Dr. Al Townshend
Aging is a process that begins the moment we are born and continues until the day we die. The same is true for every plant and animal on the planet. Starting early to slow the aging process is the key to a long and happy life for all.
Thanks in part to advances in veterinary diagnostics and medicine, better nutrition, and the Guardian’s close bond with their feline companions, cats are living longer than ever before.
At some point in the aging process, a cat begins to show the signs of aging. Most veterinarians consider a cat to be a senior between 8 to 10 years, even though it is not unusual for a cat to live twenty years or more. That means that cats can spend half their life as a senior, and helping them have a long and happy life through their senior years can require close observation and some additional care.
Signs of Aging
The signs of aging begin slowly and may be difficult to recognize at first. Age and time directly affect all of the organs of the body. Over time, normal wear and tear in the joints begin to slow a pet and produce signs of discomfort. Others may have cognitive issues as a result of the effects of aging on the brain.
A few indications a pet is beginning to show signs of aging:
- Slowing down and becoming less active.
- Changes in normal eating and sleeping patterns.
- Meowing more frequently.
- Grooming less frequently.
- Expressing anxiety.
- Changes in bathroom patterns.
- Unable or reluctant to complete favorite activities.
How Can We Help?
Catching the signs of aging early is key to slowing the process. The two most effective tools for early detection are close observation by the Guardian family and regular veterinary visits.
Watching for changes in activity patterns and physically handling the pet to check the mouth and teeth, the nails, ears, skin, hair, etc.
Veterinarians are the trusted advocate for pets, and they have the knowledge, experience, and ability to test organ function that can catch changes in organ function early and offer solutions. As pets age, increasing the annual checkup to twice a year visits makes sense.
Keeping Senior Cats Comfortable
- Additional litter boxes and water bowls on every floor in the home to make access easier. Low-sided litter boxes may also improve use in older cats showing signs of arthritis.
- Warming beds assure a comfortable place during the colder months.
- Providing a ramp for favorite places that have become difficult to access, such as the bed or a favorite chair.
- More frequent grooming may be necessary for some older cats, especially those with longer hair.
- Hip and joint supplements reduce the discomfort that comes with age and arthritis.
Providing a Safe and Stress-Free Environment
- The cognitive or mental decline can often create stress resulting in anxiety, periods of aggression, or changes in other social behavior. Reassuring and paying a little more attention to the kitty can help relieve some of these signs.
- Placing mats and area rugs on slippery floors.
- Night lights in specific areas such as litter boxes and water bowls.
- CBD, Omega 3 fat supplements, and vitamin E have been shown to improve cognitive function.
Proper Digestive and Nutritional Health
As pets age, the digestive tract becomes less efficient in digesting foods. Older cats sometimes lose interest in eating or have dental issues that make it uncomfortable to eat foods they are accustomed to, such as dry kibble.
- Ingredients in foods and treats need to be highly digestible, animal protein-focused and taste good. Softer, wet foods and less processed foods can make a difference.
- Raw food toppers and diets taste great and are easy to eat and digest.
- Water intake is vital for older animals. Canned and raw varieties as complete meals or toppers can improve hydration.
- Keeping the teeth and gums clean and healthy is essential. Regular veterinary visits to assess the need for cleaning assures healthy oral hygiene.
- Daily probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements can improve digestion and probiotics are an essential part of a pet’s immune system. Optimum levels are crucial, especially for long-term health in older cats.
- Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM can reduce the discomfort associated with arthritis that comes with age.
- A balanced vitamin and mineral supplement ensure the body has all it needs for the daily metabolic processes.
- Fish oils, hemp seed oil, and phytoplankton supplements are ideal sources of Omega 3 fatty acids that provide immune health, heart and kidney support, joint support and are essential for a healthy skin and hair coat.
- CBD (where the laws allow) and Omega 3 fats have been found to support cognitive health and reduce the discomfort that comes with arthritis.
Recognizing that half of a cat’s life is as a senior and understanding the importance of supporting a senior lifestyle is key to a long and healthy life for our feline companions.