On the Chart: Healthy Older Cats
One year in a cat’s life is roughly equivalent to seven human years. When your cat reaches age 9, your vet should request a senior wellness exam. You can’t stop your dear cats from growing older, of course, but there are adjustments that can really help support your aging kitty.
Certain foods, supplements or exercises may be prescribed to keep your cats healthy as they age. An older cat should be examined every 6 months, even if they are apparently healthy. Some diseases are entirely curable, so it’s best to know about a health issue before it becomes a problem. A senior wellness exam when cats are 9 provides baselines to evaluate their overall health.
Generally, tests include a complete blood count and chemistry panel, checking their electrolytes and for diabetes, and evaluating renal, liver and thyroid function. A urine sample is valuable in assessing how body systems are working. Vets once believed that animals couldn’t have primary hypertension — occurrences were considered secondary to an “other” disease. Now we understand that animals can have hypertension (high blood pressure), which can be very subtle and cause an animal to feel generally unwell. A blood pressure test is simple, inexpensive and very valuable. We like to check blood pressure to make sure imbalances are not present that could cause a pet to go blind, damage their kidneys or heart, or cause perpetual headache.
Be aware of changes in your kitty. Cats tend to hide arthritis very well. He may still do the things he used to do, but may think about them more. For instance, when jumping, your cat may pause longer to calculate the distance. Some cats follow the wall more when walking, or simply become less active in general. If a kitty is arthritic, she may have a poor hair coat because it hurts to groom or she can’t reach spots she could previously.
Some cats will vocalize more at night. They may have hearing or vision loss that may not be apparent until you rearrange the furniture and discover him bumping into a chair. If you notice your cat isn’t using her basement litter box, consider adding litter boxes on every floor.
Monitor water consumption and urine output. If your cat hides under the bed all day because a strange dog came to visit, their renal function may be compromised beyond what they can compensate for. Older cats may not use a litter box if the edges are too high and it hurts to jump into it. Get a lower box or cut a hole in one so they can comfortably walk into it. Also, a professional might be able to advise certain massages or manipulations to do at home, almost like physical therapy.
Dr. Janelle Walker is a general practice veterinarian at Best Friends Veterinary Medical Center at 123 SW Hamilton Street in Portland, OR. Learn more about Dr. Walker and Best Friends by calling 503-892-6387 or visiting www.bestfriendsveterinarymedicalcenter.com.
Vanessa Salvia lives with her two kids, one very sweet, fluffy cat (named Fluffy), and a husband (also very sweet), in Eugene, Oregon. When not clickety-clacking on a computer, you can find her browsing the farmers markets or feeding ducks from her patio. A freelance writer for more than 10 years, Vanessa has written extensively about music and entertainment in the Northwest. As mom, wife and companion to countless animals over the years, she has vacuumed more than her share of pet fur.