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Cats can live into their late teens and sometimes even early 20s, but you may notice some changes in yours
as he ages.
play less and be less willing to climb or jump. Part of that could be because of
arthritic changes. Make sure he doesn't have to jump or climb to get to his
litterbox or food and water bowls. Also, consider getting a
litterbox with lower sides and placing one on each floor of your house. You can also provide steps and ramps to make it easier for him to access favorite perches. Encourage him to
exercise with moderate play, which can benefit his muscle tone, flexibility, circulation and weight.
Because of arthritis,
obesity or other health conditions, older
cats may groom less or be less effective when grooming. That can sometimes result in matted fur or increased odor. Claws may become more thick or brittle. These changes mean you may need to
groom your cat, including brushing fur and
cutting nails, more often as he ages.
Some cats may wander aimlessly around the house, meowing excessively and sometimes acting as though they are disoriented. This could be age-related
cognitive dysfunction or it could be caused by other physical changes that your veterinarian can diagnose and possibly treat. Any marked change in
behavior, including increased sleeping (or increased activity), less family interaction or hiding and
loss of litterbox training calls for a veterinary examination.
Older cats can be more stressed by
boarding or traveling. If you must travel, consider asking someone to stay in your home and care for your cat or check in on him at least once a day.
Older cats may have some hearing loss. If your cat seems to be ignoring you or fails to notice when you enter the room, try talking more loudly and in a lower voice. Older cats may also have some vision loss. A slight
haziness to the lens is usually normal in older cats, but a solid white appearance may indicate a cataract. Several diseases, including those associated with
high blood pressure, can result in retinal detachment and blindness. If you suspect that your cat has lost some of his hearing or sight, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Sense of smell may also diminish with age, which can in turn cause a decreased
appetite. This can be serious in a very old cat, especially one that tends to be underweight. These cats may need a higher calorie
diet with good quality protein, and they may need to be encouraged to eat. If your older
cat is not eating as much as usual, it's important to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. She can determine if there's an underlying medical problem and recommend the right treatment or diet.
Often, a loss of appetite in an older cat may be the result of painful dental disease. Ask your veterinarian to examine your cat's mouth. It's possible that a
dental cleaning and treatment of painful teeth can help improve your cat's appetite. If your cat is missing a lot of teeth, consider feeding softer foods.
Older cats can be prone to
kidney disease, which can lead to dehydration. If your cat is
drinking and urinating more, see your veterinarian. In addition, you may need to place additional water bowls around the house and talk to your veterinarian about feeding your cat
Older cats are subject to other diseases like
high blood pressure,
diabetes mellitus and
inflammatory bowel disease. Your senior cat should have a veterinary check-up at least twice a year, and blood work is a necessity. Talk to your vet about your senior cat's individual needs.
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