Pets are a long-term commitment. Many dog and cat breeds can live well into their teens, and sometimes even their twenties. Some varieties of birds can even reach ages of 50, 60, and beyond. One of the challenges of caring for an aging pet is not always being able to ascertain what your pet is feeling. This is especially true of cats who often keep to themselves regardless of their age. If you're not vigilant, by the time you realize your elderly cat is having problems, she may need pet meds to maintain her health and comfort. With a little knowledge of a few things to look for, you can keep your cat healthy, comfortable, and happy throughout her life.
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CataractsCats may not seem to get cataracts as often as dogs do, but it does happen. This can be especially difficult for a cat to deal with as they are nocturnal and rely heavily on their superior night vision. The main symptom to look for is a clouding of your cat's eyes. Cataracts may also appear as a bluish area on the surface of your cat's eyeball. If you observe this bluish clouding, take your cat to the vet. Depending on the severity of the cataracts, your vet may be able to perform surgery to restore your cat's vision. Be aware that this surgery can be expensive. If you elect not to have the surgery done, you'll need to make some accommodations at home for your cat.
Because she won't be able to see very well at night when she's most active, it's a good idea to put everything she needs in one area—her bed, litter box, food and water, scratching post, toys, etc. The less she has to try to find these things, the less stressful the loss of vision will be for her. Also be sure to give her lots of attention and affection. Imagine how frightening it would be to lose your vision. It's even more so for your cat because you can't explain to her what's happening.
ArthritisOne sure sign of arthritis in cats is reduced litter box usage. This happens because climbing in and out of the box becomes painful. If your elderly cat suddenly stops using his litter box, don't assume he's acting out, and definitely don't punish him. He needs a trip to the vet to diagnosis arthritis, or rule it out if there's some other condition causing the lapse. Talk to your vet about how you can make the litter box more accessible to your cat, and ease his difficulties.
If it turns out your cat does have arthritis, you can make his home life a little more comfortable. If he likes to sleep on your bed with you, consider getting a set of pet steps or a ramp that will allow him to more easily access the bed without having to jump. This is even more important for getting down off the bed, as jumping down and landing on the floor can be especially painful for an arthritic cat. You may want to also put a ramp near your cat's favorite window so he can still enjoy looking outside and watching any small animals that may frequent your yard. Putting a bird feeder near the window can create a lot of entertainment for your cat, so he can avoid moving around too much and have the activity come to him.
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Dental DiseaseOlder cats are much more prone to dental disease, which can cause inflammation of the gums, which in turn causes pain, which makes it difficult for your cat to eat. She may even begin to lose her teeth if the dental disease is not addressed early enough. If you don't catch the dental issues in time, and your cat begins losing her teeth, you may have to change her food, especially if you feed her dry, crunchy food. Without all her teeth, it will become difficult—and painful—for her to break up and chew hard food. Consider switching her over to canned food, which will be much easier on her sensitive gums. Remember that switching any pet's food must be a gradual process, not only to get them used to the new food, but to help them avoid gastrointestinal distress, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Begin by adding a little canned food to the dry, creating 25/75 combination. Do that for about a week, then increase the amount of canned food for a 50/50 combination. Maintain this for about two weeks, then go 75/25, with the majority being canned food. After about another week, you should be able to feed canned food only. During this process, watch your cat's reactions to the new food, and if she seems to be slower to accept it, give her more time. Forcing the process may frustrate her to the point where she won't eat at all, which will only weaken her, and can cause other illnesses and distress. Be patient, and let her behavior guide you as you make the switch.
As your cat ages, try to have more patience with him, and let him know she's loved. Aging can be a difficult and depressing process as your cat becomes more and more unable to do the things he once loved. He's given you many years of love and enjoyment. You owe it to him to make his last years as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
Jackie Roberts is a writer for 1-800-PetMeds, and loves to help and support the pet community. You can find Pet Meds on Twitter or connect with Pet Meds on Facebook.