Aging is an unavoidable fact of life, for cats as well as for humans. You can't keep your pet forever young, but you can make her later years as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
The first signs of aging will begin to appear long before your cat reaches senior-citizen status.
- Middle age: 8 to 12 years. During these years, your cat will probably look and act the same as she did in her youth, and her appetite and activity levels will remain normal. At her regular checkups, however, your vet will start looking for signs of age-related ailments, such as diabetes and kidney failure.
- Borderline old: 12 to 15 years. Some vets consider a cat old at 12; others at 15. Cats in these "bridge" years are on the verge of old age.
- Full-fledged senior citizen: over 15 years.
After age 12, you might notice some signs that your pet is slowing down a bit, such as:
- Napping more: Some older cats sleep as much as 18 hours a day.
- Grooming less: Increasing joint stiffness can make it hard for cats to perform the contortions necessary to clean every part of their body.
- Growing less sociable: Even basically friendly cats can find new people and situations stressful as they age.
The above behaviors are normal for aging pets. But be on the lookout for signs of potential health problems common to older cats, such as:
- Eating more but not gaining weight: This can be a sign of thyroid problems or diabetes.
- Drinking more water: This, too, can signal diabetes or thyroid trouble, as well as kidney disease.
- Constipation: Difficulty having bowel movements can point to colon problems or suggest the need for dietary changes.
- Chewing problems: Difficult or painful chewing can be signs of gum disease or dental damage.
If you notice any of these changes in your cat's behavior, consult your vet.
Continued on page 2: Keeping Kitty Healthy