Old Cat Care: The 5 Principles of Geriatric Feline Health

Caring for an old cat requires some extra time, but your efforts will improve your pet's well being throughout your cat's lifespan.

1. Keep The Joints Healthy

As your cat ages, arthritis and other degenerative joint conditions become a concern. Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin and EFAs can protect and rebuild joints and reduce inflammatory conditions in cats.

If your cat is experiencing pain, do not give her anti-inflammatory or pain relief medication unless prescribed by your veterinarian. NSAIDs and other pain relievers can be toxic when given to cats.

2. Maintain A Healthy Weight

As her activity level decreases, your cat's weight may increase, putting her at risk for joint disease and diabetes. To keep your cat's joints healthy and strong and reduce the chances of weight related diseases, control your elderly cat's weight. Feed your older cat a high quality food that contains a named meat as its main ingredient. There are easily digestible senior cat formulas available that contain higher levels of fiber and balanced nutrition for older cats.

Some older cats begin to lose weight and muscle mass. Older cats sometimes lose their sense of smell and many favorite foods lose their appeal. Refrigerated cat food loses some of its smell; tempt a picky eater with room temperature food. To increase the scent of dry food, try drizzling the kibble with canned tuna or mackerel oil.

Older cats may not get as much exercise as they once did. Try to engage your cat with gentle play and interaction. The less your cat moves, the more her muscle mass will decline, putting her at risk for increased joint pain and injury.

3. Provide Dental Care For Geriatric Cats

Regular dental care throughout your cat's life will keep her teeth and gums strong. Periodontal disease causes tooth and jawbone loss, and makes eating difficult.

If your cat has bad breath or red, swollen or bleeding gums, she may have gum disease. To reduce or prevent gingivitis or periodontal disease in your cat, begin a program of regular dental hygiene.

Gently brush your cat's teeth with a soft toothbrush. Do not use human toothpaste-purchase cat-specific toothpaste at a pet supply store. Pay close attention to the gum line and back teeth.

4. Regular Grooming

Older cats may lose flexibility, making grooming difficult. Regular brushing also reduces hairballs. Gently brush or comb your cat at least twice a week.

5. Watch For Elderly Cat Behavior Changes

As your cat ages, certain favorite activities may become difficult or impossible. Unusual behaviors may be caused by health problems or pain.

  • If your cat is not eating, she could be dental pain
  • If she is having litter box lapses, she may need a more accessible box
  • If she seems distant or uninvolved in her surroundings, she could be experiencing hearing or vision loss
  • Excessive thirst could indicate incipient diabetes

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize and accept the changes that indicate that our pets are coming to the end of their lives. Chronic pain, immobility and progressive diseases may reduce your cat's quality of life to a point where you consider feline euthanasia. End of life decisions are painful and require careful consideration. Your veterinarian can explain the process and help you make this difficult decision.