If your cat is greater than 8 years old, he/she is technically a senior pet. But my feline patients routinely live to be in their upper teens and my oldest cat patient is 21 years old! Investing in your cat’s health pays great dividends. Here are my top 5 things you can do to help your senior cat stay healthy and live longer.
- Preventive Veterinary Care and Regular check-ups . It may sound trite coming from a veterinarian, but the value of regular exams cannot be overemphasized. A veterinarian needs to see your cat when things are normal to establish a baseline as she grows older and becomes more likely to have health problem. The vet will examine parts of your cat you would not think to check. Clients tell me all the time that they “never noticed that”. Seeing the vet is not just for vaccines anymore. Examination and diagnostic testing are ammunition in the battle against poor health!
- Nutrition – I don’t shop for pet food by reading labels anymore and I don’t recommend it to my clients. I pick brands that have actual live people willing to talk to me about their products. I find veterinarians (like veterinary nutritionists) who have more knowledge on the subject than I do and I ask them and read their publications. You will always what you pay for (as in everything) but take the time to ask a professional so that you are aware what you are getting and what you are paying for. Truly high quality diets will never be cheap, but a high price tag alone does not insure quality. Remember, national ad campaigns cost big bucks and the cost of the product will reflect it. You might prefer to spend your money on quality ingredients instead.
- Exercise is critical to keep things moving well and pumping well. You cannot plop your cat on a treadmill and most cats do not walk on leashes, but you can find creative ways to get him moving. Although physical exercise is a part of the healthy formula, it is not the only part. Your cat’s mind must be kept active. Find activities that are new and different. Devise games that make him think and move. Puzzle toys are great at stimulating the mind and rewarding thought and exercise. Your cat’s body follows the “use it or lose it” theory just like yours. Use his muscles and use his mind to help him stay sharp and fit.
- Avoid Obesity- Being overweight takes a toll on your pet’s joints and longevity. Think of your cat’s weight as balancing act between input and output. When she takes in more, she has to burn off more. Do you know how much she really needs? The easiest way is ask your veterinarian to enter your cat’s details into a computer program designed to calculate for you what her calorie guidelines would be. This is the easiest way for me also. I use my Calorie Guide program for my own pets regularly. However, should your vet not have a program like this one, together you can figure out a range that can at least guide you, so certainly ask. Trust me, I know how hard it is to diet a cat that can rouse you from a deep sleep at midnight, but it is worth your time.
- Dental health – Now we are starting to realize the importance of good dental health to the senior pet. Cats are skillful at hiding dental pain and they are predisposed to some very painful dental lesions. Not only is dental disease painful, but chronic infection and immune stimulation are bad for your cat’s health. As cats age, they often need a good dental hygiene program, including at –home tooth care and regular professional dental cleanings. Cleanings should always be performed under general anesthesia overseen by a licensed veterinarian. Anesthesia should always be preceded by blood screenings and such tests (done as pre-dental screens) have revealed many disease processes in the earliest stage while we can still impact the progression.
These 5 things are important to keeping your senior cat healthy and happy for as long as you can. Your cat is a terrific friend and companion. Doesn’t he deserve to have his best possible golden years?
About The Author: Dr. Kathryn Primm is a practicing small animal veterinarian and practice owner at Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, TN. She has consulted on articles for national magazines, done numerous radio interviews and appeared on local television. She has contributed to articles for Prevention magazine (April 2015) and Woman’s Day (Feb 2014 and June 2015). Her radio segment Chattanooga Pet Talk airs each week on all the local iHeart Media affiliates.
She has a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and enjoys interaction with others about her passions, animals and communication. She has written a book, Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People. The book received recognition as Runner Up in the Memoirs category at a national book festival. You can read more about Dr. Primm and how to get the best value for your pet care dollar at her website, www.drprimm.com.