senior cats

Loving Our Older Cats: Age is Not a Disease

senior-cat

Guest post by Ingrid R. Niesman, MS PhD

Cats are living longer and healthier lives, thanks to improved veterinary care, better nutrition, and the fact that most pet cats are indoor cats. A cat is usually considered a senior between the age of 11 and 14, cats older than that are considered geriatric. Senior cats usually require more care than younger cats, and when problems occur, they can often be more serious or more difficult to deal with.Continue Reading

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How Feline Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome May Enlighten Us on Alzheimer’s Disease

siamese-cat

Guest post by Ingrid R. Niesman, MS PhD

With better nutrition and rapid advancements in veterinary care, our cats are aging in our households in record numbers. Geriatric cats share many of the same clinical pathologies as humans; including increased diabetes, osteoarthritis, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure and vision/hearing loss.Continue Reading

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Kitty Box Ramp: Make the Litter Box More Accessible for Your Senior Cat

kitty-box-ramp

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Senior cats may need special consideration when it comes to litter boxes. Most seniors will have some degree of arthritis, a common condition that affects as many as 3 in 10 cats. It is often not diagnosed in cats because it is difficult to recognize even for the most dedicated cat guardian. Litter box avoidance may be a symptom of arthritis, since getting in and out of the box can be painful for a cat with aching joints.Continue Reading

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Health Tips for Senior Cats

senior-cats

Cats are living longer and healthier lives, thanks to improved veterinary care, better nutrition, and the fact that most pet cats are indoor cats. The definition of an older cat is usually preceded by the term “senior” or “geriatric.” Cats are considered senior between the ages of 11 and 14, and geriatric over the age of 15. Aging is a slow and gradual process, and there are things you can do to help keep your senior cat happy and healthy well into her golden years.Continue Reading

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Your Hypecarnivore: Why Senior Cats Need Protein to Thrive

senior-cat

Guest post by Elizabeth Colleran, DVM

The nutritional requirements of senior cats are unique when compared to those of humans and dogs. Elderly cats require more energy to maintain their body weight, in part because their fat and protein digestion is impaired. To compensate for impaired nutrient absorption, senior cats need to eat more food relative to their body weight than younger cats. This can be challenging as aging changes associated with decreased ability to smell and taste can cause appetite to decline. Additionally, many aging conditions in cats result in pain, which can also distract from interest in food at a time when more food is essential.Continue Reading

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Feline Dementia

senior_cat

Can cats get Alzheimer’s and dementia? As cats are living longer, they get diseases that are commonly associated with aging.  If your senior cat seems to be a bit forgetful at times, meows loudly or seems anxious for seemingly no reason, or appears to get lost in the house, he may be showing signs of the feline version of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Can cats get Alzheimer’s?

In 2006, scientists at the University of Edinburgh identified a protein that can build up in cats’ brain nerve cells and cause mental deterioration. “We’ve known for a long time that cats develop dementia, but this study tells us that the cat’s neural system is being compromised in a similar fashion to that we see in human Alzheimer’s sufferers,” says Danielle Gunn-Moore, one of the researchers participating in the study.  “Recent studies suggest that 28 percent of pet cats aged 11-14 years develop at least one old-age related behavior problem, and this increases to more than 50 percent for cats over the age of 15,” adds Gunn-Moore. For more on the study, please read Cats Can Get Alzheimer’s on the Washington Post website.

Symptoms of dementia

The following symptoms can be indicators for feline dementia:Continue Reading

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Could your cat benefit from Omega-3 DHA supplements?

tuxedo cat and kitten

Guest post by Dr. Serge Martinod

Sometimes it seems like your cute little kitten is growing up in the blink of an eye. In order to ensure that your kitten grows into a happy and healthy mature cat, it is important to understand what constitutes a healthy lifestyle so your cat can get the most purring, toy chasing and ear scratches out of life.

Aging is a complex biological process that predisposes cats to chronic diseases including behavior changes, limited mobility or kidney malfunction. To help them develop properly as kittens and age gracefully into senior cats, added Omega-3 DHA is a major dietary need for all cats.

Benefits for kittens

DHA is an important building block of the brain and, kittens will experience a sharper nervous system and visual abilities when supplemented as pre-natal kittens and up until the first nine months of life. Daily supplementation of DHA is recommended for pregnant and lactating cats for proper brain and nervous system development of their offspring. Improvement in neurological development will not only better your kitten’s life, but play a significant role in enhancing the bond between the two of you.Continue Reading

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The Joys of Adopting an Older Cat

Buckley at the Middleburg Animal Hospital

Older cats are often overlooked in shelters filled to the brim with cute kittens and young adults. However, an older cat can make a purr-fect companion for many reasons.

