When I turned 10, I wrote to you about my people taking me to Cat Hospital for a lot of poking and prodding, and you were gracious enough to answer my question. I’m happy to report that the regular checkups have helped me stay healthy ever since. Now that I’m 12, though, I have a little trouble going up and down stairs, getting into my litter box and jumping onto my favorite window sill. What’s going on?
– Healthy Senior
Of course! I remember you and your question like it was yesterday. How delightful to hear from you again!
It was in the January/February 2013 issue of this fine newsletter that I answered your question and explained how twice-yearly visits to your veterinarian are recommended for senior cats, because once we reach 10, we age more quickly than we do during our first decade. Mind you, it’s not like we turn 10 and suddenly develop problems; it’s just that as the years add up, we become more prone to developing age-related issues. So your veterinarian needs to keep a closer eye on you now to identify and treat them.
I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well—and I can assure your concerns are purr-fectly normal for cats your age. Fortunately, there are some simple things your humans can do to make it a little easier for you to get around and feel comfortable—and continue looking like your fabulous self, just like moi—as you during your golden years. (And great timing for your latest question! Did you know September is Senior Cat Care Month!?)
||Fragrant food. Many older cats start to lose their sense of taste, which can cause us to lose weight when we age. But we like being able to smell our food, so humans can help by feeding us highly aromatic dishes or even warming up the food before we eat. Also, several small meals a day instead of one large one can make it easier for us to digest our food.
||Avoid obesity. At the same time, humans shouldn’t overfeed us. We need to maintain a proper weight because obesity can lead to numerous health problems, such as diabetes, liver disease and even cancer, and can make it that much more difficult for us to get around. Your pet parents can discuss with your veterinarian your dietary needs and the right amount of food you need to maintain the purr-fect weight for you. Make sure they don’t give you any supplements without talking to your veterinarian first!
||Sharp mind, sharp body. Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we don’t like toys anymore. Senior-appropriate toys, brain teasers, food puzzles and other activities can help keep our minds sharp—and provide all-important physical activity to keep us fit and lean. Your veterinarian can talk to your pet parents about what type of play is appropriate for you as well as a play schedule that is safe. In some cases, short, low-intensity play sessions conducted at frequent intervals may be in your best interest. Pro tip for your humans: Tell them to change up your toys every couple of weeks so you don’t get bored with them!
||Step it up. We might not be able to leap up to our usual sleeping spots or window ledges like we used to, but it’s important for our mental outlook to have those perches so we can comfortably sleep and easily check out our surroundings. Humans can lend a hand by providing steps or ramps near our favorite spots around the home. They’re easy to find at pet stores and online.
||Chow down, chow up. For cats who live in homes with stairs, pet parents can make our lives a little easier by setting out food and water dishes on each level. Providing litter boxes on each floor, too, can save us some tough trips up and down.
||Lower sides. When it comes to litter boxes, it can be much easier for us to get into and out of litter boxes that have at least one low side.
||Warm regards. Heated beds and mats, which also are widely available at pet stores and online, can really make our old bones feel better—especially for those of us with arthritis.
Speaking of arthritis, it’s a very common condition among older cats but it can be difficult to detect based on a cat’s behavior—another reason those regular exams I mentioned are so important. Why can it be difficult to detect? Because arthritic cats rarely limp, and it may seem like they’re able to use the litter box or navigate stairs normally. (Cats are masters at hiding pain and discomfort!) So veterinarians often diagnose arthritis during physical examinations—sometimes to the utter surprise of the owners—by identifying thickened joints or reduced range of motion in the joints. Veterinarians are very smart that way, you know. The good news is that there are many things that can help cats with arthritis, including traditional medications and various alternative or Eastern treatments, such as acupuncture.
Finally, be sure to show your humans this Senior Care Program article in Cat Hospital’s online library for more info about what your veterinarians will do during your senior-care visits!
For now, stay healthy, stay happy and keep on movin’!
Email your questions to Ask Boo.
Cat Care Tips
Check that Chip!
Bogie, a cat missing for 19 months. Slate, missing for five years. Charlie, missing for five years. What do these cats have in common? They all were reunited with their owners because they were microchipped!
Unfortunately, accidents happen—doors can be inadvertently left unlatched, window screens can fall out, and scared cats can dart out of an open door or a carrier. When a beloved feline disappears, having her microchipped greatly increase the chances that you’ll get her back.
But a microchip only works if its registration information is accurate. If you already have your felines microchipped, now is a good time to be sure the microchip company has your current contact info. Contrary to popular belief, microchips do not include your contact info—just an ID number that the microchip company can look up in its database, and that’s where your contact information is stored. So be sure your microchip company has your current contact information as well as current contact information for someone close to you.
If you don't know who your microchip provider is, have your veterinarian scan the chip. The chip number should indicate which provider it’s from.
Microchips have proven themselves time and time again to be a great way for lost pets to be reunited with their families. See Treats & Tidbits Spring 2006 and Fall 2007 for more information about microchips and updating your microchip registration information.
Fascinating Feline Fact
Have you ever noticed your cat giving you slow, languid blinks? That gesture is a sign of affection, like a cat kiss.
In the feline world, closing one’s eyes in the presence of another is the ultimate sign of trust. In the wild, where cats battle for territory, blinking signals that there’s no threat and no need for fighting. When other cats are around, slow blinking lets them know that everything is OK.
So the next time you notice your kitty gazing at you, try slowly closing and opening your eyes at your cat. Chances are your cat will return the cat-kiss eye blink!
Fall Feline Safety
Colorful leaves, taffy apples, carved pumpkins and more. Fall and all of its delights, including Halloween and Thanksgiving, are right around the corner.
While the season can be quite enjoyable for people, it harbors hazards for our feline fiends. To keep your kitties safe, sound and happy during the cool weather, trick-or-treating and Thanksgiving feasts, check out the autumn and Halloween safety tips in the September/October 2012 edition of Treats & Tidbits, and the Thanksgiving safety tips in the Fall 2011 edition.
We are delighted to welcome two additions to the Cat Hospital team: Molly Cockett, client service coordinator, and Shanta Baker, hospital manager. Please give them a warm welcome the next time you’re in!