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Caring For Your Senior Cat
Unlike a person who enters his senior years at the age of sixty-five, your cat enters into his senior year when he reaches the age of eight. Due to recent developments in nutrition and health care and concern among cat lovers about older cat care, cats are living longer than ever before. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest living cat for the year 2009 belongs to Mr. and Mrs. Thorne of St. Austell, Cornwall, UK. Mischief, a tuxedo kitty is twenty-seven years old.
An increased awareness of senior cat concerns can prove helpful to cat owners. When encountering unusual behavior or health issues, some cat lovers are stymied as to how to react. With this in mind, I’ve turned to several experts in the field of cat welfare and behavior asking them for tips they can pass on in regards to senior cat care:
“Make sure you see your vet twice a year for an exam including blood work. Many diseases that commonly occur in senior cats can be identified early with proper diagnostics. Common diseases seen in older cats include; health disease, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease and diabetes.
Obese cats are more prone to health issues, just as overweight people are. It is important to make sure not to over-feed your cat. If you think your cat is overweight, speak to your veterinarian. He may prescribe special food or exercise to get your cat into shape.”
“If your senior kitty stops using the litter box always visit your vet first to rule out a health issue. If kitty checks out healthy, ask the vet to test for arthritis or joint problems. Should your senior cat have joint issues, make the trip to the litter pan easier by purchasing a BoodaDome litter box (it has a ramp) or make your own.
Buy a large square plastic container (40 gallon or larger) cut a hole in the side of the box where the kitty doesn’t have to climb over a high edge. Make sure the hole is large enough for the kitty to pass through without brushing his whiskers on the sides of the hole. The hole has to be high enough off the ground to stop litter spillage.
Sometimes, senior cats can become bored and engage in destructive behaviors such as excessive grooming, where they bite and chew their fur and pull it up by the roots! If you spot this behavior, first have a vet check out the health of your cat. If the excessive grooming is not health related, then you need to address it as a behavior issue.
Most senior kitties are no longer fascinated with the brightly-colored fast-moving toys they loved as kittens. So, for an older cat entertainment value set up a bird feeder or squirrel station outside kitty’s favorite window. Install a comfortable window perch for your senior cat. To aid him to be able to get to the seat without jumping, place a scratching post nearby that he can climb up to the perch on. You can sit at the window with kitty while he watches the wildlife and groom him on a daily basis.
For inside entertainment, check the Internet for a list of cat-friendly plants. Visit your local nursery and purchase a kitty garden with a large, low container to plant them in. Spider plants, catnip, cat grass, you can find a list of safe AND toxic plants here: http://www.catscans.com/plants.htm
Use organic potting soil instead of garden dirt to plant your inside garden and let your cat have the time of his life, digging, eating and playing in his own natural indoor garden!”
“Keep plenty of fresh, cold water available. Watch water intake. Repeated trips to the water bowl can indicate early signs of Diabetes.
Monitor nail growth and trim nails every few months. Have a styptic pencil on-hand in case you cut into the quick. Nails often grow thick and long and can turn and curve into an arch growing back into t he pad of the foot.
Monitor weight loss. Unexpected and sudden weight loss can be a signal of an emerging disease process.”
“My favorite product for senior cats, especially those with arthritis or kidney issues is Red Deer Antler velvet. I can say first-hand how effective Deer Antler Velvet is for your cat. It's been used in Chinese medicine for over 1000 years. You’ll see a visible difference in your cat's level of comfort in less than a week.
Not all velvet antler products are the same. Look for one that contains the velvet tips, because that's the part that contains the most healing properties. There have been studies over in China and Europe about the effectiveness of this supplement. The brand I recommend is www.tobinfarms.com because it does contain the entire length of velvet.
Get the teeth cleaned every year. Dental pain is horribly painful and cats are stoic about pain. You might not see that your cat is suffering silently. Even holistic vets recommend annual cleanings. The veterinary specialists I've interviewed have told me that dental cleanings do more to improve the quality of a senior cat's life than anything else.
Also dental or periodontal diseases provide bacteria with an entrance into the body. Invading oral bacteria can damage the kidneys, liver and heart. A healthy mouth will keep kitty pain-free and healthier.
Signs of dental disease include weight loss, dropping food, heavy drooling, developing a preference for canned food, bad breath, or a case of cranky kitty. Although there is a slight risk any time a animal is anesthetized, with the new generation of anesthesia now available, risk is minimal and far better than forcing your cat to live with the agony of dental disease.”
“If your senior cat suddenly becomes vocal at night for no reason, a vet visit is advisable. Certain diseases such as thyroid disorders can cause a cat to become suddenly vocal, or perhaps the cat is losing his sight. Dementia is also common for senior cats. You can try burning a night light to help reduce the confusion the cat faces at night. Don’t move items from familiar places, i.e...food, water bowls and litter pans. Keep everything in the house in their same spot including your furniture.”
Using these tips as the springboard of awareness is the key to unlocking the secrets of senior cat care and behavior. Keeping a close watch on your cat’s daily activity and knowing when a specialist needs to be consulted, will help prolong your cat’s life in a healthy, happy manner he so deserves.