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Cat Senior Care - How to Care For Your Senior Cat

How will getting older impact the health of my cat?

That's a great question. Old age itself is not a disease. We hear that a lot, and the older I get, the more I realize old age is not a disease, but cats can be more prone to diseases as they age. We'll talk more about that.

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

How do cats' nutritional needs change as they get older?

That's a great question. The nutritional needs can change by cats sort of slowing down. They aren't as active, and we see a lot of weight gain as cats age. Obesity is a genuine concern because they may not be able to groom themselves, they may be at higher risk for other diseases, and a prescription diet might be warranted.

At what age does a cat become a senior?

We usually consider our kitties to be seniors at age nine and older.

What are some signs and symptoms that your cat is slowing down?

That's kind of hard to determine if a cat sleeps more because I think they sleep 25 of the 24 hours anyway, but they may not use their scratchpad as much. You may notice that, if they have arthritis, they may not sleep on the top of the couch or the bed. They may sleep on lower surfaces. You may see them hiding more or things like that.

What are some health complications that senior cats commonly experience?

One of the most significant issues we see in older cats is dental disease. Cats' teeth can develop tartar, gingivitis and lead to periodontal disease, which Doctor Cooney has talked a lot about if you watch his videos. And another thing we tend to see as our cats age is hyperthyroidism, an elevated thyroid. We also see kidney disease, heart disease, and arthritis. Arthritis is a little harder to detect in cats, but we do see that.

What kinds of preventative care can we do to help our cats to extend their life?

A thorough physical exam by your veterinarian is essential. We recommend that twice a year. Also, there are specific blood tests to screen for those diseases we mentioned, and, usually, cats are such good hiders that if they are showing symptoms, the disease is much further along. If we can detect these problems on a blood screen before they become clinical or lose weight, it often carries a better prognosis. And those will be detected through blood work and urine tests.

What are other ways you can tell that a cat might have dental problems?

You might notice an odor. That would be one thing. You may see your cat dropping food or perhaps eating their canned over their dry. Those might be things you would notice.

Why are wellness exams and regular checkups important for them?

They're important because our pets can't talk to us. Now we communicate with them, often depending on the owners; they feel like they can talk to them and sense when something's wrong. But since they can't tell us that something might hurt or it's more subtle, the physical exam is crucial to detect that.

What is the most important thing to know about caring for a senior pet, and how do you make your home senior-friendly?

A lot of senior cat issues are treatable and manageable. We often don't want to look for problems if we don't know that they're there because we're afraid of finding out. The fact is, though, if we find out before they become clinical, again, it carries a better prognosis, and a lot of these are treatable problems.

Do senior cats still need vaccinations?

Here at the Animal Hospital of Statesville, we are considered a vaccine light clinic, meaning that we vaccinate for the pet's health risk. We determine what your pet is exposed to and then recommend appropriate vaccines. Now, rabies across the board is recommended for everyone, every cat, no matter their age, no matter their lifestyle. But there are certain vaccines, like feline leukemia, that we don't typically recommend f your pet is strictly indoors and no other cats are coming in. Vaccinations are dependent on the cat. We have that conversation with you as a client and determine what is best for your pet.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Cat Senior Care - FAQs

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

How do I know if my cat is in pain?

That's a great question. Pets exhibit pain different than you or I would, as they're not as vocal. We think about if we're in pain, we say that something hurts. If you think about pets, they're going to hide that pain to survive, and so that's more of what they do. For instance, if your cat is ordinarily social and comes out and greets you, they may stay more hidden under the bed, or perhaps they don't jump up on things anymore.

What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?

We often use those two terms together. What I tend to think of as hospice is talking directly about the end of life. And palliative care is more trying to keep the pet comfortable. We discuss both of those things with our clients often.

What is involved in euthanasia for a senior cat?

Euthanasia is a humane way to end a cat's life. And that's a hard thing to talk about, but it is something that we deal with regularly because cats age, dogs age, and owners want to take care of their pets. They want their pets not to be painful, and sometimes it's hard to know that. And so we can help them determine if there's more palliative care that can occur or if it's time for their pet.

Would it be better to let my senior cat just pass away on their own?

That's a tough question. I feel that, again, euthanasia is a humane way to let them go to end their life. That is a bit of a personal choice, so I don't claim to say if that's right or wrong to do that. Some pets can pass peacefully on their own, but we also know that, with certain diseases, pets can suffer. As part of veterinary medicine, we're able to provide that end of life service.

What I often talk to clients about is that you guys know your pet the best. While we are happy to give advice and do an exam to determine what might be going on or if there is pain for your pet, I often tell owners that they know their cat's quality of life as far as their day-to-day. So when they come here, their adrenaline is up, so a cat or dog may be acting differently. They may be racing the room whereas at home, they were barely able to walk. We don't always get to see that real-life day-to-day assessment of their quality of life, so I always support an owner's decision if they feel like their pet is not well at home. It's often a little more soothing to have that conversation, to be reassured that they're making that right decision. It's a very tough decision—I always tell clients that you never want to make that decision too soon. Sometimes, there are options of pain management or things that can make your pet feel better and have a good quality of life, not just prolonging their life.

Other times, however, it is the right decision, so they don't want to make the decision too soon, but they don't want to also make it too late. And so that's a really fine line, but we're here to help guide you with that and help support you in that decision and to ultimately take the best care of your cat that we're able to.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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