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Tips on Senior Cat Care

Posted by Jennifer on March 6th, 2012

We love the wisdom that senior pets bring to our lives. Senior cats in particular, since they can live such long lives, seem to possess a worldly knowledge that surpasses many other species. The Daily Mail seems to have more and more stories about incredible ancient domestic felines, such as Lucy from South Wales, who is age 39 or Cream Puff, age 28 in Texas — yes that is in human years! It’s not just the press that is recording cats living longer lives: According the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “Just as people are living longer than they did in the past, cats are living longer too. In fact, the percentage of cats over six years of age has nearly doubled in just over a decade, and there is every reason to expect that the “graying” cat population will continue to grow.” The CFHC has even put out a brochure called “The Special Needs of the Senior Cat” (click here to view it online). Read on to find out what it reveals…

The CFHC brochure points out an interesting  way to more accurately calculate your cat’s age in human years: “The commonly held belief that every “cat year” is worth seven “human years” is not entirely accurate. In reality, a one-year-old cat is physiologically similar to a 16-year-old human, and a two-year-old cat is like a person of 21. For every year thereafter, each cat year is worth about four human years. Using this formula, a ten-year-old cat is similar age wise to a 53-year-old person, a 12-year-old cat to a 61-year-old person, and a 15-year-old cat to a person of 73.”

This age calculating is based on averaging cat data, which includes both indoor-only and cats that spend time or live outdoors. So obviously, an indoor-only pet would have a MUCH longer average lifespan than 15 years.

Ironically, many people still look at an 8 year old cat as a senior pet, but given the information above, you may want to consider adjusting that age bracket up a number of years! We see many cats living into their 20′s nowadays. That is an important piece of information when you are looking at adopting a pet, especially if you are in your upper years as well.

Another good article about growing old with your cat (which you can read in full here) has some helpful tips on feeding your pet a lower calorie diet if they begin to gain weight as they age, and touches on the common illnesses that senior cats can face — and hide very well!

Some tips we like for when you own or adopt a senior cat:

- Watch for any changes in appearance or behavior, even ones that seem “normal” or “insignificant” for an aging cat (such as slowing down, changes in appetite, coat appearance, litter box use or volume) can be signs of a disease that is developing, that could be stopped or greatly diminished with early vet care intervention.

- Checkups: If you have a newly adopted senior cat, you won’t have known them long enough to notice any “changes” in their appearance or behavior. Plan on vet visits every 6 months for a checkup for the first  year, or even two – then yearly. Since stress is not good for any pet, especially a senior cat, ask if your vet makes housecalls. Many offer this service for a very minimal fee.

- Brush & kitty massage weekly – or daily! Not only does this help a senior cat keep their coat sleek, reduce hairballs, increase circulation, but the massage part is a mini-exam and you will notice any lumps right away.

- Exercise. Just like with people, daily low-impact exercise is critically important for keeping your senior cat healthy. Make time each day for a short play session with a feather toy or laser toy, or any game that gets kitty moving!

So now you’re ready to adopt a “senior” cat or two! You can select “senior” as the age in the Adopt-a-Pet.com Cat Search tool to find loving senior cats for adoption near you.

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