In my years of working with cats, I’ve always been drawn to older cats, especially the really old ones with their graying muzzles and eyes filled with the wisdom of the world.  My own experience of adopting an older cat came with Buckley, who was most likely somewhere between eight and ten years old when I fell in love with her.   Even though she was only with me for three short years, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single moment.

I adore my two girls who are barely  more than kittens. I adopted Allegra a little over a year ago, when she was seven months old, and I adopted Ruby less than two months ago at nine months of age. I wouldn’t trade the experience of watching Allegra grow into a beautiful young lady these past twelve months, or Ruby’s joyful kitten exuberance for the last two for anything,  but there were times, especially after Amber died, when I thought back fondly to the many joys of living with an older cat.

Avoid the kitten craziness

When adopting a senior cat, you avoid the kitten craziness phase.  While it’s fun to watch a kitten play and race through the house, remember that the playing and racing can happen at all hours, including at 3am, when you want to sleep.  Additionally, kittens can be hard on your home furnishings.  To a kitten, the whole world is a toy, which can lead to the destruction of anything from carpets to furniture to favorite family heirlooms.

Senior cats are already spayed or neutered and litter box trained

A senior cat is already spayed or neutered, and in most cases, litter box trained.  He will most likely be current on all vaccinations, and may even come with a complete health history.

What you see is what you get

With a senior cat, what you see is, for the most part, what you get when it comes to temperament and personality.  One caveat:  if you meet your potential older family member in a shelter setting, make some allowance for the fact that the cat may be stressed or frightened.  Ask to spend some time with the cat in a quiet area, if possible, to get a better sense of her true personality.

Older cats make great pets for seniors

A senior cat can be a wonderful choice for senior citizens who might hesitate to adopt a cat because they’re afraid the cat might outlive them.  Older cats often wind up in shelters because their owners died, and there were no relatives or friends who would give them a new home.  Bringing a senior cat whose owners died and a senior citizen looking for a feline companion together could be a match made in heaven.

A senior, or at least slightly older, cat could be a better choice for a family with young children than a kitten.  Kittens are fragile, their tiny bodies can be easily crushed or injured, and their sharp teeth and claws may inadvertently hurt small children.

Older cats make better companions for another senior cat

A senior cat may make a better companion for an older cat who lost her companion.  Senior cats are used to the more gentle energy of a mature cat, and a kitten’s high energy and constant motion can be aggravating and stressful for them.

Consider adopting a senior cat with special needs.  Diabetic cats, cats with missing limbs or eyes, and cats with special medical needs all come with the same wonderful personalities as healthy cats, and they tend to be incredibly grateful for being adopted.  Make sure you understand the costs involved in caring for a special needs cat before making an adoption decision.

Have you ever adopted an older cat? Share your story in a comment!

Photo of Buckley when she was still my office cat at the animal hospital

 

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Book Review and Giveaway: Complete Care for Your Aging Cat by Amy Shojai

Cats are living longer than ever before. More cats are being kept exclusively indoors, thus avoiding many of the health risks encountered by outdoor cats. More and more cat owners are understanding the importance of a healthy, species-appropriate diet as a foundation for good health. Advances in veterinary medicine now allow cat owners to pursue sophisticated treatments for diseases that would have been a death sentence in the past. But older cats (most commonly defined as cats age seven and older) have special needs when it comes to maintaining their health.

Amy Shojai’s Complete Care for Your Aging Cat was first published in 2003 and quickly became the “old cat bible.” However, seven years is a long time when you’re talking about health related topics. This newly released edition has been updated to reflect changes in veterinary medicine and includes a wealth of resources about treatment options, products and research, complete with links to websites when appropriate. The e-book version of the book includes hotlinks to relevant information.

This book is an invaluable resource for cat owners. Shojai covers basic information on how age affects your cat’s body in great detail. She explains how to look for changes that might signal health problems in older cats (for an excerpt, read Amy’s guest post Caring for Your Older Cat).  She discusses home nursing care to help older cats through various health issues, and presents advanced care options and how to make informed choices, including a section on making end of life decisions which is presented with great sensitivity, yet covers all the facts a cat owner needs to know when faced with this difficult choice.

The most valuable section of the book is the extensive and comprehensive listing of feline health conditions, ranging from arthritis to heart disease to kidney failures. Each section provides information on symptoms, reducing risk, and treatment options. I read a lot of cat health books,and I have yet to find another one that is as well organized and easy to use as a reference guide as this one.

But it’s not all hard facts and information. Each section of the book contains a “Golden Moments” segment, which contains heartwarming stories of real cat owners who share their lives with older cats and are continuing to enjoy life while dealing with typical issues common for senior cats. These touching, and often inspirational stories make this book more than just a reference guide.

