How do I care for elderly cats?
Growing old is a part of life, and unfortunately with pets, they do it much faster than their owners. You will eventually find that your cat has grown old and needs special care and attention. Cats can live long and happy lives, and can be active even in old age. If you do not allow your cat outdoors, you can expect it to live to an average age of 15 years, with some going well into their twenties. There is a chart for you to compare cat years to human years here.
You will have to change the way you care for your elderly cat to keep it healthy. It will not be as active as before, and will spend more time napping and less playing around. However, they will still make great companions and will not want any less attention from you. Here are some tips for caring for an older cat to keep it healthy and long-lived:
1) Take it to the vet more often. Put it on a regular check-up schedule. When people get into their fifties, they go to the doctor regularly just to ward off problems - do the same for your cat.
2) Talk to your vet about nutrition. An elderly cat will need more vitamins and may need a special diet to stay healthy. The regular cat food may not cut it anymore. Switching to wet chow can often be a good idea, as it is a source of water and more nutrients in many cases.
3) Play with your older cat to keep it active. They will get less interested in play as they get older, and it may take longer to get them moving around and chasing toys, but they will still do it. You want to do this because it is the tendency of older cats to sleep more - meaning they will gain weight and be less healthy overall.
4) Make sure your cat has a warm, soft place to sleep. Cold and hard surfaces can be painful to them, especially if they used to sleep on the floor. If you don't let your cat sleep on your bed, get it a cat bed to sleep on or put something soft together out of old sheets.
What effects does old age have on cats?
Pretty much the same effects that it has on humans. They will be less active and suffer from diseases more easily. Their bodies will start to slow down. They may move more slowly, suffer from arthritis, and have trouble jumping up as high. The cat may become senile or forgetful, just like people do. Some cats have a tendency to get lost in old age. Cats will tend to vocalize more as they get older, meowing at you more frequently and socializing with you more. Their personality may gradually change, just like people - some cats become grumpy as they get older, while on the other hand I've had a cat who was a complete jerk in youth become very nice in old age - he went from fighting with other cats all the time and leaping out of bushes to attack people to wanting attention and becoming friends with a little kitten that would pounce on him all the time.
Some cats will get these problems as they age, and some will live out healthy lives with very few of them. It is impossible to tell, but if you care for your cat well it will increase the chances that your cat will be with you for a very long while.
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