Monday 24 October 2011

How to look after an old cat

How to Look After an Old Cat? Cats are living longer. People are living longer. This is due to better food, health care and lifestyle etc. That means more older cats. It might be useful to think about things that we could do to help an older cat.

Some people believe that there are things we can do and I'll list them. They all translate to being aware of our cat's health and diminishing abilities and accepting that old age brings change. One of those changes is the coat. And another is being less active, which can mean a tendency to put on weight. But (and this is my personal viewpoint) we should not try and "shoe horn" an older cat into a young cat's body. We change shape as we get older and so should a cat. It is natural. Sometimes I feel that we tend to treat cats as robots and think of them as all the same. That said, being overweight is to be resisted.

One point about being less active has come to my attention recently (Oct 2011). My old lady cat (20) sits on the ground in the garden all day and night. I have to watch for maggots. This sounds ghastly but a cat that is static for long periods will attract flies who treat the cat as dead almost and lay eggs in the fur. I am not sure how common this is but please watch out for it. Fly larva can be combed out with a flea comb. They are like small grains of rice bundled together.

Here are some pointers:
  • Regular vet visits and blood work are recommended. This can pick up health problems early. The trouble is that money doesn't grow on trees especially at this particular time. But a check over without blood tests is relatively inexpensive.
  • Be aware of your cat's gradual change by making mental comparisons to the way she has behaved in the past. Knowing our cat's routines helps with diagnosis.
  • Buy senior cat food. I am personally a bit skeptical about the benefits of senior cat food. It is more a marketing ploy but I am sure there is an intended benefit to the cat as well. My personal experience is that it has some benefits. My old lady cat gets gas with non-senior food but not with senior food.
  • Water should be fresh and in a clean bowl.
  • Sometimes certain drugs can help such as glucosamin and chondroitin, which are good for healthy joints; plus non-steroid anti-inflammatories. I would always treat drugs with caution though. Minimize drugs for obvious reasons.
  • Getting older can mean that the cat becomes more nervous and this might mean more aggression from defensiveness that could be misconstrued by us.
  • Old age can bring on cognitive dysfunction syndrome - dementia. This is the same for humans e.g. Alzheimer's. This might lead to symptoms such as disorientation etc. A vet can advise. Dementia in old cats is quite hard to deal with because a cat's routine changes. Also the cat becomes distanced from the owner. The caretaker begins to lose her cat gradually. People should make an extra effort to stay in touch with their cat and play with their cat or hug their cat to offset this.
  • The coat becomes dryer making grooming (always important) even more important. However, cats that were overweight might begin to lose weight when geriatric which allows them to groom better. This has occurred with my cat.
  • Play is also always important for mental and physical activity. Regular sessions are best but I realise that in practice finding time can be factor.
  • Maintain an interesting environment.
  • Watch for dental hygiene and fleas. My cat has good teeth (lucky) but some are predisposed to bad oral health. Periodontal disease is common.
  • Above all love her or him unconditionally and gently. This will keep them relaxed and feeling secure. That, bottom line, is how to look after an old cat.

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