By Barb Seegers and Eugenia Vlasova

Old Cat

A sad but true fact is: cats have a shorter lifespan than humans. That means that cats age faster, too. Aging could bring a lot of problems to cats, but it could also be the golden years of your friendship with a four-pawed family member. How do you prolong the active years for your cat? In this article, you’ll find some general tips about how to take good care of your old buddy and why adopting an older cat can be a great idea. First, let’s figure out ….

How old is your cat?

According to Cornell University – College of Veterinary Medicine:

Cats are individuals and, like people, they experience advancing years in their own unique ways. Many cats begin to encounter age-related physical changes between seven and ten years of age, and most do so by the time they are 12. The commonly held belief that every “cat year” is worth seven “human years” is not entirely accurate. In reality, a one-year-old cat is physiologically similar to a 16-year-old human, and a two-year-old cat is like a person of 21. For every year thereafter, each cat year is worth about four human years. Using this formula, a ten-year-old cat is similar age wise to a 53-year-old person, a 12-year-old cat to a 61-year-old person, and a 15-year-old cat to a person of 73.

At 8 to 10 years of age cats are considered to be a senior. Over 12 years of age and your cat would be considered geriatric. That being said, old age shouldn’t keep your senior cat from having a happy and fulfilling life for many years to come.

Age-Related Health And Mental Issues In Cats

At this stage of their life, there are some mental and physical changes that we, as pet owners, should watch for so we can stay on top of their health care and continue to offer excellent quality of life:

  • Behavior changes – increased accidents outside the litter box, increased irritability, reduced interaction, confusion
  • Difficulties with grooming – especially those hard-to-reach regions
  • Decreased senses – sight, hearing, smell
  • Less dexterity – Not as sure-footed
  • Digetive difficulties
  • Weight changes – rapid weight loss or feline obesity
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Pulmonary or circulatory problems

How to Prolong Cat’s Happy Years

Keeping a senior cat happy and healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. Generally, just as with humans, proper diet and exercise can go a long way to maintaining excellent quality of life. Not too different from what you’ve heard from your physician, right?

Senior cats may develop arthritis or joint problems, but adding Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin to their diet, either as supplements or contained in their food, could offer some much needed relief to their old bones. There are many great senior foods on the market. Foods lower in sodium and fat but higher in fiber are very common for senior diets. A veterinarian may also suggest a prescription diet if your cat has any other health concerns to manage.

Engage your cats each day, in some sort of exercise and play time. That could be lasers, cat trees, balls… anything that will have your cat do a little more in their day than their customary sleeping patterns.

Adopting a Senior Cat

Kittens usually get adopted in no time, while for adult cats and senior cats finding a new home could be more difficult. We asked Nadia Troy from TLC Animal Aid to share her experience with working with senior cats and helping them to be (re-)adopted.

Pawz Club: If I want to adopt a senior cat, what should I check to make sure my house is suitable for that?

— Getting a home ready for a senior cat is not much different than bringing home a kitten, puppy or adult dog. From our experience it is actually a lot easier because you wouldn’t have to kitten proof the home and remove trinkets, secure blinds/curtains, and watch for bathroom accidents.

PC: What should I expect from a senior cat in terms of behavior? Are they still playful? Are they more needy than kitties?

— Even though an adult cat might come with a list from the previous owner of favourite things they like to do, in a new environment their personality might change. Sometimes, as the years go by, new characteristics come out. A lot of healthy, happy adults cats still like to play well into their teens. They have the same needs as kittens….toys, places to hide, and attention from humans as much as kittens except much more subdued and prefer just sitting on a lap.

PC: What should an adopter of a senior cat consider before making a decision about adoption? What are some special needs senior cats may have?

— Before adopting an adult cat, make sure you know if they have any health issues or behavior problems and decide if you can afford the time and money to look after the cat. If it is going to be the only pet and everyone is working during the day consider a window ledge or something to entertain the cat as they need some stimulation and interaction when left alone.

PC: Getting senior cats into a new place: are they more anxious about their new environment? New family? Families with kids? Families with other pets, cats and dogs?

— Most senior cats are initially more cautious, shy and nervous in a new home. It’s best to choose an adult cat that came from the same type of home environment as you will be providing…i.e. kids, other pets, and so on.

PC: What can a new owner of a senior cat do to make adoption smooth and most comfortable for everyone?

— As soon as the cat comes into the new home set up a room which will be their “safe” territory which will give them time to get used to smells and sounds from the house. Put the cat’s needs inside the room….food, water, litter box, scratching post, toys, etc.

PC: What are some advantages of adopting a senior cat? Less damage to a house?

— Yes! Absolutely less damage and no kitten proofing needed! Adult cats are often overlooked in shelters because of the cuteness of kittens. For this reason they are able to give so much affection right away to show their gratefulness.

Considering adopting a senior cat? Visit TLC to see who needs a loving home to go to.

Photo by Dimitri Torterat

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