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Norwich Bulletin - 4/16/2006

Aging With Grace

Milo turned ten years old this month, as did Capone and Tweedle. Polar, Wink and Asia just turned nine, Brutus is thirteen and Baker over fifteen years old! All of a sudden my young cats arenít so young anymore and I have to start worrying about how to prolong their lives and recognize signs of diseases associated with old age.

With all of the technical advances in veterinary medicine, better diets and well cat medical appointments, cats are living longer than ever before. Cats usually reach senior status at about seven to nine years of age which means over 50% of my cat family are active seniors at this time. And so I have to be ready to accept age-related illnesses.

As cats (and dogs too) get older, their organs and immune systems become less efficient, which makes them more susceptible to diseases. And older animals suffer from the same maladies that older humans do. Common age occurring diseases include arthritis, cataracts, oral disease, kidney, liver, heart and lung problems, cancers and mental illnesses such as dementia, in animal form.

Like us, they may experience behavioral changes, which can include decreased physical activity, less interaction with family members, confusion, disorientation, changes in sleeping patterns and problems controlling their elimination. Many of these problems or behavioral changes can be prevented or treated, which will lengthen and enhance the quality of life for your cat.

Many of the aging changes that will take place are subtle and hard to detect. This is especially true with cats, as they are creatures known for hiding signs of illness until it is too late to do anything about it. This goes back to the days where our cats were wild and showing any sign of illness was certain death when predators realized the cat was sick.

And so it is important to spend time and monitor your senior catís condition and behavior. Taking a preventative approach to senior pet health care can help prolong the life of your cat, keep them healthier in their old age and best of all, increase the amount of time (as well as the quality of time) you will get to spend with your animal friend.

It is important to make sure that your senior cat goes to the vet twice a year for well cat check ups. This way you can be provided with proper feeding, medication and exercise instructions and maintain good dental health with cleanings when necessary. Your vet will provide geriatric exams, including important tests that monitor major organ function.

They will also help you with decisions on how to face certain milestones as your cat ages. It is important to remember that while young cats may have only one disorder at a time, this is not necessarily the case in the older cat, where diagnosis and treatment is oftentimes complicated by the fact that there are multiple interacting diseases that must be dealt with. This type of care requires special attention by both owner and veterinarian.

You are responsible for seeing to the comfort of your cat as long as you are lucky enough to have your friend with you. So make regular veterinary visits and tell your vet about any physical or behavioral changes, no matter how minute you think they may be. Provide the appropriate diet for your petís age and activity level and make sure you control your petís weight. If you are going to feed snacks and people food, make sure it is done in moderation and pick healthier, non-fatty foods and meats.

Make sure you provide plenty of fresh, clean water. Using one of the automatic water fountains is a great idea as it keeps the water flowing and fresh. Also, provide some interactive play and moderate exercise for your older cat, but do not let him overexert! Avoid extreme hot or cold and try to prevent stress by keeping your catís daily routine consistent. Household changes should be kept at a minimal. Donít stop grooming your cat, but be aware that bones hurt more and be gentle, making grooming time relaxing rather than stressful. And above all, practice patience and keep showing your cat how important he is to the family.

Most cats age gracefully and suddenly you turn around and notice the white muzzle and the fact that they are walking a little slower and looking a little pudgier. Most cats donít need a whole lot of change to their general regime of care so donít change it unless you have to. But some things are inevitable.

Make sure your elderly cat has easy access to one or more warm beds, where your old friend can sleep without fear of disturbance (especially by young children). Buy a premium brand senior diet food and watch if there is any side of chewing discomfort that might alert you to some type of oral problems. Add extra litter boxes to your home to help reduce the risk of accidents. By following a good Senior Care Cat Program, you will have your friend with you for many more years to come.

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