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Feeding Your Senior Cat

Expert answers to common questions about aging felines.



Q: Because my cat is now a senior citizen, does she need to go to the vet more often?

A: I’m really into twice a year wellness visits. There’s a compelling reason to see pets more often. They age much faster than humans, they can’t tell you where it hurts, and they hide illness. There’s a period of grace for many illnesses. If you catch it early on, it’s usually less expensive, and treatment is much more successful. We do these routine tests -- blood tests or urinalysis -- where we can pick up the very earliest signs of kidney problems, diabetes, hyperthyroid in its early stages, or an elevated white blood cell count. 

If you notice your pet’s appetite has changed, if you notice its bathroom habits have changed, vocalizations have changed, his activity level has changed, something’s probably wrong. They don’t fake it like we do for sympathy.


Q: Should I change my cat’s diet as he ages?

A: Definitely encourage them to drink more water. To do that, if you’ve been on dry food, you may have to go to canned or semi-moist food. The American Association of Feline Practitioners actually recommends feeding cats wet food throughout their lives now.

You also might need to change their diet if they’re overweight to get them closer to their ideal body weight. And they might need special diets to treat specific health conditions, too. They might need a kidney diet or a liver diet or something like that.


Q: Do elderly pets still require yearly vaccinations?

A: You have to look at risk factors, including environmental risk. Indoor, older cats with a normal immune system probably don't need vaccines. They definitely don’t need them every year, and maybe not at all. But if their immune system is compromised, they may need vaccinations.


Q: Can cats get Alzheimer’s disease?

A: They can suffer from other disorders of the brain. And they get cognitive impairment. But there’s no one disease that causes this in all affected cats.


Q: What are some things I can do to make it easier for my cat as he gets older?

A: They need help reaching their favorite spots. So give them ramps or steps so they can get to the window to bird watch. Give them softer bedding. Heat their food up to release the aromas. And, cat fountains really help encourage cats to drink, which can be a major problem with older cats.

Other things people are using more are these pheromone treatments like Feliway, a synthetic version of the feline cheek pheromone. As pets get older, they get more anxious. You can spritz it around their bedding and stuff. It’s like giving them two glasses of wine after coming home from work. It really relaxes them.

Reviewed on June 19, 2009
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