Monday, June 11, 2012

Caring for Your Aging Cat, A Guest Blog By Jackie Roberts of 1-800-PetMeds

 Pets are a long-term commitment. Many dog and cat breeds can live well into their teens, and sometimes even their twenties. Some varieties of birds can even reach ages of 50, 60, and beyond. One of the challenges of caring for an aging pet is not always being able to ascertain what your pet is feeling. This is especially true of cats who often keep to themselves regardless of their age. If you're not vigilant, by the time you realize your elderly cat is having problems, she may need pet meds to maintain her health and comfort. With a little knowledge of a few things to look for, you can keep your cat healthy, comfortable, and happy throughout her life. 

Photo Courtesy of
http://www.flickr.com/photos/emdot/

Cataracts

Cats may not seem to get cataracts as often as dogs do, but it does happen. This can be especially difficult for a cat to deal with as they are nocturnal and rely heavily on their superior night vision. The main symptom to look for is a clouding of your cat's eyes. Cataracts may also appear as a bluish area on the surface of your cat's eyeball. If you observe this bluish clouding, take your cat to the vet. Depending on the severity of the cataracts, your vet may be able to perform surgery to restore your cat's vision. Be aware that this surgery can be expensive. If you elect not to have the surgery done, you'll need to make some accommodations at home for your cat.

Because she won't be able to see very well at night when she's most active, it's a good idea to put everything she needs in one area—her bed, litter box, food and water, scratching post, toys, etc. The less she has to try to find these things, the less stressful the loss of vision will be for her. Also be sure to give her lots of attention and affection. Imagine how frightening it would be to lose your vision. It's even more so for your cat because you can't explain to her what's happening.

Arthritis

One sure sign of arthritis in cats is reduced litter box usage. This happens because climbing in and out of the box becomes painful. If your elderly cat suddenly stops using his litter box, don't assume he's acting out, and definitely don't punish him. He needs a trip to the vet to diagnosis arthritis, or rule it out if there's some other condition causing the lapse. Talk to your vet about how you can make the litter box more accessible to your cat, and ease his difficulties.

If it turns out your cat does have arthritis, you can make his home life a little more comfortable. If he likes to sleep on your bed with you, consider getting a set of pet steps or a ramp that will allow him to more easily access the bed without having to jump. This is even more important for getting down off the bed, as jumping down and landing on the floor can be especially painful for an arthritic cat. You may want to also put a ramp near your cat's favorite window so he can still enjoy looking outside and watching any small animals that may frequent your yard. Putting a bird feeder near the window can create a lot of entertainment for your cat, so he can avoid moving around too much and have the activity come to him.


Photo Courtesy of
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ditipenguin/



Dental Disease

Older cats are much more prone to dental disease, which can cause inflammation of the gums, which in turn causes pain, which makes it difficult for your cat to eat. She may even begin to lose her teeth if the dental disease is not addressed early enough. If you don't catch the dental issues in time, and your cat begins losing her teeth, you may have to change her food, especially if you feed her dry, crunchy food. Without all her teeth, it will become difficult—and painful—for her to break up and chew hard food. Consider switching her over to canned food, which will be much easier on her sensitive gums. Remember that switching any pet's food must be a gradual process, not only to get them used to the new food, but to help them avoid gastrointestinal distress, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Begin by adding a little canned food to the dry, creating 25/75 combination. Do that for about a week, then increase the amount of canned food for a 50/50 combination. Maintain this for about two weeks, then go 75/25, with the majority being canned food. After about another week, you should be able to feed canned food only. During this process, watch your cat's reactions to the new food, and if she seems to be slower to accept it, give her more time. Forcing the process may frustrate her to the point where she won't eat at all, which will only weaken her, and can cause other illnesses and distress. Be patient, and let her behavior guide you as you make the switch.

As your cat ages, try to have more patience with him, and let him know she's loved. Aging can be a difficult and depressing process as your cat becomes more and more unable to do the things he once loved. He's given you many years of love and enjoyment. You owe it to him to make his last years as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

Jackie Roberts is a writer for 1-800-PetMeds, and loves to help and support the pet community. You can find Pet Meds on Twitter or connect with Pet Meds on Facebook.

