By Dusty Rainbolt
It’s hard to believe 2016 is here already. Wasn’t it just yesterday when Fluffy leaped effortlessly from sofa to chair like Tarzan on a vine? Today, he moves more like Betty White. And even though Betty looks fabulous for a human of 94, your own geriatric kitty may appear unkempt. Why not make a New Year resolution improve life for your silver citizen feline? It’s time to help your cat age with grace!
Look for Changes. According to Cynthia Rigoni, DVM, owner of All Cats Veterinary Clinic in Houston, kitties begin to experience age-related health problems as early as seven years. The most common health issues are arthritis, overactive thyroid, pancreatitis, kidney disease, dental disease, intestinal issues and cancer.
Don’t expect Fluffy to announce his aches and pains. Because kitties are prey, they hide symptoms as long as they can. It’s up to you to watch for changes in behavior in order to catch disease in the early stages. Take your kitty to the vet if you notice any of these signs:
Litter box problems. Missing the litter box, using the box more frequently, vocalizing in the box or repeatedly trying to go with no results. (This is a real emergency. Go to the vet now!)
Change in behavior. Aggression, not sleeping in favorite places, hiding
Change in appetite. Eating more or less
Change in activity. More or less energetic
Losing or gaining weight
Dropping food while eating
Drinking more or less
Not grooming or over grooming
Occasional vomiting over a period of time.
Here are a few things you can do to your make your senior cat more comfortable:
Keep him warm.
Elderly kitties are more sensitive to cold than their younger selves. Some older cats prefer hooded beds because they help preserve body heat. Since old cats crave warmth, keep your cat’s bed away from drafts and cold spots. To make him comfortable especially on cold nights, consider getting a pet-safe heating pad.
Provide access to favorite places.
Arthritis makes everyday activities a struggle for an aging cat. Simply jumping onto the bed or into the litter box may be too painful to attempt. Kitties who have slept with their owners their entire lives may be unable to reach the bed. Ramps or steps can remedy this problem.
Mary from north Texas didn’t know 12-year-old Kiku had arthritis until after she bought a cat ramp on a whim. She set it up next to her bed. After years of sleeping in the living room, Kiku suddenly started sleeping with Mary again.
Jumping into litter boxes can also be painful. Replace high-sided litter boxes with a box with a shorter entrance, or cut a lower entryway into his existing box.
As he ages, grooming can become difficult especially for overweight or arthritic cats. Gentle brushing with a soft brush will help prevent mats. Be very careful, because older cats tend to be bony and have very sensitive skin. If Fluffy already has mats, talk to your vet or a groomer about shaving them out.
Next, check Fluffy’s bottom for cling-ons. Remove poop clumps that adhere to his breeches. A quick swab under the tail with a baby wipe after he uses the litter box. He might not appreciate your effort, but it will make your old friend more comfortable.
Aging kitties often have thickened claws, so check his paws monthly for ingrown toenails.
This first week of the New Year, resolve to make life more comfortable for your aging kitty. You’ll both be happier, and it’s a resolution you know you can keep.