Older Cat Care

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Health and Nutrition

Caring for your Older Cat

Maturing — Aging

How can you tell when your cat is getting old? On the outside, she may look much the same, and she probably still loves to bat her toy mouse around the kitchen floor and take naps sprawled across your hand-knitted heirloom afghan. But inside her body, time may be taking its toll.

However tempting it may be to treat her to table scraps, it's really not wise. Overfeeding a cat at any age -- especially with fatty foods -- is actually setting her up for obesity and related health problems in the future.

The Middle Years

You may barely have noticed the subtle changes your cat went through after the first year of her life, but when she approaches her equivalent of human middle age - somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12 - start paying extra attention. Your veterinarian may recommend that you modify your cat’s diet.

The Later Stages

Some veterinarians believe that cats reach their geriatric years around age 12. Other experts are more generous, categorizing cats as being “old” at about 15. When your cat is between the ages of 12 and 15, be on the lookout for behavioral changes. You may notice that she catnaps a lot more. It’s normal for some old cats to sleep more than 18 hours a day.

As a cat ages, her joints may stiffen and become difficult to move, making her lethargic about many types of activities, even her grooming ritual. But before you decide to do a thorough brushing for her, ask your veterinarian to make sure your cat’s not seriously ill -- a lack of desire to groom can also be a sign of sickness.

However tempting it may be to treat her to table scraps, it’s really not wise. Overfeeding a cat at any age -- especially with fatty foods -- is actually setting her up for obesity and related health problems in the future.

Above all, you’ll need to start watching your geriatric cat very closely for hints of illness. After weeks of seeming healthy, a cat suddenly may display signs of being very ill, catching you, the owner, off guard. Too often, pet owners hope a small problem will go away, only to seek their veterinarian’s advice when their cat is beyond help.

The best thing you can do is watch for signs and, if you spot anything amiss, visit your veterinarian.