Many cats lead long and happy lives due to good nutrition, health care and loving kindness but there are many physical changes that occur in their body as they age. This is why veterinary visits and periodic bloodwork are very important. It is also a good idea to watch for symptoms of common illnesses that affect cats such as increased drinking and urinating, weight loss and frequent vomiting.
Some of the changes that happen in a cat’s body are:
- A cat’s ability to regulate its body temperature diminishes. Cold weather is very difficult on them. Precautions should be made for cats left outside and provide cozy sleeping places inside. Many cats love a heated bed!
- Circulation worsens and causes the skin cells to not receive as much oxygen. The skin may be damaged more easily. Frequent brushing and keeping the haircoat shorter helps cats stay cleaner. Check your cat’s paws to make sure nails are not growing into the pad, as this can be very painful.
- Smell and taste are duller in an older cat and there are fewer taste buds. This may cause a lack of appetite. In addition, dental problems can make eating difficult. You may need to tempt your pet with warmed foods and find healthy treats to stimulate appetite.
- Eyesight worsens as thickening of the lenses and even cataracts may appear. This can be very serious for cats left on their own outside. Even for the indoor cat, this may be a reason the kitty is not making it to the litterbox in the middle of the night. Provide lighting at night.
- Hearing worsens and wax may also build up dulling sounds that can get through. Your vet can examine your pet’s ears to make sure there is not a medical problem causing hearing loss. Be careful to not startle a sleeping pet that may not hear you and with outdoor pets when starting up and moving cars.
- The digestive system becomes less efficient and may not be able to absorb large meals. Smaller, more frequent meals may be better for your pet.
- Muscle tone and volume diminishes, making the cat move more slowly and with less agility. Cats can suffer from arthritis. Provide ramps or stairs so they will have an easier time getting on the couch or bed. Cut down the side of the litterbox to make it easier for them to step into.
- The urinary system becomes less efficient. This can cause more infections and accidents. Pay close attention to litterbox hygiene.
- The nervous system is slowing down, making cats slower to react or learn. This may cause behavioral changes. Many cats may wander or become lost. Keep identification on them and keep them safely contained and away from steps or dangerous places they may wander.
Many behavioral problems may be medical in origin and undesirable reactions from our pets may be in response to pain. Addressing and treating these issues are very important in keeping your older cat happy and comfortable.