Just as with humans, cats often lose the ability to hear as they age. This often goes unnoticed by owners, who might chalk their cat’s lack of response to typical feline aloofness. Without keen hearing and vision, however, an older cat is more vulnerable to threats from cars and dogs on the street. It is best to keep an older cat indoors. If she loves the fresh air, make sure you supervise her in a protected area.
Even the most easygoing cat can become a finicky eater in her later years. As an older cat’s senses of smell and taste begin to diminish, she becomes less interested in her food. Adding moist food and warming her meals will amplify the scent and make it more tantalizing. Moist food will increase the amount of water in your cat’s diet.
It is important to keep fresh water available for your older cat, and to monitor her drinking habits. Her natural thirst drive can fade with age, causing her to become dangerously dehydrated rather quickly. Take note of about how much water your cat drinks each day. If the amount suddenly drops, and you know she is not getting water from any other source, contact your veterinarian.
Remember that there have been huge advances in medical care for cats in recent years. Online shopping for cat medication has become popular, but remember that there is no substitute for regular check-ups with your veterinarian.
Common problems owners see their geriatric cats develop include difficulties swallowing due to decreased saliva production, less tolerance to extreme heat and/or cold, gum disease and tooth loss, a change in litter habits, and not sleeping well.
Recent studies have uncovered a problem with potassium balance in many older cats. Poor coat condition, loss of appetite and lethargy have been linked to a mild form of hypokalemia, or low blood potassium. Low blood potassium damages the cat’s kidneys, which, in an older cat, are already weakening. This leads to a vicious cycle because declining kidney function increases the loss of potassium in the blood, which in turn causes further deterioration of the kidneys.
Arthritis and stiffness is fairly common in older cats. Because it becomes more difficult to move, a geriatric cat spends more time sleeping. If her diet stays the same, she’ll begin to pack on the pounds. The extra weight adds to her discomfort, making her more inclined not to move. Without exercise her muscles will weaken. It is important to encourage an older cat into some activity every day. Physical movement will help with digestion and bowel function, as well as keep her sharp mentally.
An older cat spends less time grooming herself than in her youth. As a result, her hair becomes dry and painfully matted. Regular grooming from her owner is required to keep her coat healthy and beautiful. Daily brushing removes loose hair that can form uncomfortable hairballs in her stomach.