36 comments:

  1. Thank you for this and your timing couldn't be any better. My Mikey is now 9 years old and he is showing signs of having arthritis. He is still doing fine but I know him and I first noticed his hesitance to jump as he once did. Now he is on supplements to help his joints Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Omega-3. Hopefully this will make him more comfortable throughout his senior years. Gosh, they age so fast, doesn't seem fair. Mikey is my best friend and I cannot imagine my life without him.

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  2. Thank you for this post. The cats at Whisppy are still fairly young (oldest would be Cosmo and Ling at 4 years) but it's always good to be aware of aging issues. :)

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  3. Great post about ageing cat´s !
    The cat who lived here before me (Sixten) he was 17 1/2 years old when he left to the rainbow bridge.
    He had arthritis and problem with his thyroid levels and got medicine for that the last 3 years in his life.

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  4. Thanks for the great advice! Elderly kitties need extra extra tlc! Take care
    x

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  5. Wonderful guest blog...as much as we adore our pets they do age so much faster than we do and need our help to make things easier and more comfortable for them during that process. That last paragraph says it all - they give us so much, we owe them a comfortable "seniorhood" !

    Pam (and Sam)

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  6. Very informative and great guest blog. Have a Happy Monday!
    Best wishes Molly

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  7. Good advice - and I love the photos of these old kitties! There's just something about those grizzled old faces that tugs at your heartstrings.

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  8. Great post but I got to admit I only skimmed it. Since Alex is an old man, I didn't want to go all doctor google on him.... I already have convienced myself he is getting a little senile.

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  9. Thanks for sharing this great post. Old kitties and doggies have spent their whole life with us with their full dedication, unconditional love and tons of patience. They do deserve our extra care and love. Bless their hearts!

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  10. We thought we were only taking Chubbs with us to Montana as Nipper, the 14 yo kitty, was diagnosed with kidney failure a couple of months ago and not expected to live. But lo and behold she seems to be on her 9th life! We hope she makes the 2000 mile trip and lives her last days hunting in the mountains!

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  11. The older cats do need lots of special attention and some extra care. This is a terrific post and some really good facts.

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  12. @Jennifer you are welcome, I agree it is a great post. Your comment brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me of when I had my Angel Bobo. I was the "only" cat for 18 yrs and when he reached "senior hood" I always started to worry. Your kitty is 9 and I hope that the meds help and I am sure that your kitty has a LONG life ahead of it! xoxoxo

    @Marg yes it is, thank you!

    @Art and Sew Forth, sending purrs and prayers for Nipper and you have a safe trip! Exciting times ahead for you!

    @Priscilla loved this "full dedication, unconditional love and tons of patience." xxoxoxo

    @Hilary I understand completely!!

    @Ingrid King "grizzled old faces" wonderful description but they also have "kitten hearts" :)

    @Molly you have a great Monday too!

    @Pam and Sam I couldn't agree more. I did my best with my Bobo. I know he knew that xoxoxo

    @Old kitty yes they do and you are welcome! xoxo

    @Kjelle, OH NO!!! I was stumbling around and think I accidentally deleted your comment! It wasn't intentional and I am sorry! Your kitty was like my Bobo. Bobo passed a day after his 18th birthday...he was on medication as well the last two years of his life xoxoxo

    @Furries yep your babies are still young whipper snappers!

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  13. What a great post on aging kitties!!

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  14. Austin is five, so a way off, but an excellent post! But what I want to know about really is “caring for your ageing hooman!” ;)

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  15. Thank you for the information! These are great information to keep in mind to detect issues. I sure want my boys to have full happy life.

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  16. Cats can also get Glaucoma it looks like the is bigger and the pupil becomes bigger with slow reaction to light and the cornea can become hazy in appearance,cats eyes Are like rabbit eye's in that their eyes are elastic and strechy and can take the fliud pressure quite well with out to much discomfort but it can be treated depending on the underlying cause.Which is not the case with my Speedy as his glaucoma is a genetic disorder which is well known in white breeds of rabbits and symptoms appear between 3 and 6 months old.Speedy has had it from before he came to live with us.we had him at 4 months and we have just had it confirmed with the vets and Speedy is now 8 months old

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  17. Emma who came before us had arthritis and also she eventually lost her sight - but mum says she would still get round the garden and sit on the fence in the sunshine. She was 18 and a bit when she passed.
    Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx

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  18. This is timely for us as you know with Merlin who has all of the above. Blind cats do navigate surprisingly well with their whiskers and by scent but are prone to more vocalization. Re: dry food, even toothless cats can eat dry. I believe wet cat food is healthier but when geriatric anorexia sets in, any food a cat eats to keep weight on is ok. Making too many changes is stressful. It's critical to have lots of litter boxes on every floor. For cats with mobility issues, I recommend a low sided puppy pan and it's never too soon to have step stools to beds and windowsills to give our 4-legged friends a leg up.

