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Geriatric Pets: When is my Cat Considered a Senior?

Geriatric Pets: When is my Cat Considered a Senior?

Noticing the signs of aging in our pets can be difficult as we spend every day with them, but that doesn't mean that they aren't experiencing the changes that come with getting older. Today our Charlotte vets share some ways to tell how old a senior cat is and some of the signs of aging in geriatric cats.

When is my cat officially geriatric?

Spending every day talking and playing with your cat can make it very difficult to tell when they are actually getting older and showing the signs of aging.

In another similarity to humans, aging cats experience these changes uniquely. Many cats begin to show age-related physical changes by the time they are between 7 and 10 years old, and most will have by about 12 years old. 

While there has always been a general idea that a single cat year is equal to 7 years for a human, this isn't quite accurate. Instead, it's generally accepted that a cat's first year is similar to the development that would occur in a human from the time they are born until 16. So, a cat at 2 years old is more similar to a human between 21 and 24 years old. 

After that point, one "cat year" is equal to roughly four human years (for example, a 10-year-old cat = 53-year-old human; a 12-year-old cat = 61-year-old human; a 15-year-old cat = 73-year-old human, etc.)

Once your cat reaches the ripe old age of 11 they may be something we like to refer to as super senior. These geriatric cats have seen it all and are now living out the rest of their lives with the help of combined efforts from you and the veterinarian.

What are some changes to expect as my senior cat ages?

Cats experience many behavioral and physical changes as they age, just as we do. Aging itself is not something to be concerned about, it is all of the changes that come along with aging. By informing your geriatric cat's veterinarian in Charlotte you can help them stay on top of the care that your feline friend needs to stay happy and healthy as they get older.

Physical Changes in Your Geriatric Cat

Changes Affecting Your Senior Cat's Appearance

Aging cats may be less effective at grooming, which can lead to matted or oily fur. Painful hair matting can result in inflammation and skin odor. Senior cats' claws also often become thick, brittle, and overgrown, and will need more attention from caretakers. 

An old cat's eyes and vision may also change - they commonly have a slightly hazy lens and 'lacy' appearance to the iris (the colorful part of the eye), but there is little evidence that their sight is significantly impacted by this alone.

However, numerous diseases, especially those related to high blood pressure, can have a permanent effect on the sight of your geriatric cat.

Noticeable Weight Loss or Gain in Your Geriatric Cat

If your senior cat is losing weight, this can point to any number of problems, from diabetes to kidney and heart disease. Dental disease is also extremely common in senior cats. As they age, dental issues can impair eating, causing malnutrition and weight loss along with causing significant pain in their mouths. If you notice any signs of these conditions then you should contact your geriatrics cat's veterinarian to schedule an examination.

Decreased Physical Activity and Abilities 

Arthritis or degenerative joint disease often becomes a problem for older cats. This condition makes it difficult to access food and water bowls, beds, and litter boxes. This fact is especially true for a cat that needs to climb stairs or jump. 

While changes in sleep are a normal aspect of aging, a significant increase in sleep or depth of sleep is a concern and your vet should be notified. If you notice your senior cat's energy has suddenly increased, this may indicate hyperthyroidism and should be checked by a vet. 

Geriatric cats also commonly lose hearing for several reasons. If this happens to your cat, it's another reason to visit your geriatric cat's veterinarian. 

Behavioral Changes in Your Geriatric Cat

Increased Issues Regarding Cognition

If you notice that your cat has started being confused by tasks or objects that are part of their daily routine, this may be a sign of issues with memory or cognition. Behavioral changes such as litterbox accidents or avoidance, new or increased human avoidance, wandering, excessive meowing, and seeming disorientated, are also potential signs of mental confusion or feline senility and should be examined by your geriatric pet's vet in Charlotte.

Concerns Involving Diseases Affecting Your Geriatric Cat

A cat may become aggressive due to pain from health issues like dental disease or arthritis, so keeping an eye on your cat's mood is important because cats tend to hide discomfort. Diseases and disorders affecting urination (e.g. diabetes, kidney failure) can cause an increase in litterbox usage, which may lead to cats eliminating in inappropriate areas.

Cats that are experiencing mobility problems due to joint inflammation may have challenges accessing or even climbing into their litterbox, especially if stairs are involved. This may also lead to your senior cat eliminating in inappropriate places and should be addressed by a vet.

How to Help Care For Your Senior Cat

Your observations are some of the most important tools available to help keep your senior cat happy and healthy. Incorporating simple changes to your grooming, feeding and general interactions with your cat can be a low-pressure way to watch for any changes in your aging pet so your vet can provide geriatric care geared to your pet's needs.

Increased Grooming For Your Senior Cat's Fur

Brushing your cat's fur, trimming their claws, and brushing their teeth are great ways to keep older cats clean and healthy, while also checking for changes in their fur, skin, nose, eyes, ears, and claws.

Modified Diet and Nutritional Intake 

A lot of senior cats get heavy or even obese as they age, which can be controlled with diet and activity if the weight gain is non-medical. Other weight issues include elderly cats being underweight, which may be caused by a variety of medical conditions and should be assessed by a veterinarian.

Accommodations in Your Home Life

Older cats can be more sensitive to changes in routine or household, which can lead to stress. Patience and accommodations (extra affection, a favorite toy or blanket, a quiet room for them to stay in) go a long way to helping your senior cat adjust to upsetting changes. Don't forget to keep playing with your cat as they age; mental and physical stimulation is beneficial for their well-being.

Ongoing Routine Geriatric Pet Care

Because cats are adept at hiding illness until it is advanced or severe, it's important to take them regularly to the vet for wellness checks even if they seem perfectly healthy. Your veterinarian will also be able to monitor any conditions that your senior cat may have, and catch any potential or emerging issues early when they're more treatable. their behavior and health.

How Can Your Geriatric Cat's Veterinarian Help?

You know your geriatric cat and their typical behavior and health, which can assist your vet in ensuring that they receive the appropriate ongoing care through regularly scheduled geriatric pet care and exams. Depending on your senior cat's age, lifestyle, health status, and a few other factors including any ongoing needs they may have in terms of medical conditions, your vet can tell you how often to come in for a visit and may recommend increasing the frequency of physical checkups. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always consult with a vet before making medical decisions for your pet. 

Do you have a senior cat that could use a little TLC? Contact our veterinary team in Charlotte today to book an appointment for your feline friend.

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