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The American Association of Feline Practitioners has completed an updated version of the Senior Care Guidelines.  The guidelines will be published in the September issue of The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.  They address a broad range of issues including medical, behavioral and lifestyle considerations and will help veterinarians deliver consistent high quality care for older cats.  I’ll be sharing some of the highlights from these guidelines over the next weeks to help you make informed decisions about care for your own cats.

While there is no specific age at which a cat becomes a “senior” since individual animals age at different rates, the AAFP uses the following definitions:  “mature or middle-aged” (7-10 years), “senior” (11-14 years), and “geriatric” (15+ years).  The guidelines use the term “senior” to include all of these age groups.

The guidelines address the recommended frequency of wellness visits, the minimum database of lab values such as bloodwork and urinalysis that should be obtained at each visit, routine wellness care, nutrition and weight management, dental care, anesthesia and the special needs of the older cat, and monitoring and managing specific diseases.

The guidelines are dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jim Richards, the famed “kitty doctor” and former director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2007.  Two of his favorite quotes were “Cats are masters at hiding illness” and “Age is not a disease.”

Look for more information on the Senior Care Guidelines in future posts.

7 Comments on Senior Feline Care Guidelines

  1. Ingrid, do you know of any updates to this information? I’m concerned about getting my 9-year old male kitty to the vet twice a year because he completely flips out when he sees strangers and they try to touch him. He pulls a complete Jeckyll-and-Hyde routine. He seems healthy, but I still would like to be able to take him to the vet twice a year without having to worry about him getting so stressed-out that he has to be sedated. At his age, I would rather have him getting as few injections as possible.

    • I don’t think the recommendations have changed, Athena. When it comes to cats like yours, sometimes, you just have to accept that there are limits as to how much you can do, even if it’s not ideal. You have to weigh the stress of a vet visit vs. the benefits.

      • Ok, thanks. I’m going to look into a sedative for him. Do you know of one that’s mild, but effective? Something I could give him before we go to his appointment, so he’d be dopey when we get there?

        • Athena, I had a cat who had started life feral and was not comfortable being touched by a stranger. I took him to the vet in a soft-sided carrier which opened at the top (as well as the end). Once there, I opened the top of the carrier and two techs very quickly gave him an injection of a sedative. It was all done in seconds. The exam was much much more comfortable for him this way. He didn’t feel he had to fight for his life. He wasn’t terrified. Temple Grandin says terror is the experience which leaves the worst emotional scar on an animal.

  2. The age guidelines are interesting! I have three cats who fall into the middle-aged category. They are all three 8 years old. None of them act like more than kittens most of the time!

    My Oscar boy is 13 – he’s a senior! He sure hasn’t slowed down much either! He chases around here like he’s a young guy most of the time!

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