Each stage of your cat’s life brings with it unique joys and challenges, particularly as they reach their senior years. Their behavioural and physical changes from the age of 10 onwards means you may have to change their environment, exercise and diet to support them in the latter part of their life.
Cats tend to live for 15 years on average, but it’s not uncommon for a cat to live to 20 years old – the equivalent of a 96-year-old human. Usually from around 11 years of age, you’ll start to notice external signs of ageing in your cat, and their nutritional requirements will also change.
Your ageing cat’s environment
As your cat ages, their joints can start to wear down and they may begin to suffer from arthritis. They may become less mobile, unsteady on their feet, or struggle to get up and down from their favourite spots.
You can care for your ageing cat by providing ramps or stairs to high places they like to perch on, and making their bedding particularly comfortable so they are able to rest easily. A litter box with shallower sides can be helpful for older cats to reduce the strain of getting in and out.
Making their food, litter box and fresh water easily accessible – for example, by having these on each floor of your home – can also decrease any strains and stresses on their system. You should also avoid changing any aspects of their routine as this can aggravate any cognitive difficulties they might be having.
Exercising and grooming your ageing cat
Painful or sensitive joints can cause your cat to move less and be less willing to come when you call them. If they are in pain, they may also react badly to being picked up, and older cats often suffer with cognitive impairments which can cause them to behave unsociably.
However, exercising your ageing cat is important to maintain a healthy weight. Encouraging them to play gently during the day with their favourite toy can be an easy way to exercise them, and can help them establish a better sleep cycle by tiring them out in the day.
Decreased flexibility can mean older cats are less able to groom themselves properly, so it’s important you regularly brush them to remove dead hairs and keep their skin healthy.
Your ageing cat and their diet
Your cat’s sense of taste and smell decreases with age, which can result in reduced appetite. If they’re suffering with dental problems that make it uncomfortable to eat, this can eventually lead to weight loss. To prevent this, highly palatable and soft-textured foods are a good choice for ageing cats as they are easier and more enjoyable for them to eat.
Specific nutrients should be part of your older cat’s diet to alleviate any symptoms of ageing and slow the onset of age-related diseases:
- Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and EPA/DHA, together with green-lipped mussel extract, help to increase mobility in ageing cats and promote healthy joint function
- Antioxidants to support antioxidant capacity
- Reduced levels of phosphorus to support kidney health and function
- Highly digestible protein to support digestion in mature cats. Beet pulp for a beneficial prebiotic effect, and EPA/DHA to help maintain digestive health
Visiting the vet with your ageing cat
After your cat is 10 years old, it’s best to visit your vet every six months; this way, any potential illnesses can be spotted quickly. If you notice your cat has increased thirst or urination, problems related to their digestion, significant mobility issues, behavioural changes or any lumps on their body, make sure to visit your vet straight away as these can be indicators of underlying diseases.
By following these simple tips, you’ll be able to support your cat as it approaches its later years. If you’re in any doubt, consult your vet who will be happy to give you all the help you need.