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Aging cats: When Is a Cat Considered a Senior?

Aging cats: When Is a Cat Considered a Senior?

Our Franklin vets are sharing valuable information about caring for senior cats. As cats age, they require particular attention to maintain their well-being and happiness. In this article, we will discuss how to identify when a cat is considered a senior and offer tips on providing them with the care they need.

Your Cat's Age in Human Years

Just like humans, cats age differently. Most cats start showing physical changes related to aging between 7-10 years old, with nearly all cats experiencing such changes by the age of 12.

The commonly believed notion that a cat's age is equivalent to seven human years is not quite accurate. Instead, it's believed that a cat's first year of life is like a 16-year-old human's growth, and a 2-year-old cat is similar to a 21-24-year-old human. 

After that, each cat year is roughly equal to four human years. For instance, a 10-year-old cat is equivalent to a 53-year-old human, a 12-year-old cat to a 61-year-old human, and a 15-year-old cat to a 73-year-old human.

Cats are considered "senior" at around 11 years old and "super-senior" when they reach over 15 years of age. When caring for older cats, it can be helpful to think of their age in human terms.

Changes in an Aging Cat

As cats get older, they go through various physical and behavioral changes, just like their owners. Although aging is not an illness, it's crucial to inform your veterinarian about any changes you observe in your senior cat to maintain their overall well-being. Some changes you should look out for include: 

Behavioral changes

  • Cognitive issues. If your cat seems to be struggling with things they normally do without problems, like using their litter box or avoiding humans, they might be experiencing memory or thinking problems. Other signs of this include excessive meowing, wandering aimlessly, and seeming lost or confused. These behaviors may suggest that your cat is experiencing mental confusion or feline senility. If you notice any of these signs, it's important to take your cat to the vet for an examination.
  • Issues caused by disease. If your cat is in pain from health issues like dental disease or arthritis, they may become aggressive. Since cats tend to hide their discomfort, it's important to keep an eye on their mood. Diseases like diabetes or kidney failure can cause your cat to use the litterbox more often, which may result in them eliminating in inappropriate areas. Additionally, if your senior cat is having trouble moving around due to joint inflammation, they may struggle to access their litterbox, especially if there are stairs involved. This can also result in your cat eliminating in inappropriate places, so it's best to take them to a vet for assistance. 

Physical changes

  • Grooming & appearance. As cats age, they may have difficulty grooming themselves, resulting in matted or oily fur. This can cause painful hair matting, skin odor, and inflammation. Senior cats also tend to have overgrown, thick, and brittle claws, which require more attention from their caretakers. While aging cats may develop a slightly hazy lens and a 'lacy' appearance to their iris, this usually does not affect their sight significantly. However, certain diseases associated with high blood pressure can irreversibly impair a cat's vision. Older cats may unintentionally lose or gain weight due to various health issues, such as heart and kidney disease, diabetes, or dental problems. Dental disease is a common issue in older cats and can cause pain, hinder eating, and result in malnutrition and weight loss.
  • Physical activity & abilities. As cats grow older, they often develop joint problems like arthritis that make it hard for them to reach their litter boxes, food and water bowls, and beds - especially if they have to jump or climb stairs. Changes in sleep patterns are normal with age, but if your cat suddenly starts sleeping more or deeper than usual, it could be a sign of a problem that requires veterinary attention. Older cats with more energy than usual may be experiencing hyperthyroidism, a condition requiring a vet's care. If your cat starts gaining or losing weight without explanation, it could be a sign of serious health issues like heart disease, kidney disease, or diabetes. Many older cats also experience hearing loss, which your vet should monitor.

Keeping Your Senior Cat Healthy

As a cat owner, you can use your own observations to help your senior cat stay happy and healthy. You can easily monitor any changes as they age by making small adjustments to how you groom, feed, and interact with your cat. 

  • Grooming: Brushing your cat's fur, trimming their claws, and brushing their teeth are great ways to keep older cats clean and healthy, while also checking for changes in their fur, skin, nose, eyes, ears, and claws.
  • Nutrition: A lot of cats get heavy or even obese as they get older, which can be controlled with diet and activity if the weight gain is non-medical. Other weight issues include elderly cats being underweight, which may be caused by a variety of medical conditions and should be assessed by a veterinarian.
  • Homelife: Older cats can be more sensitive to changes in routine or household, which can lead to stress. Patience and accommodations (extra affection, a favorite toy or blanket, a quiet room for them to stay in) go a long way to helping your senior cat adjust to upsetting changes. Don't forget to keep playing with your cat as they age; mental and physical stimulation is beneficial for their well-being.
  • Vet care: Because cats are adept at hiding illness until it is advanced or severe, it's important to take them regularly to the vet for wellness exams even if they seem perfectly healthy. Your veterinarian will also be able to monitor any conditions that your senior cat may have, and catch any potential or emerging issues early when they're more treatable. their behavior and health.

How Your Vet Can Help

Your observations and knowledge about your cat are valuable for your vet, alongside regular checkups. The vet may suggest more frequent checkups depending on your cat's health. The vet will examine senior cats' weight, skin, fur, organ systems, and behavior. The vet may also run tests to check for common conditions in older cats. By working with your vet and taking care of your cat at home, you can help ensure that your senior cat has a healthier and happier life with your family.  

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. <

Is your senior cat due for a visit to the vet? Contact our Franklin vets to book your kitty an appointment.

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