I loved almost everything about this book. The one area that didn’t resonate with me was the author’s take on nutrition.  Pet nutrition is a controversial subject.  While the material is as well-researched and well-documented as the rest of the book, Shojai’s recommendations focus on senior diets and prescription diets.  I’ve written extensively about feline nutrition and won’t belabor the issue here.  You can read more about why I don’t believe these diets are the best choice for cats of any age here.

Even though I disagree with the author’s recommendations in this one area, I nevetheless highly recommend this book to all  cat owners, regardless of how old your cat may be.   This is a must read for anyone who wants to keep their cats happy and healthy well into their golden years.

Amy Shojai has generously offered to give away one copy of this book to one lucky winner.  If you’d like a chance to win the book, please share your story of your senior cat, or a friend’s senior cat in a comment.  The contest will run until Friday, December 10.  Share the contest on Facebook and Twitter and include the link in a separate comment for an extra chance to win.  Winners will be able to choose between an autographed hard copy of the book, or an e-book.

Amy Shojai is a nationally known authority on pet care and behavior, and the award-winning author of nearly two dozen nonfiction pet books, including Complete Kitten Care and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.  She can be reached at her website http://www.shojai.com

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The top 7 things about older cats

Guest Post by Dorian Wagner

Pimp is taking the spotlight because he has taught me some very important things through the years about why older cats are fabulous. (Don’t tell him I called him “old!” He’s not old yet, just a little bit on his way…) 

Pimp is 11, and every single year he gets better and better. The longer he’s with me, the more love he shows and the more grateful I am that I have him. He’s taught me a lot in his 11 years — a lot of it recently. 

I have always adopted kittens, but I’m starting to see why older cats deserve to be adopted, too, and maybe even more. They have so much love left to give. And so without further ado… 

The Top 7 Things Pimp Wants You to Know About Older Cats

1. Old men are not dirty.
You know the stereotype about dirty old men? Doesn’t apply to older cats. He knows where his litter box is, and doesn’t need to be taught. He doesn’t raid the garbage can like rambunctious kittens and doesn’t knock over my red wine glass in a fit of flying kitten fur. 

2. A little gray is sexy.
Don’t you dare tell Pimp his gray whiskers aren’t sexy. He’s one good lookin’ older dude! Maybe he’s not quite as shiny as he used to be, but he’s just as soft as ever… and just as cute. 

3. Good food is one of the most important things in life.
(And so is good wine, but that’s for me, not Pimp. Ahem.) It’s crucial to feed your older cat good food, because their tummies are more sensitive. But seeing how much different food affects Pimp has taught me that even younger cats need good food. You are what you eat… and you want your cat to be good, right?

 4. It’s not picky, it’s “particular.”
You don’t need every toy in the world. Just because some new gadget comes out or there’s some fancy new model, it doesn’t mean that what you have isn’t perfectly fine. Some of Pimp’s favorite toys are older than his brother, Moo, and he’d rather play with them than anything new and flashy I get him. He doesn’t ask for much.

5. A comfy bed is better than any flashy toy.
Adding to #4, older cats realize that there are more important things than how many toys are in your toy basket. I used to get Pimp mice every year for his birthday, and he loved them, but lately I’ve gotten him things to make him comfy — and he uses them way more than all his toys combined! Soft beds = 20 hours a day. Fun toys = 30 minutes. (Don’t worry, he still gets tons of toys!) 

6. Peace and quiet is underrated.
Pimpy says relax. Older cats are content to just lie around, lounge and not create too much ruckus. You don’t have to entertain them (or else lose your nice curtains or favorite vase) and you don’t have to babysit them like kittens. They are easy and content to “just be”… so you can just be, too.

7. Love never stops growing.
Sure, your older cat may be done growing, and may actually be shrinking a little instead, but their heart somehow keeps expanding with more and more love. When Pimp looks at me, it’s with such love and adoration, and such happiness and sweetness. He knows he’s loved and he’ll always be taken good care of. He knows I’ll do whatever I can for him, for as long as he needs it. And he knows how lucky he is.

Older cats are extremely special. They often easily adjust to your home and don’t cause much trouble. If you have the room in your home and your heart, why not take a look at some of the senior pets in your area that need homes and go adopt one today. (Or tomorrow, Cute knows you may need a day to get their comfy bed and good food ready…)

Sure, they may need some extra care as they age (For the record – Pimp is going to live forever. I’ve already informed him of this.), but the love you’ll get in return and the fulfilling, incredible feeling you’ll get from taking care of them will give you a ton of joy.

Think of your grandma or grandpa — you would want them to be happy and comfortable in their sunset years, right? Older pets should have the same luxury!

Dorian Wagner is the creator of Your Daily Cute.

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