Not Ready to Retire: Senior Cats
This year marks a milestone for my two cats; both Applehead and Nino have reached double digits in age. Neither shows any signs of slowing down, but of course I want to keep it that way. So how old is old for a cat? And how do I keep then furr-ever young (bad pun-sorry!).
To make it easy for people to relate, veterinarians have provided us with handy cat to human age conversion charts. The seven “cat/dog years” to one human year is not at all accurate. Most of the aging takes place in the first 3 years of the cat’s life. One convenient conversion chart that I came across gives the estimated age, but also distinguishes between cats living indoors or outdoors. I was shocked at the difference. The average outdoor cat’s lifespan is 10 years, whereas indoor cats commonly live happy lives into the upper teens.
Key ingredients to providing your cat with a happy, healthy, and long life are the same as for us.
- Preventative care: regular check ups, as often as every 6 months, become more important than ever in the senior years. Let your vet know of any changes in your cat’s physical or mental condition. Keep an eye out for unusual weight gain or loss, changes in eating or drinking habits, or shifts in behavior (e.g. activity level, litter habits).
- Proper Nutrition: Providing a well-balanced and complete option is always important, but for older cats there are additional considerations. Make sure to consider the activity levels and stage of life of your cat when choosing a food. When in doubt, consult your vet. Also, stick with product or vet recommended portions to prevent weight gain, which is a big health no-no.
- Exercise: Keeping activity levels up is important for maintaining muscle tone, weight control, blood flow, and bowel function. Provide ramps and steps, if necessary, so they move around to access all their happy spots.
- Reduce stress: When stressful events are unavoidable (e.g. moving, a new animal), give your cat plenty of reassurance with special attention and affection. Keep a safe spot where they can get away with a familiar blanket or toy. Choose a pet-sitter over boarding when you are going away.
- Safe environment: Keep your cat indoors. Living outdoors “ages” cats nearly twice as fast, as they have increased exposure to accidents and illnesses. In fact, a University of Georgia researcher found that 85% of tracked outdoor cats are presented with at least one “risk behavior” per week! If your cat insists on a little outdoor time, make it brief and monitor their whereabouts closely.
In human years, my feline babies are not even retirement age. I think I am safe to look forward to many more years with my companions of the last decade. I am shooting for 20 years old – how many of you have or have had cats that age?