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Taking Care Of An Older Cat

27 18:12:38
Cats are not turtles. Okay, I know what you're thinking, people aren't turtles, either. However, when you really think about it, people are a lot closer to turtles than cats in the sense that turtles, as well as people, can live to be 100 years or more. Not so for cats. In fact, in human terms, a cat who's surpassed twelve years would be applying for their old age pension. Certainly cats can live longer than twelve years and, in fact, thanks to many factors, cats really are living much longer these days.

Dedicated care from their human companions plus advances in veterinary medicine are the main reasons. Most experts consider a cat's "senior years" to begin on her 10th birthday. After this point, the aging process begins to slow in even the most playful feline. Yet, with a little extra attention from her resident human, a cat could enjoy another 5-10 years of life and love.

As with humans, cats often lose the ability to hear as they get older. This often goes unnoticed by their human companion because they think their cat's lack of response is just typical feline aloofness. Unfortunately, without keen hearing and vision, an older cat becomes more vulnerable to threats from cars and dogs on the street, so it's probably a good idea to keep an older cat indoors. If she loves the fresh air, then make sure you supervise her in a protected area when she is allowed outdoors.

Even the most easygoing cat can become a finicky eater in her later years. As an older cat's senses of smell and taste begin to diminish, she becomes less interested in her food. Try adding moist food and warming her meals to amplify the scent and make her dinner more tantalizing.

Also, it's important to keep fresh water available for your older cat, and to monitor her drinking habits. Her natural thirst drive can fade with age, causing her to become dangerously dehydrated rather quickly. Pay attention to about how much water your cat drinks each day. If the amount suddenly drops, and you know she is not getting water from any other source, you should consider contacting your veterinarian.

Common problems people see their older cats develop include difficulties swallowing due to decreased saliva production, less tolerance to extreme heat and/or cold, gum disease and tooth loss, a change in litter habits, and difficulty sleeping well.

Recent studies have uncovered a problem with potassium balance in many older cats. Poor coat condition, loss of appetite and lethargy have been linked to a mild form of hypokalemia, or low blood potassium. Low blood potassium damages the cat's kidneys, which, in an older cat, are already weakening. This leads to a vicious cycle because declining kidney function increases the loss of potassium in the blood, which in turn causes further deterioration of the kidneys.

Arthritis and stiffness is fairly common in older cats as well and as it becomes more difficult to move, a geriatric cat spends more time sleeping. If her diet stays the same, she'll begin to put on a lot of extra weight. This can add to her discomfort which makes her more inclined not to move. Without exercise her muscles will weaken, so it's important to encourage an older cat to take part in some activity every day. Physical movement will help with digestion and bowel function, as well as keep her sharp mentally.

As a cat gets older, it spends less time grooming itself which may result in her hair becoming dry and matted. Regular grooming is required to keep her coat healthy and beautiful, so it's best to schedule daily brushing to remove loose hair that can form uncomfortable hairballs in her stomach.

So, as I said, cats aren't turtles. However, with love and care they can live for fifteen years or more. But remember, just as senior humans require special care, so does your feline friend. Pay attention to their needs and help make them as comfortable as possible.