THE JOY OF ADOPTING
A SENIOR CAT!
Adopting an elderly cat as an animal companion is very
rewarding and can be a wonderful addition to a mature person or a couple. Senior
cats need much more TLC in comparison to an adult cat and depend on you to
provide ongoing care and comfort.
What Is a Senior Cat?
Like humans, some cats age faster than others, generally
speaking older cats can be placed into one of three groups:
- Mature or middle aged: 7 – 10 years
- Senior: 11 – 14 years
- Geriatric: 15+ years
With a wonderful home and a fantastic veterinary health care
team, many cats live into their late teens and early twenties. It’s vital to
understand your cat is likely to experience physical and cognitive changes with
age which will influence their quality of life. Understanding aging changes and
attending senior cat wellness visits at your veterinary clinic will enable your
vet care team to detect early problems and delay or manage age-related health
Senior Cat Care Areas of Care:
- Nutrition / Feeding –
Geriatric cats must be fed high quality protein – protein wasting and loss
of muscle strength can result from inadequate protein intake or
digestibility at this age. Feeding frequent small portions will improve
nutrient absorption. It’s vital to alternate between flavours, textures
and offer both wet and dry food depending on your cat’s preference and
oral health. Supplementation and dietary modification to include
antioxidants and free-radical may aid cats with intellectual dysfunction.
Dry foods can be more calorie dense and can be left without spoiling
encouraging your cat to graze throughout the day. Strong smelling foods
such as fish flavours (i.e. sardines) or warming food in the microwave may
be more tempting and would inspire fussy eaters.
- Water consumption – geriatric cats with diluted
urine or chronic kidney disease will need to be stimulated to drink water to
reduce risk of de-hydration. Encouraging wet-food in their diet may also
increase fluid intake.
- Weight / Loss of body mass – geriatric cats
often become underweight with a low body condition score. Most likely due to
underlying or chronic disease, changes in metabolism, hormonal changes and a
decrease in the ability to digest and absorb protein. Muscle atrophy is also
common and usually secondary to nerve damage or chronic osteoarthritis while
muscle wasting is usually associated with poor diet, nonexistence exercise,
severe kidney disease or cancer.
- Dental / Oral care – dental disease can be very
painful and will reduce appetite while periodontal disease will cause
gingivitis and stomatitis. Oral cavity neoplasia can take place in this age
group – consistent dental examinations will encourage prompt treatment and
reduction in pain and ongoing treatment.
- Behavioural – changes in behavioural patterns
are very common; cognitive decline and dysfunction is typically on the rise in
geriatric cats. Many cats will exhibit altered toileting habits, will be fussier,
will want to spend more time inside (less outdoors), may display night-time or
inappropriate vocalisation, will not play as much and may experience senility.
Dementia and similar human diseases such as Alzheimer may also be unveiled by
some geriatric cats. Management techniques such as environmental adjustments to
reduce stress and pain is beneficial including avoiding changes to routine and
feeding/water stations. Managing concurrent illnesses, mental and physical
inducement through gentle playtime, social contact and use of Feliway will be
advantageous. Remember an
older cat’s world gets smaller, so ensure food, water, bedding and litter are
easily accessible, but not too close.
- Monitoring and management of diseases – frequent
monitoring of weight, urine and blood pressure by the veterinary team are
extremely important when monitoring and dealing with chronic diseases
especially in cases where regular pain management or the need for subcutaneous
fluids is needed.
- Enrichment /
play time – owners should not stop playing with geriatric cats – movement
improves muscle tone and can help avoid obesity.
- Home nursing – its vital to make a geriatric cat
feel more comfortable, warm, dry and stress free especially if they experience
reduction in hearing and sight or can’t regulate their body temperature.
Avoiding exposure to loud noises, other pets and piercing environments are very
important. Grooming and claw care is also of high importance to eliminate claws catching in blankets or the couch.
- Veterinary visits – regular veterinary visits
and repeat examinations (3-6 monthly) are highly recommended as part of a
screening program of clinical to non-clinical selection.
- Worming / Vaccination – geriatric cats are more
vulnerable to infectious diseases and should be wormed and vaccinated annually.
- Going away / Holidays – consider hiring an
experienced cat sitter to stay at your home rather than sending your feline
companion to a cattery as your cat will be less stressed in their own
When you adopt a senior cat from a cattery or shelter you
will be saving a life – Enjoy it!
To learn more about our treatments and services, contact Pet Nurture on 0403 939 202 or Enquiries@PetNurture.com.au
Pet Nurture has kindly provided a discount code for all readers: POUND PAWS
Amy Hoyumpa Vogt,
I. R. (2010). Feline Life Stage Guidelines. Journal of Feline Medicine and
Surgery, 12, 43-54. Retrieved February 04, 2019
December 05). Life Stages In Cats. Retrieved February 08, 2019, from
Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic:
I. R.-M. (2009). Senior Care Guidelines. Journal of Feline Medicine and
Surgery, 11, 763-778. Retrieved February 06, 2019
A. (n.d.). Senior Care Brochure. (P. P. Plan, Compiler) USA. Retrieved July
Tottey, H. (2015,
September 25). Geriatric Clinics: can you afford not to offer them? Tisbury,
Wiltshire, UK: International Cat Care. Retrieved February 11, 2019
Individual blogs are
based upon the opinions of the specific author, who retains full copyright. The
material is not intended as medical advice, it’s intended as a sharing of
knowledge and information.
We are not veterinarians
and do not diagnose any conditions, perform surgery or prescribe medications.
We encourage you to make your own pet health care choices in collaboration with
a certified pet health care professional.