How to Take Care of Aging Cats

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Just like their human companions, cats experience a gradual decline in organ function as they age. These age-related changes include a natural slowing of the cat’s resting metabolic rate (RMR), resulting in a decrease in muscle and an increase in body fat, which also increases the likelihood of obesity. While energy needs vary from pet to pet, cats between the ages of 7 and 9 years are at the highest risk for obesity. It is important for you to watch your cat’s intake, weight status and physical activity to help offset age-associated loss of muscle. Remember that your aging pet has the same nutrient needs as during her earlier years, however the quantities and the way in which they are provided may have to change. As its metabolism changes, select a diet that’s less energy-dense, while still providing essential nutrients.  Here are some tips to take care of your aging cat….

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Visible Signs of Aging

A sure sign that your cat is entering old age is when it does not jump onto its favorite perch as easily, sleeps more, and moves more slowly when awake. In addition, the skin loses its elasticity and becomes less pliable. The decrease in skin elasticity may result in areas of hair loss. Old age also brings a decrease in bone mass. This may be due, in part, to the inadequate absorption of calcium. The age for these developments is around 12 years in cats. Arthritis commonly occurs in older pets, too, and can be made worse by obesity. Some of this can be managed by proper nutrition, medical therapy and nutriceuticals. Old age in general may result in a reduction in response to a cat’s surroundings and partial loss of vision, hearing and taste. To avoid startling your loving pet, it’s a good idea to let your cat see your hand in front of its face before touching and to call the animal by name before approaching.

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Special Dietary Needs for Your Mature Cat

Try these nutritional strategies to cope with age-related health issues. Ask your vet if there are any dietary needs for aging cats. Also be sure to check the ingredients in any foods you buy because your aging cat might be less tolerant now.

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Hairball Prevention

Older cats can still develop hairballs and some may even experience an increase in hairballs. To help minimize the development of hairballs, feed your cat a diet with a unique combination of beet pulp and cellulose fiber.

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Weight Control

Aging pets should be fed a diet with a higher percentage of calories from high-quality animal protein and with antioxidants and essential amino acids, like taurine, to help maintain healthy muscle mass and immune function. A little less fat in the diet may also help mature cats if their diet remains rich in fish oils to promote overall health and a beautiful, shiny coat.

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Special Dental Needs

Proper tooth and gum care is also important for older pets. Dry foods, may assist in maintaining good dental and oral health. You may also need to schedule regular appointments with your veterinarian to prevent dental scaling or periodontal disease.

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Behavioral Changes in Your Aging Pet

One of the most noticeable changes in mature pets is their resistance to change in their daily routines. Older cats may become more finicky about their eating habits. With a decreased sense of smell and taste, it may be necessary to provide a food with a stronger smell and taste. Lower quality pet foods are not recommended for elderly pets because some of them may not offer enough of the right nutrients. As your cat slows down, short, sustained periods of physical activity will help to enhance circulation, maintain muscle tone and prevent excess weight gain. The level and intensity should be adjusted to your pet’s medical condition. Encourage a healthy exercise routine by playing games with your cat for 15 to 30 minutes at least twice a day.

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How Old is Your Cat in Human Years?

While the aging process varies from cat to cat, have you ever wondered how old your cat might be in human years? Check it out:

Cat’s Age Human’s Age
1 year = 20 years
2 years = 24 years
3 years = 28 years
4 years = 32 years
5 years = 36 years
6 years = 44 years
7 years = 48 years
8 years = 52 years
9 years = 56 years

June Jackson is a freelance writer and writes often about pets. Her work can be seen in magazines and newspapers nationwide.

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