Cats: Velvet paws have these needs in old age

Cats age slowly: Many animals gradually become calmer and no longer romp so wildly. “They also sleep more,” says Lea Schmitz from the German Animal Welfare Association in Bonn. Cats often live to be around 15 years old, sometimes they can even reach an age of 20 years. A cat is considered a senior from the age of about ten to twelve years.

Agility can decrease in older cats. For example, many animals no longer jump as high as they used to. “Sometimes the animals no longer clean themselves all over,” says Schmitz. This is shown by the fact that hard-to-reach areas become matted easily – for example the fur at the base of the tail. “Hearing often also decreases, the eyes become duller and vision deteriorates.”

Senior cats: Being overweight puts a strain on the joints

It is also typical that senior cats have less muscle mass and therefore build up more fat tissue. Owners should therefore adapt the food to their pet’s needs: being overweight puts a strain on the animals and can lead to a cat developing problems with its musculoskeletal system. It can also shorten life expectancy. Schmitz advises choosing high-quality, balanced and easily digestible feed. A vet who specializes in nutrition can also help.

Much like humans, cats are more likely to develop certain diseases as they get older. Schmitz therefore recommends taking animals from the age of about eleven years to the veterinarian for a check-up at least once a year, better even twice.

Recognize diseases – before symptoms appear

“Ideally, a complete blood count is then taken, the urine is examined and, if necessary, the blood pressure is also measured,” says Lea Schmitz. This allows some diseases to be detected before symptoms appear. Owners should also discuss the vaccination intervals for old animals with their veterinarian.

Schmitz also advises checking the cat’s weight once a week. Owners should also pay attention to whether their cat is suddenly drinking or urinating much more than usual. Owners should also keep an eye on increased vomiting, breathing difficulties, changes in behavior and the nature of the faeces. “If there are deviations here, you should contact the veterinarian.”

Typical diseases that occur in cats as they age and for which early detection is important are, for example, kidney diseases, dental problems, tumors, heart diseases, diseases of the joints, the genital organs and the thyroid gland or metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

Flattened ears or dull fur are indications of pain

“Unfortunately, it often happens that owners only realize late that their animal is in pain,” says Svenja Joswig, who works as a veterinarian in Gifhorn and specializes in geriatric medicine for pets. When in pain, cats often flatten their ears, have a dull coat and hold their heads low. “They often squint their eyes and have narrowed or greatly dilated pupils,” says Joswig. “Many cats also jump less, for example on the scratching post, the window sill or the sofa.”

A crouched posture can also indicate that a cat is unwell. Owners should also be alert if their pet is in an unfamiliar position. “Cats like to lie on the side that hurts,” says the vet. Even an unusually aggressive cat may be in pain. Some animals then become restless, others tremble or withdraw.

“Fortunately, we have many options available to get the pain under control,” says the veterinarian. The treating veterinarian or, if necessary, a pain specialist should always decide which treatment makes sense.

Raised feeding area and night light for senior cats

How the environment is designed also has a major impact on a senior cat’s quality of life. “If a cat has problems with its joints, you should choose a litter box that has a low entry,” advises Joswig. If the dog is in pain, it can also make sense to offer food and water at an elevated feeding place.

Older animals in particular should also have a quiet, soft and warm place to sleep and retreat to. “For some cats, it is also helpful for orientation if a small night light is on in the room,” says the veterinarian. In addition, everyday noises can give some cats a lot of security as they get older. “That’s why I sometimes advise leaving a radio on at night.”

Cats can also get dementia

For many cats, being outside is part of the quality of life. But similar to humans, the animals can become demented in old age and then have difficulties finding their way around and finding their way back home. “It’s always a question of whether to let the animals outside or keep them indoors,” says Joswig.

In many cases it can help to reduce the radius: if you have a garden, you can fence it in so that the animal cannot leave it if possible. If a cat escapes and gets lost despite all precautionary measures, a chipped and registered animal can be quickly assigned to its owners if found.

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