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Care for a Senior Cat

     Cats do not live forever, although weíd like them to. When you have shared your home with a cat for many years, he becomes an integral member of the family, and you develop strong emotional attachments. Cats provide undemanding and unending love. They are always there for you. Cats are very good at disguising their problems, so as they age, you need to be even more attuned to changes in their everyday activities and behaviors.Early detection of problems is the key to improving your catís longevity and quality of life.
     There are many formulas for calculating a catís age in relation to human age. An old standby is that seven cat years are equal to one human year. Actually, in her first few years a cat does a lot more growing up than that. So the first few years of a catís life are equivalent to more than seven human years, and the later years are equivalent to fewer. There are many different opinions on when a cat is ďold.Ē There is no consensus on the age at which a cat becomes a senior, but a Panel Report on Feline Senior Care published in 1999 by the AAFP recommends beginning a senior preventative health care program by 7 to 11 years of age. By 12 years almost all cats start experiencing the effects of aging. There are certain diseases and conditions that occur in cats due to degenerative processes. Each cell in an animalís body is programmed to last a certain amount of time, and this programming is different for each individual animal. Some animals look and act old at 10 years, while others are fit and spry at 15 years. Certain organs seem to age at a faster rate than others, and this is perhaps why certain health problems are more common in older cats.
     Regular veterinary examinations will objectively note small, gradual changes, which can add up to significant changes over a period of time. Even if youíve lived with your cat for years, you may not notice subtle changes that occur in her conformation and health as she ages. A preventative health care program for healthy animals may include a complete history and physical exam and some diagnostic testing, including a CBC, blood chemistries, viral testing, urinalysis and measuring blood pressure. By establishing baseline values on body condition and organ function, you can detect changes as the animal ages. If a cat has an illness, she should be monitored at least every six months.


     Although you may not like to think about it, itís a good idea to be familiar with the kinds of problems a senior cat can develop. As with any disease, early identification and treatment can help slow the progress of the disease and prevent related maladies. There are six diseases that are particularly common in senior cats:

1. Hyperthyroidism
2. Chronic renal failure
3. Hypertension
4. Cancer
5. Diabetes mellitus
6. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

     Liver disease, heart disease, neurological diseases and lung disease are also found in senior cats, but their frequency is greater in geriatric humans than in cats. As different parts of the body wear out, it may be difficult for a cat to maintain her regular activities. If you have an older cat, you want to be sure to make things as easy as possible for your old friend. It is common for vision and hearing to be impaired as a normal part of the aging process, although it is unusual for a cat to go completely blind solely due to aging. If vision is compromised, the animal can usually see better in daylight than at night. She will do better if important items such as food bowls and the litter box are always kept in the same areas where she can easily find them.
     Although it is best to keep all cats indoors, it is extremely important to do so if your cat is deaf. Complete deafness occurs occasionally in older cats. You should not let a deaf cat outside alone, because she will not hear noises that would normally alert her to danger, such as the sound of approaching cars.

 

 

 

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Care for a Senior Cat

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