My 15-year-old cat, Lance, sits next to me as I write this piece. He is special to me because he is the oldest of my four cats and we have shared quite a bit of time together. Caring for him helps me to cross-check the guidance I give to anyone who is sharing their life with a senior cat and wants to provide them with the very best care. Owner observations and vigilance, regular veterinary exams, and wellness testing are the four cornerstones of excellent senior cat care.
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Senior Care Guidelines, older cats are classified as mature or middle-aged at 7 to 10 years old, as senior cats at 11 to 14 years old, and geriatric from 15 to 25 years old.
Many in the profession begin treating a cat who is 7 years and older as senior cats, and begin doing wellness exams every six months instead of yearly. Those who work closely with cats are very aware how subtle the signs of illness in cats are and how well cats can hide their (often multiple) illnesses.
As many diseases are more common in older cats, our vigilance in observing their day-to-day habits needs to be intensified after age 7 to be sure we can prevent and catch problems early.
A complete physical exam is recommended every six months for all cats over 7 years. If that seems like a lot, consider that biannual vet visits would be the equivalent of a human seeing their doctor every three to four years. Since cats are notorious for hiding their diseases and often have more than one problem, exams and wellness testing are the cornerstones of keeping a senior cat healthy.
During a basic wellness exam for older cats, a chemistry panel should always be performed, which includes a thyroid level check, a complete blood count, urinalysis and heartworm/Felv/FIV screening.
Routine blood pressure checks are advised in all cats over 10 years of age and in cats with diseases commonly associated with hypertension (kidney, diabetes and hyperthyroidism). Additionally, abdominal ultrasound or chest or abdominal radiographs are indicated to help screen for disease.
Your cat’s annual blood work is a great way for veterinarians to determine if a change in nutrition is needed for your senior cat. Protein level and phosphorous levels are two of the most critical analyses that need to be considered.
If a cat has renal disease or a history of bladder stones, a canned food diet fed in small but frequent portions is a great way to encourage water consumption and achieve a diet that is close to the natural diet of a cat.
Any diet switch should be done slowly in cats, especially seniors, and is best done with the guidance of your veterinarian based on physical exam and wellness test findings.
In short, all of these things can help to create a cat-friendly care plan, diet and home environment for senior cats. With this guide, you can catch problems early so your kitty will truly enjoy those golden years!
Photo source: Pexels
source: Pet MD
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