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Top 5 Ways to Improve Life for Your Senior Cat
By Kim Boatman
If your senior cat is starting to slow down, there are extra steps you can take to ensure that it is
healthy, comfortable and content.
How to Help Your Senior Cat
Here are five basic steps you can take to make life better for your senior cat:
1. Visit your veterinarian regularly. Cat owners sometimes have the tendency to not schedule
regular veterinarian visits unless their cat is due for vaccines, says Dr. Debbie Van Pelt of the
Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado. But bringing your cat in for at least an annual exam helps
your veterinarian catch treatable illnesses in the early stages. For example, your veterinarian can
check for lumps and bumps. “Cancers that are caught early can be treated and removed,” says
Van Pelt. Veterinarians think of cats as senior at about age 10, says Dr. Tracy Dewhirst, a
veterinarian in Knoxville, Tenn. However, it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian do a baseline
blood-check when your cat is about 7 years old, advises Dewhirst. “It’s a good landmark. Then the
veterinarian has something to look back on if your cat starts to develop problems.”
2. Maintain your cat’s dental health. “From a veterinary health standpoint, oral health is really big.
We see cats decline rapidly when they don’t have their teeth taken care of,” says Dewhirst. If
your cat develops plaque and gum disease, bacteria can find its way into the bloodstream and
threaten your cat’s heart health, among other problems. Cats with dental problems also might
struggle to eat and maintain weight.
3. Watch your cat’s weight. Excess weight can lead to serious conditions, such as diabetes and
heart disease, and a fat cat is more likely to suffer from arthritis. Make sure your cat is eating a high-
quality food designed for senior cats, and try rationing the portion sizes to help your cat maintain a
healthy weight, as its metabolism has slowed in the last few years. Your veterinarian can help you
figure out an appropriate calorie count and portion size for your cat. You’ll also want to notice if
your cat is losing weight, since older cats can develop thyroid problems, says Dewhirst.
4. Be a detective. Cats tend to be private, aloof and secretive. “By the time a cat owner notices a
behavior change, things may have progressed farther,” says Van Pelt. “We see a lot of older cats
where by the time we see them, we are diagnosing them with kidney disease and heart failure.”
Pay attention to little clues, such as water intake, how much your cat is eating and its elimination
habits. A change in elimination can signal a myriad of health problems and indicate a need for a
5. Make your cat comfortable. A 16- or 17-year-old cat might show signs of creaky joints. If you
simply make things easier, your cat is sure to enjoy better quality of life. Create warmth for your
cat by using a heating pad or placing its bed near a warm area.
6. Give your cat extra attention. Natasha Deen, a Canadian author of young adult novels, helped
two beloved kitties live to the ages of 19 and 21, and she thinks extra attention made a
difference. Deen cuddled her cats more and regularly brushed and groomed them. Your loving
attention is crucial, says Deen.
Kim Boatman is a journalist and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat, based in Northern California
whose work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury
News. She is a lifelong lover of animals and shares her home with three cats.