Making some adjustments in your cat's health care, grooming, exercise, and feeding routines will help keep your senior pet in good shape.
Regular checkups are important throughout your cat's life, but the following changes are recommended for her later years.
- More-frequent vet visits: Your vet may advise bringing your cat in for a checkup every six months instead of annually. This will allow you and your vet to monitor your pet's well-being more closely.
- Extra attention to eyes and ears: Vision and hearing problems are fairly common among older animals. Your vet will examine your cat's eyes and ears extra carefully as your pet ages.
- Possible tests: If your vet suspects an illness, he or she may use any of several diagnostic tools. These include blood tests, CT scans, electrocardiograms, MRIs, and ultrasound procedures.
- Close communication with the vet: Be sure to alert your vet to any changes in your older cat's eating pattern, activity level, or other behavior.
Since your cat's ability to groom herself efficiently may diminish with age, it's up to you to help keep her looking and feeling her best.
- Gentle but thorough grooming sessions: Keep up your regular grooming routine, with a couple of adjustments: -- Brush gently, so as not to pull on your pet's less-elastic skin. -- Take note of any lumps, bumps, or hair loss, reporting anything new to your vet.
- Daily teeth brushing: Brushing your cat's teeth once a day will help keep her teeth and gums healthy. While you're tending to your pet's mouth, check her breath -- suddenly developing foul breath can be a sign of illness or dental problems.
- Keep her moving: Regular, moderate exercise will help keep your cat fit inside and out. Keep play sessions fairly short, so you don't overtax your pet's energy.
- Provide novelty: Older cats can grow bored with their familiar play routines. Try introducing a new toy (maybe stuffed or rubbed with catnip) to pique your pet's interest.
- Offer soothing alternatives: If your cat isn't fit or well enough to romp with you, provide "passive exercise." Gently massaging her will help increase her flexibility and improve her circulation. If she doesn't enjoy massage (or your vet advises against it), simply pet your cat frequently.
Older cats tend to gain weight as their activity levels decline. They may also have chronic conditions that can be partially managed by diet. Consult your vet before making any changes in your pet's diet. He or she might recommend some of the following measures:
- Food geared to the nutritional needs of older cats: These specially formulated foods provide more fiber with less fat and fewer calories. They can help keep your cat from growing fat as she expends less energy.
- Smaller, more frequent servings: If your cat's digestive system is less robust than it used to be, eating smaller meals more often may make fewer demands on it.
- Lots of fresh, cool water: Having ample water to drink will help ward off kidney trouble and keep all your cat's systems functioning more smoothly.
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