When Your Cat Is No Longer A Kitten

Purina says your 10 year old cat is like a person in their mid-50s and at 12, they are like a 64-year-old person. At this age, your cat will start to show the signs of a senior cat, and it's time to treat them differently than a kitten. A visit to your veterinarian is a good way to understand the changes in your cat and what to expect. Your cat may always be your adorable little kitten, but when older, they need the care of a senior cat from you.

Age is a Process and Not a Disease

As you watch your cat change, don't assume that they are ill. Like people, a cat's activity and behavior can be different in their senior years. A talk with your vet about what to expect as your cat gets older will let you watch for the true signs of aging versus illness. However, a cat's immune system does weaken as they age, so they are more prone to illness. That's why a good understanding of the basic changes in the senior cat will help you distinguish them from the signs of a sick kitty.

What You Can Expect to See in Your Aging Cat

There are a number of ways your cat's body and behavior can change as they get older. The changes aren't necessarily bad, but your cat may need a little more attention from you to continue living a healthy and happy life. Expect to see one or more of the following changes in your cat as they age:

Dehydration - This can cause your cat to drink more water than before. If you pick up a fold of skin on the back of your cat's neck and it springs back down when you let it go, your cat is well hydrated. If that same skin fold just settles slowly back in place, then the skin is less elastic because of dehydration. Dehydration also decreases circulation and can cause your cat to become sluggish at times. Always keep fresh water available to your cat. Place a bowl at both ends of the house so they won't have to go far for a drink.

Grooming changes - Older cats tend to ignore their grooming or don't do it as well. Brush or comb your cat frequently to help them out. Poor grooming in long-haired cats can cause their fur to mat leading to odors and skin irritation.

Cat claws - The claws of an older cat become thick and brittle. Your cat may use their scratching post less so the claws can become overgrown. You may need to visit the pet groomer more often to have them take care of the claws before they become a problem for your cat.

Teeth and gums - Your senior cat is more at risk for dental problems. These can become painful enough to affect your cat's eating. A regular teeth and gum inspection by your vet is necessary in the older cat.

Hearing, Sight and Smell - Slight hearing loss accompanies age in the cat. Don't be surprised if they no longer respond to you when calling them from the other end of the house. The eyes may develop a haziness on the lens, but it rarely seems to have an effect on the cat. Your cat's sense of smell may diminish, which can cause them to lose interest in eating.

Joint stiffness - Your cat can develop arthritis in their joints making it difficult to jump up on things or climb over obstacles. Put their favorite toys down on the floor for them and make sure the litter box is easy for them to step into.

Mental changes - Like an aging person, your cat can show signs of changes in their brain. The symptoms in your cat of this can include

  • excessive meowing
  • wandering through the house
  • disorientation
  • hiding more than normal to avoid people or other pets

Your aging cat may slow down and need a little more time to themselves, but they will continue to be your loving companion. Have patience with them and help them with grooming and getting around the house. If you see any signs of distress, contact your animal hospital like Centennial Animal Hospital. There may not be an illness involved and your vet can give you suggestions as to how to make your cat more comfortable.

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