After having just celebrated a birthday, the subject of aging was on my mind this past week. Even though this birthday wasn’t one of the “traumatic” ones – you know, the ones that have a zero at the end – I like to take time each year on my birthday not just for celebration, but also for reflection.
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my age. Most of the time, it really is just a number to me. I haven’t felt my age for a long time, and I’m frequently caught by surprise when I look in the mirror. How is it possible that someone with grey hair and a few wrinkles is looking back at me, when, at heart, I still feel like a much younger version of me?
I won’t claim that I have the answers to aging gracefully, but I think maybe our cats do. When I worked at veterinary clinics, I was always drawn to the senior cats, especially the really old, grizzled ones. There was just something so beautiful about these cats who were clearly on a path of physical decline, yet their spirits were as full of life as that of a newborn kitten. Cats don’t care about getting white muzzles, they don’t complain about aching joints, and they don’t mourn the loss of their youth.
As cat guardians, there are things we can to help make our cats’ golden years easier for them. And not surprisingly, these same things can help us age gracefully, too.
Nutrition: Feed your cats a species-appropriate raw or grain-free canned diet. Feed yourself with a diet consissting of quality protein, lots of vegetables and fruit, and whole grains. Look for organic whenever you can. Don’t overfeed your cats, and don’t overeat youself. A healthy weight is one of the cornerstones of graceful aging.
Excercise: Your cat needs exercise just as much as you do. Regular, structured playtime, 10-15 minutes at least twice a day, is a wonderful way to bond with your cat, and to get kitty some exercise. As you cat ages, she may not play as vigorously as she did when she was a kitten, but even if she’s just batting at a toy without moving around much, it’s still a good way to engage her hunting instinct. As for you: find an exercise you really love. Exercising doesn’t have to be drudgery. I love to walk, it’s the one exercise I’ve stuck with all my life, and I walk almost every day.
Supplements: I’m a big believer in supplements. I take a lot of them, ranging from a high-quality multi-vitamin to an 0mega-3 supplement to probiotics. For senior cats, at a minimum, I recommend a good glucosamine chondroitin and omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
Health care: Finding a veterinarian you’re comfortable with and who shares your philosophy when it comes to caring for your cat is important for cats of all ages, but it becomes especially important for older cats. Your veterinarian will be your partner as you care for your aging cat. The same holds true for you: find a physician who shares your views on health care. More and more physicians are practicing integrative or functional medicine, which takes a holistic approach to wellness and treats the whole patient – body, mind and spirt.
Stress: Stress is a primary cause of many illnesses in both cats and humans. In fact, your stress could make your cat sick. Finding ways to minimize stress in your life is one of the single most important things you can do for your own and your cats’ health.
Love: This one goes without saying. Our cats love us unconditionally, and the least we can do is return that love to them each and every day.
Are you aging gracefully, or do you find getting older challenging?
Photo: Buckley was the poster child for aging gracefully