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  19. That is a ton of useful information, thanks for posting it. I shall hang on to it for several years!

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  20. What a wonderful and informative post. Thank you.

    One of our cats, Sammy, is a senior. He's got arthritis and is hyperthyroid, and he does not hear well at all. We help him out whenever we can ... making sure he sees us or tapping the floor so he knows we are coming, carrying him up the stairs, etc. We sure love that sweet little guy.

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  21. We just had to say goodbye to Morris, my 16yr old grumpuss. He hid his illness too well, the old coot. I miss him a lot. I hope this blog gets a few cats to the vet sooner rather than later!

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  22. OH yes we are all senior kitties in this house so we appreciate all the little things Mom looks out for. Thanks for the terrific post.
    purrs
    >^,,^<
    ♥Abby♥Boo♥Ping♥Jinx♥Grace♥

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  23. @TMW I am so deeply sorry...I know how hard that is. 16 is a good age and I am sure that Morris had a wonderful life. I am so sorry!!!

    @Abby jackie did a great job on this and you are welcome!

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  24. @Layla that is some marvelous advice, THANK YOU!

    @meowmeowmans it is no surprise to me that you are making Sammy's Senior years as easy as possible for him. It always brings tears to my eyes when I read the lengths we go to for our Senior babies

    @Brian you are most welcome and thank YOU for your comment! That is kind of you! xoxoxo

    @Hannah and Lucy (((((hugs)))) sadly 18 seems to be the age when many of our kitties crossed the bridge. Just like my Bobo

    @speedy we are so sorry about Speedy's glaucoma but you know what? He is a young bunny and they tend to be able to deal with their challenges better than the older guys. I bet he will adjust fine, especially with YOU as a pet parent! xoxxo

    @Tamago thank YOU! I agree! We should all hold on to this information!

    @Carolyn yep, Cody is five too...but cats are considered "seniors" at age 7 so it really isn't that far off. I'm with you, I bet our cats would like info on how to care for US!

    @bassetmomma Jackie did a great job! Thanks!

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  25. Really informative Our cats are almost 12 11 and 8 so they are a bit older. My childhood cats lived to be almost 20 so I am hopeful for a similar long life for my feline babies

    urban hounds

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  26. For sure we will pass this to a kitty friends
    Benny & Lily

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  27. We are so sorry to hear about your uncle. We will purr for all of his family and yours. We know it is a busy time, but we hope you find the time to do the award.

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  28. What a great post Caren!
    Hissy old Licorice taught Mommy and Daddy so much about old cats! They knows much better how to takes care of mes. Me has some arthritis, but other than that, the vet gived me a A+ on my health last week!
    Kisses
    Nellie

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  29. caring for our seniors is of paramount importance...they have given so much in their 'human' timed short lives...they deserve the absolute most thoughtful care...just sayin...

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  30. The Human tells me I am 8. She says that's like 48 in people time. Hmmm. She guesses that makes me "middle-aged". As if!! I am a Manly Young Mancat and that's all there is to it.

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  31. Hey Caren and Cody! Just letting you know that I've passed on the Sunshine Award to you. You can find it on todays post at http://janet-bassetmomma.blogspot.ca/2012/06/on-top-of-it-sunshine-award.html :)

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  32. I love this post! I actually just did a post about dental health also, my poor little Ollie has genetically bad teeth. The horrible thing is though, is that he's only 1! :o(

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  33. Thanks Caren,Speedy is still the adventurous bun that he has always been nothing gets him down.Thanks for entering Speedy's prize Draw,its one to anyone.good luck!

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  34. I loved reading this. I had to make adjustments for the Admiral as she aged. I had steps so she could be with me at the computer..a chest for her ease getting onto our bed, and I helped her up or put objects in front of others to help her.

    Great bloggie. Is Dakota alright?

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  35. I recently noticed my Carl hobbling a bit walking up stairs, so its probably arthritis. One of the best suggestions I've seen is to put a stool next to the bed so older cats have an easier time jumping up.

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  36. Thank you very much for all this information, I am so happy I found your blog. I am also a cat lover.

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