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Care for Aging Cats

By June Jackson

Care for Aging Cats

Just like their human companions, cats experience a gradual decline in organ function as they age. These age-related changes include a natural slowing of the cat's resting metabolic rate (RMR), resulting in a decrease in muscle and an increase in body fat, which also increases the likelihood of obesity. While energy needs vary from pet to pet, cats between the ages of 7 and 9 years are at the highest risk for obesity. It is important for you to watch your cat's intake, weight status and physical activity to help offset age-associated loss of muscle.

Remember that your aging pet has the same nutrient needs as during her earlier years, however the quantities and the way in which they are provided may have to change. As its metabolism changes, select a diet that's less energy-dense, while still providing essential nutrients.

Visible Signs of Aging
A sure sign that your cat is entering old age is when it does not jump onto its favorite perch as easily, sleeps more, and moves more slowly when awake. In addition, the skin loses its elasticity and becomes less pliable. The decrease in skin elasticity may result in areas of hair loss. Old age also brings a decrease in bone mass. This may be due, in part, to the inadequate absorption of calcium. The age for these developments is around 12 years in cats. Arthritis commonly occurs in older pets, too, and can be made worse by obesity. Some of this can be managed by proper nutrition, medical therapy and nutriceuticals.

Old age in general may result in a reduction in response to a cat's surroundings and partial loss of vision, hearing and taste. To avoid startling your loving pet, it's a good idea to let your cat see your hand in front of its face before touching and to call the animal by name before approaching.
Special Dietary Needs for Your Mature Cat
Try these nutritional strategies to cope with age-related health issues. 

  • Hairball Prevention Older cats can still develop hairballs and some may even experience an increase in hairballs.  To help minimize the development of hairballs, feed your cat a diet with a unique combination of beet pulp and cellulose fiber. 
  • Weight Control Aging pets should be fed a diet with a higher percentage of calories from high-quality animal protein and with antioxidants and essential amino acids, like taurine, to help maintain healthy muscle mass and immune function. A little less fat in the diet may also help mature cats if their diet remains rich in fish oils to promote overall health and a beautiful, shiny coat.

Special Dental Needs
Proper tooth and gum care is also important for older pets. Dry foods, may assist in maintaining good dental and oral health. You may also need to schedule regular appointments with your veterinarian to prevent dental scaling or periodontal disease.
Behavioral Changes in Your Aging Pet
One of the most noticeable changes in mature pets is their resistance to change in their daily routines. Older cats may become more finicky about their eating habits. With a decreased sense of smell and taste, it may be necessary to provide a food with a stronger smell and taste. Lower quality pet foods are not recommended for elderly pets because some of them may not offer enough of the right nutrients.

As your cat slows down, short, sustained periods of physical activity will help to enhance circulation, maintain muscle tone and prevent excess weight gain. The level and intensity should be adjusted to your pet's medical condition. Encourage a healthy exercise routine by playing games with your cat for 15 to 30 minutes at least twice a day.

How Old is Your Cat in Human Years?
While the aging process varies from cat to cat, have you ever wondered how old your cat might be in human years?  Check it out:

Cat's Age Human's Age
1 year =  20 years
2 years =  24 years
3 years = 28 years
4 years = 32 years
5 years = 36 years
6 years = 44 years
7 years = 48 years
8 years = 52 years
9 years = 56 years

is a freelance writer and writes often about pets. Her work can be seen in magazines and newspapers nationwide.

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Posted on May 18, 2009

Mary Foster says: She is talking more, even though a talker anyway, she' has a "hitch" in her get along and I don't know what to do. I don't want anybody putting me down if I have a "hitch" in my get-a-long.

Posted on February 23, 2009

Dee says: Just got cats from HM and I see male run and bite female anytime he feels like it. Female is very shy I think because of this. Only had 5 days. What can I do?

Posted on November 7, 2008

Amy K. says: Hi, I was wondering if there might be a health reason why a cat would start sleeping in its litter box. He is about 8 in human years. He is also having a skin irritation problem. Started as rash and is now scabby from scratching. Acting strange in general. Sleeping in odd places, mostly the litter box. Any suggestions? Please! Thanks!

Posted on July 21, 2008

Lindsea says: There is a huge problem with my cat and missing the litter boxes. She tends to poop and pee where ever she is in the house. She used to always go in the litter boxes. I do not understand why she is pooping and peeing all over the house. She is 16 years old, and I can understand why that might be. However, she does go in her litter box every once in a while. I am confused on why she goes all over the house. Is there anything I can do to prevent her from doing that again?

Posted on October 13, 2007

Tina says: my cat is 14 in human old in cat? Thanks!

Posted on February 14, 2008

Ashley says: My cat is 13, I have trouble trying to ge thim to play games. I was wondering if you know of any toys that I could try or something. Also, my cat can't keep down dry food. And he won't always eat his wet food. My mother refuses to take him to the vets, I could really use some help figuring his problems out. Thank you.

Posted on September 22, 2007

Mary says: I am curious as to how you calculate the cat's age and the humans age? what mathematical system do you use? My email address is **EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED**. Looking forward to hearing from you June Jackson.

Posted on March 18, 2012

Maryelly says: I was on the prowl for a really good book on homaopethic care for cats, as I have long been a believer that holistic, natural care is the way to go for pets as well as their human caretakers.So I scoured Amazon, and found this. Read the reviews. Was impressed by the lavish praise. But being skeptical and occasionally contrary, I figured I'd buy it, then report back with a review on how it was (probably) good, (probably) useful, but (probably) not perfect, for the following reasons etc., etc. Add a little leaven to the lump, as it were.Thank goodness words are organic, because I had to eat them. This book is beautiful in its layout, varied in its knowledge, deep in its wisdom, useful in its advice, and worth your time and money. If you're even *thinking* about switching your cat to holistic care, you must have this book on your shelf. If you're worried about how much extra work going the homaopethic route might be vs. sticking to an easy-to-maintain routine, stop. This book will help.Shoot, it's worth it just for the pretty pictures. Fortunately, however, you get a great deal more.Whole Health For Happy Cats will make both your and your kitty a whole lot of happy. So say I.

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