inability to flee from danger heighten their vulnerability. Additionally, Fluffy may forget her way home, adding to the risk.

Feel free to reach out to us, Small Animal Hospital, if you have any inquiries about senior cat care.

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