Last week, my two cats turned 13. They are not teenagers, they are seniors. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that cats were considered seniors at eight years of age, according to an article from Cornell University’s Veterinary College. Thanks to improvements in nutrition and veterinary medicine and other steps to keep cats healthy, today’s felines are considered seniors in the 12 to 14-year arena; so, my girls are right there.
These two sister cats, Murphy and Bailey, came into our lives when they were about 10 weeks old. Their mother was a stray found on my friends’ ranch; she was very pregnant when my friend Judy found her and, after setting a live trap, brought her into the house; a few days later, six kittens were born. The tortoiseshell, Bailey, and her long-haired black and white sister, Murphy, came to live with us while most of their siblings stayed at the ranch (someone else took the Persian-looking kitten).
These two cats have brought us great joy. Murphy is super-affectionate and loves our dogs. Bailey was very independent for most of her life, staking claim to closets and the basement as her places of privacy. However, at about 10 years of age, she began to seek more attention and affection from people, including those of us who feed her and clean her litter box. She is tolerant of the dogs, but never has been a true canine fan.
Now that they are older, we’ve noticed how they have slowed down. Arthritis has set in Bailey’s back and hind legs and she is pre-diabetic. Murphy has stomach issues now and then and therefore is given a kitty version of Pepto Bismol every few weeks.
I once had a cat who lived to be almost 19 – she was considered geriatric. Her later-year issues included kidney failure. However, there is a plethora of senior cat medical issues one must be alert for, including:
Additionally, there are practical things we can do to help our aging cats. Those include:
Just as people have a more difficult time as they age, so do our pets, including cats. Although felines seem to tolerate a great deal of pain, don’t stress them out by ignoring their difficulties and health issues. One of the greatest gifts we can give our aging kitties is the love and attention they desire in their golden years.
Learn more about helping your senior or geriatric cat one these websites:
In just a few short weeks, my two cats, Murphy and Bailey, will turn 12 years of age. They are sisters, even though they look nothing alike. My husband and I adopted them when they were about 10 weeks old, being born of a feral mother who allowed herself to be taken into a friend’s home a few days prior to giving birth; it was like Mamma knew she needed to be somewhere safe to protect her newborns. Everyone received a new home, and on August 1, our two girls will become even more “senior” at the ripe age of 12.
Prior to Murphy and Bailey coming into our lives, my husband and I had a long-haired orange and white cat which I brought into our marriage. This cat, Ama, was also a rescued kitty; I adopted her from the Bozeman (Montana) Humane Society in 1990, and she lived until she was more than 18 years of age.
Cats often live to middle-to-late teens, and even some to age 20 and beyond. In fact, the oldest cat known is Crème Puff, who lived to be more than 38 years of age. Senior cats require extra-care. For example, they often can’t groom themselves as well as when they were younger, especially the long-haired variety. Experts recommend frequently brushing your older cat. Thankfully, my girls were brushed while they were very young, and therefore, they are used to it and they enjoy it. In fact, they know the word “brush,” and come running when I call their names and add the word “brush.”
Other care one needs to take with senior cats include:
Diseases common to senior kitties include renal failure, diabetes, cancer, and overactive thyroid. Many pet experts recommend twice-yearly visits to the vet since cats are good at hiding pain and can’t tell you if they’re feeling sick or where it hurts.
Caring for a senior cat can take extra time in your day, extra expense in your budget, and extra love and compassion. But, your feline friend deserves all the “extras” you provide, for s/he has provided you the companionship and devotion you longed for, whether you’ve had your cat from kittenhood, as my two girls, or adopted at an older age, as was my Ama. Each cat has blessed my life, and I’m thankful to have enjoyed so many years with each of them!
For more information on caring for senior cats, visit this website: https://www.petfinder.com/cats/cat-care/senior-cat/.
Many people experience arthritis as they age. Pets may as well. My husband and I recently learned our 11-year-old cat Bailey has severe arthritis in her hips and spine. We were shocked. She showed no signs of distress. We had taken her to the vet concerned about possible diabetes due to weight gain and other issues. Her blood work came back normal so the vet did X-rays, which revealed something we weren’t expecting: osteoarthritis. Bailey is now on a regiment of specialty food with fish oil and glucosamine and injections of Adequan, which helps the joint fluid slow the damage and maintain the cartilage she possesses.
Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage within the joint is worn away. This leads to inflammation, pain, and decreased quality of life. How do pets become arthritic? Some believe genetics. Bailey comes from feral parents, so we know nothing about them. Injury or trauma can lead to the degenerative disease and obesity can contribute to worsening the condition. Reduced mobility and activity as well as reduced frequency in grooming are some of the signs of arthritis. Additionally, occasional lameness or stiffness of gait may be noticed in a cat or dog experiencing the condition.
Arthritis in dogs is more well-known and studied. Until recently, the condition in cats was not commonly diagnosed or treated. Cats tend to hide signs of pain, and therefore, like us, many kitty caregivers don’t recognize or consider this disease in their furry friends. X-rays, like those provided by our vet, helps diagnose arthritis in a cat or dog, but in particular with a cat that tolerates a great deal of pain, like Bailey.
According to the website CatsWithArthritis.com, three in ten cats suffer from arthritis and only seven percent are treated for the condition. Older cats are more prone to the disease. Some studies show as many as 90% of cats 12 and older have arthritis.
Although one may be tempted to give over the counter anti-inflammatory medication to pets, DON’T! especially to cats: aspirin and acetaminophen can be deadly. Your vet can prescribe the right type of drugs to help your kitty. If you have a dog with arthritis, before giving it any human medication, consult your vet as to what dogs can tolerate without causing major harm or death.
There are many great websites about arthritis in pets, including the following:
However, the best advice on diagnosis and treatment will come from your veterinarian. Radiographs are becoming more common as a baseline health exam for pets. Now that I’m the owner of three senior pets, I recognize the advantage of doing such work, as well as blood tests, when my animals are younger. This recent diagnosis for Bailey came as a great shock, and though my husband and I are taking positive steps to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible, I wish we’d known this was coming by having the x-rays done a few years ago. Most animals are considered seniors when they’re 10; we would have been wise to have done x-rays before that age. We have Bailey’s sister, too; we recently had radiographs done on her, and learned she, too, has arthritis, just not as badly. As a precaution, Murphy will also be fed the same prescription food and receive the injections.
Education is key to helping our furry companions; sadly, sometimes that edification comes with unexpected news.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.