As someone who shares a home with an older cat, you’ve likely turned to the Internet to learn more about senior cat care. Here at City Pet Hospital, we work very hard to provide the accurate information you need to give your cat the best life possible. That’s why we decided to answer our most frequently asked questions about senior cat care, and we’re thrilled you found us online! 

If you are searching for a skilled veterinarian in Daly City, CA, we are here to provide the compassionate care your elderly cat needs. We’d love to care for your other pets, too! The first step is bringing your cat in for a wellness exam, so give us a call today at (415) 849-3777. 

How will getting older impact the health of my cat?

Despite common misconceptions, old age is not a disease. Getting older can, however, make cats more prone to illnesses. Just like people, cats need special care as they get older.

Senior cats often:

  • Become less playful
  • Display behavioral changes
  • Develop arthritis

Older cats are also prone to vision and hearing problems. Your cat’s nutritional needs change as they age, too. 

How do cats’ nutritional needs change as they get older?

Older cats tend to be less active, and many gain weight as a result. Your senior cat might not absorb food as well, so it is essential to feed an appropriate amount of senior cat food formulated to meet their nutritional needs. 

Cats’ nutritional needs vary depending on their life stage. Kittens, for example, need lots of calories, vitamins, and minerals to grow into healthy adults. Senior cats have their own nutritional needs and may need things like joint supplements, probiotics, and vitamins to help them thrive as they get older. 

The way you feed your cat might need to change, too. You may need to add more canned food to your cat’s diet or make the switch from free feeding to feeding at specific times. As your cat’s vet, we can help you select the best cat food or provide a prescription diet if your elderly cat is losing weight, has frequent diarrhea, or experiences other digestive problems. We’re also here to help you determine an appropriate feeding schedule.

At what age does a cat become a senior? 

Cats who are between the ages of 9 and 14 are considered seniors. Once they have reached 15 years of age, they are considered geriatric cats. Keep in mind that while senior cat care is defined by life stage guidelines, not all cats age at the same rate. Being mindful of your cat’s life stage and keeping an eye on their behavior allows you to make appropriate adjustments to make their golden years just as happy and healthy as their younger ones.

What are some signs and symptoms that your senior cat needs special care? 

Because cats are notoriously adept at hiding signs and symptoms, it isn’t always easy to notice when they begin slowing down. Their tendency to spend most of the day sleeping makes things tricky, too. 

A few of the most common indicators that a cat is aging include: 

  • Decreased interest in play
  • Less frequent use of scratching posts
  • Decreased grooming
  • Reluctance to jump up or jump down from high places
  • Hiding more frequently
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Behavior changes

What are some health complications that senior cats commonly experience?

Dental disease is one of the most significant issues in elderly cats. Many senior cats develop tartar and gingivitis, which can cause tooth decay, pain, difficulty eating, and serious infections. Routine dental cleanings and exams are important for cats of all ages, but they are especially vital for older cats. 

Hyperthyroidism, or an elevated thyroid, is also prevalent among senior cats. It is the most common feline endocrine disorder and a frequent cause of an elderly cat losing weight. 

Other health complications to watch for in older cats include: 

  • Arthritis
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) disease

What are the ways you can tell that a senior cat might have dental problems?

Cats are good at hiding their symptoms when something is wrong. There are a few things that could indicate that your senior cat is experiencing dental issues, though. 

Common signs of dental problems in senior cats include: 

  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Dropping food while eating
  • Choosing canned food over dry
  • Reluctance to eat

What kinds of preventative care can we do to help our cats to extend their life?

A thorough physical exam is essential, and we suggest bringing your senior cat in for a checkup every six months. We also strongly recommend routine blood work and urinalysis. These tests allow us to monitor your cat’s health from year to year and screen for health problems, including liver and kidney disease. Regular fecal testing is important, too, as it allows us to watch for parasites. 

During your cat’s checkup, we may also check their blood pressure and recommend x-rays. All of these tests work hand-in-hand to provide us with a clear picture of your senior kitty’s health. Routine tests are an essential part of preventative care for mature cats, so we encourage you to follow our recommendations. 

Why are wellness exams and regular checkups important for senior cats?

Because our cats cannot communicate with us and tell us when something is wrong, wellness exams are crucial for detecting health problems. As mentioned, cats are incredibly good at hiding signs of illness and pain.

Bringing your cat in regularly for routine screenings allows us to monitor baseline values and discover - and begin treatment for - problems in their earliest stages. 

When you see your cat every day, you might not notice subtle changes in their appearance or behavior. Bringing them in for regular checkups gives us a chance to spot the things you might miss. We recommend twice-yearly wellness checks for senior cats because they age at a faster rate than we do. 

Do senior cats still need vaccinations? 

As your cat’s vet, we can recommend which vaccinations are appropriate for them based on what they are most likely to be exposed to. While the rabies vaccine is recommended for all cats regardless of their age or lifestyle, there are others that your senior cat might not need if they are strictly indoors. We will gladly meet with you to discuss your cat’s vaccination needs. 

What is the most important thing to know about caring for a senior pet?

A lot of senior cat issues are treatable and manageable, especially with early diagnosis. Unfortunately, many cat owners are reluctant to schedule a checkup for their older cats because they are worried about what the vet might find. Also, cats are notoriously challenging to bring to the vet clinic. When detected early, though, many problems are highly treatable and carry a good prognosis. 

If your senior cat is slowing down, there is likely an underlying reason. They could have arthritis, dental disease, renal disease, or other treatable health problems. Bringing them in for regular vet visits allows us to monitor their ongoing health and improve their quality of life by treating any problems that pop up. 

Keep a close eye on your senior feline friend! Significant changes in behavior or appearance always warrant giving us a call at (415) 849-3777. 

Call to schedule an appointment for your cat if they exhibit any of the following symptoms: 

  • Less frequent grooming 
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Litter box aversion
  • Hiding
  • Loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed
  • Behavioral changes

The AVMA is another excellent resource for caring for your aging pet. If you have additional questions about senior cat care, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Give us a call at (415) 849-3777.