Aging and the Older Cat
There is no specific age at which a cat becomes a senior. It has been generally accepted that cats enter their “senior” years at 8 years of age. A convenient way to view older cats is to classify them as “middle aged” at 8-10 years of age, “senior” at 11-14 years of age, and “geriatric” for those cats 15 years and older. With advancements in nutrition and medicine, it is much more common to see cats living into their early twenties.
Changes that occur in the aging cat
Change is inevitable with advancing age. Many of these changes cause no physical problem while others can reduce the quality and longevity of a cat’s life.
Some of the more common changes include:
-Decreased skin elasticity -Brittle Nails
-Reduced stress tolerance -Altered social standing in a group
-Altered sleep/wake cycle -Decreased Hearing
-Pigment changes in the iris of the eye -Lenticular Sclerosis
-Decreased sense of smell -Decreased fat digestion/absorbtion
-Decreased lung reserve -Constipation
-Cognitive decline (senility) -Chronic renal disease
-Hyperthyroidism -Inflammatory Bowel Disease
-Dental/Periodontal Disease -Neoplasia
Healthcare for the Older Cat
Starting at 8 years of age, it is recommended that the older cats receive a wellness examination twice a year to identify which, if any of these changes listed above are occurring and establish a treatment plan to treat and manage the problem(s) that are present. At the time of these examinations, a complete blood panel and/or urinalysis should be performed at least annually and more often if we are monitoring a particular condition such as kidney disease or hyperthyroidism. It must be understood that when we are managing these conditions, we are unable to “cure” the condition (i.e. arthritis), rather we work to “manage” the condition to improve the quality and longevity of an older cat’s life.