Caring for Older Cats

A cat that is more than 10 years old should be thoroughly examined by your vet twice a year. With advanced age, the risk of developing disease is increases. Elderly cats often become thinner, which can be a sign of a medical problem such as an overactive thyroid gland. It can also result from the decline of kidney or liver function. The cat will lose weight despite eating more than normal, and diarrhea is also common. Removing the thyroid gland should solve the problem. Since the gut of an older cat is less effecient in absorbing nutrients, veterinary experts now believe that reducing the levels of protein and phosphorus makes digestion easier. If no medical cause can be found for your cat's weight loss, he may simply be eating less because its sense of smell and taste has become worse, leading to a poor appetite. You may be able to encourage a relucatant cat to eat by warming his food to blood temearature (about 100°F, 35°C). Feeding small, frequent meals is better than giving one or two large meals. With some cats, you may need to switch from dry to canned food, because canned food has much more taste and smell than dry food. Canned food will also provide the older cat with more water, an essential part of his diet that often gets ignored by the aging cat.

Constipation is another typical problem in elderly cats. Treat acute cases with feline stool softener. An older cat may find it harder to control its urine and bowel movements, or be too stiff or tired to go outside. If you keep your cat indoors, provide a litter box in an easily accessible area, especially in winter. As the cat's metabolism is slowing down, you may need to cut back on the total calories fed to avoid obesity. The best way to do this is to gradually switch your plump cat over to a lower-calorie senior food.

When a cat's coat becomes matted and filthy, he can easily become irritable and withdrawn. Kepp your mature cat's coat clean and free of disease. Because your elderly cat may be getting less exercise and grooming himself less frequently, his nails may become overgrown, but hyperthyroidism sometimes causes nail growth, so have your vet examine him. Either clip your cat's nails yourself or take him to the vet for regular clipping.

If you notice signs of unprovoked aggression in your cat, it may indicate that he is loosing some hearing. The deaf or hard-of-hearing cat is startled when you approach or pet him, because he didn't hear you coming, and he reacts defensively. Clap your hands or stamp on the floor to alert your cat to your presence (cats with hearing loss can still sense vibration).



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Diet for Cats with Constipation

Before you start to feed your cat a home-prepared diet, it is strongly recommended that you discuss your decision with your veterinarian. Failure to do this may result in serious health consequences for your cat.

  • 5 ounces salmon, canned with bone (low-salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or salt substitute
  • 100 mg taurine
  • 1/4 teaspoon of olive oil or flax seed oil

This diet provides 284 kcal, 30.2 g of protein, and 10.4 g of fat. Feed this recipe to a cat who weighs 11 pounds.

Variations:

  1. Substitute 4 to 8 ounces of tuna or 1/2 pound of chicken, beef, or lamb for the salmon.
  2. For extra nutrition and fiber, add fresh, raw, or slightly cooked steamed vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli. Pumpkin or squash can be fed to add extra fiber as well. Most cats will not eat vegetables, however.



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