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:
Last week I wrote about loss of hearing and deafness in dogs. This week, we’ll explore the same afflictions in cats.
I have two cats. My husband and I adopted these sisters more than a decade ago. Always curious, they have brought us great joy. This summer they will be 13 years old and have slowed down since becoming seniors. I once had a cat who lived to be almost 19; in fact, cats 20 years and older are not uncommon. However, with age, just as with humans and canines, come health issues. One of those concerns is loss of hearing, even deafness.
Feline Hearing Loss
According to VetWest.com, an Australian veterinary clinic, hearing loss in older cats occurs “as a result of damage to the ear system and nerves. Normally sound waves vibrate the ear drum between the outer and middle ear. The tiny bones in the middle ear transfer the vibrations into nerve impulses within the inner ear. When any portion of this system is damaged hearing will be affected.”
According to veterinarians at Cornell University, there are a variety of reasons for loss of hearing in cats, in additional to aging. Those include: tumors, polyps, and other growths in the ear canal; hypothyroidism; medications, including antibiotics; infestations of yeast, bacteria, and ear mites; and household chemicals that are ingested or somehow seep into the ear. Additionally, hearing loss and deafness is hereditary, especially in white cats with blue eyes. In fact, researchers believe 65 to 85 percent of all-white cats with two blue eyes are born deaf, or at least become totally deaf as young kittens, and white cats with one blue eye generally have a 40 percent chance of being deaf.
How You and Your Cat Can Cope
As a cat owner, there are some things you can do to help both you and your cat adjust to hearing loss and deafness.
Learn more about deaf cats and how to help and communicate with them at these websites:
Living with a deaf or hard of hearing cat presents challenges, but nothing that a loving pet parent can’t handle. With plenty of patience and positive resources, including tips from your veterinarian, you and your feline friend can enjoy many happy years together.
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/.
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.