Kittens are cute, but our deepest bonds are with our senior cats. And their numbers are growing, according to Packaged Facts. Its most recent Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the US report says 43 percent of cat parents live with a cat who’s seven or older. Caring for a senior cat isn’t always easy, and more frequent vet visits, medications and special supplements can make it expensive. But according to the Packaged Facts report, many Americans are willing to do almost anything to keep their beloved cats happy and healthy in old age.
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If you live with senior cats, you have lots of human company. According to Packaged Facts’ recently published report on Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the US, 43 percent of cat parents live with a cat who’s seven years old or older.
While many of us with cats that age or even older might disagree based on our cats’ health and behavior, veterinarians consider seven-year-olds seniors, rapidly approaching elderly. And while many of us can look forward to many more years with our cats, seven is the age where the diseases of advancing age can begin to show themselves.
All of our cats need a watchful eye, but that’s even more important as they get older.
What To Watch For In Your Senior Cats
Our cats have their own ways of letting us know when they’re not feeling well. These are some signs that your cat should see a vet, no matter how old (or young) he is.
♦ Weight loss
♦ Not eating
♦ Straining to urinate, frequent unproductive trips to the litter box and urinating outside the box are just some of the signs of bladder stones or crystals. Bladder stones or crystals are a medical emergency in male cats and can be fatal. Don’t delay getting your cal in to see the vet.
♦ Dropping food out of the mouth and drooling can both be signs of gum disease.
♦ Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than a few days
♦ Difficulty getting up on furniture
Caring for Senior Cats
Like humans, some cats age more easily than others. Some never let on that they’re getting older and remain active and healthy for life. But others aren’t so fortunate. So here are 11 tips for caring for senior cats.
1. Let your cat just be a cat. He wants to live the way he’s always lived as much as possible, and he should be able to do that. He’ll know when it’s time to slow down or stay in more if he’s used to being outside.
2. If he’ll let you go over him often with a flea comb. Older cats are more appealing to fleas than younger ones are. But that doesn’t mean you need to use a commercial flea product or collar. There are safer, natural ways to get rid of fleas.
3. Brush him daily. It can be difficult for older cats to groom themselves. That daily brushing can double as cuddle time and will make him feel great.
4. Watch his claws. It can also be difficult for older cats to retract their claws, and you might have to trim your cat’s nails more often.
5. Don’t miss those wellness checkups. True, blood tests are expensive. But they’re the best way of catching the diseases of advancing age, like hyperthyroidism, kidney disease and diabetes early. Some pet supply and Walmart stores have in-store vet clinics where tests are less expensive.
6. Make it easy for him to eat. Get rid of those tiny or deep bowls you’ve been using and give him whisker friendly bowls or flat plates. Avoid senior and weight-loss food. Cats need high protein diets from animal sources throughout their lives. Food formulated for older and overweight cats substitutes some of the protein from meat with biounavailable ingredients like beet pulp and powdered cellulose. And if you’re wondering what powdered cellulose is, it’s wood pulp (think sawdust!)
8. Be on the lookout for decreased mobility. Arthritis is common in older cats, and it can be very painful. Supplements and a heated cat bed will make him more comfortable. Cat steps will make it easier for him to get up on your bed or his favorite chair. And ask your vet about acupuncture (see a veterinary acupuncturist) and injectable Adequan. Both are wonderful solutions for older, arthritic cats.
9. Provide a stimulating environment. Cats are never too old to enjoy watching the birds from a sunny window or playing with their humans with wand or fishing pole toys. Some mental stimulation will keep your cat happy and engaged in life.
10. If your cat has a chronic illness that requires daily medication, learn about the different formulations that are available. For instance, a transdermal gel that goes inside an ear tip, medicated treats and Medimelts are easier to give and more pleasant for the cat than pills. The last thing you want when you’re caring for a senior cat is struggling with him once or twice a day to get his medicine into him.
11. Be patient with your cat’s lapses and behavior changes when he reaches old age. He won’t understand why you’re yelling at him if he misses the litter box. A happier solution for both of you is to accommodate his changing needs.
Aging Cats And The Pet Care Industry
Packaged Facts’ report is based on survey data collected between February and August 2019. That was before Covid-19 and the uptick in adoptions by people seeking companionship while they were stuck at home. The market research publisher expects next year’s report will show the largest increase in people adopting dogs and cats instead of birds, fish, reptiles, hamsters and rabbits.
The report sites the influence Millenials and Gen Z adults have on the pet care industry. But the biggest change may be the older people living with dogs and cats later in life than ever before.
And then there are the senior cats. They, too, are impacting the pet care industry with their need for more frequent vet visits, special supplements, and, sometimes, special food.