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The special needs of older cats

When your cat gets older, they often need adapted food and help in the home to have a dignified life as they navigate their senior years. With your help and love, you can help your cat as it ages!

With age, cat's intestinal function deteriorates, which means they don't absorb all the nutrients in the food. The sense of taste and smell also becomes worse, which can lead to the cat eating less.

Agria's veterinarian Lotta Möller says:

"The cat should eat easily digestible and varied food, otherwise it may suffer from constipation. There are special foods to buy that are adapted for older cats."

Older cats need lots of water

Older cats tend not to feel too thirsty, so don't drink as much, which can cause dehydration. It's important to ensure that your cat gets plenty of water.

"One way to get the cat extra liquid is to give canned food that contains more water than dry food does. The cat must also always have access to clean and fresh drinking water," Lotta Möller continues.

By making drinking a more stimulating activity, we can get our cats to drink more. Have several water bowls/water sources for your cat. Preferably do not place the water bowls next to the food bowls as most cats like to eat and drink in different places if given the choice.

There are great water fountains that you can use, cats usually enjoy drinking more when the water is moving. Set them out a drinking glass, water carafe, deep water bowl and a shallow water bowl.

Use your imagination to make drinking more fun and enticing. Try putting a light ping-pong ball in the water that moves when the cat drinks. This can provide stimulation and encourage the cat to drink more.

Claws and carpets

As cats get older, they usually don't climb trees as much or scratch their scratching board. This means their claws don't wear as much, and it becomes more difficult for them to retract their claws. They can get stuck in the carpet, which is troublesome for the cat.

It may look like the cat's claws are not only getting longer but also getting thicker, but this is often due to the fact that the older cat no longer removes the outermost layer of the claw that is being used. It is important to check your cat's claws regularly and help to cut or actually tender/peel away the outermost layer of the claw if you see that it can be loosened.

Common diseases for older cats

Many diseases are more common in older cats than in younger ones, some examples are high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and kidney failure. Lotta says:

"Kidney problems are especially common in older cats. This is noticeable by the cat peeing more, starting to smell from the mouth, eating less and losing weight."

Here you can read more about the 10 most common diseases in older cats.

Outside might not be as fun, but older cats still need some stimulation

As cats age they lose flexibility, get weaker muscles, and potentially osteoarthritis. So they become less active and often choose to stay indoors. Lotta Möller points out that it's still important to stimulate older cats to keep them mobile.

Örjan Hemmingsson, owner of the cat Isse who turned 21, noticed how the cat changed:

"In the last few years he didn't want to go outside, he was almost completely deaf and got scared because he didn't hear if another cat ran up behind him."

Helping your senior cat at home

Örjan continues:

"Isse couldn't bear to jump up on the beds anymore and couldn't sit on the parquet floor, because then the paws would slide apart."

Older cats may need help jumping into their favourite chair, you could place a pillow or a stool as steps. Older cats may also need a ramp up to the litter box, as just stepping over a high edge can cause pain or difficulty and may cause them to toilet elsewhere.

"Most cats want a safe and quiet place in the home where they can sleep. It becomes even more important when the cat gets old because then it sleeps more," explains Lotta.

Quality of life

It is natural that your cat's needs will change as they get older, it's important to reflect on how your cat is doing. If your cat's life is very limited, it may not be a dignified life either.

"It is difficult to make the decision to let your cat fall asleep. Isse didn't have any diseases, he just got old. But when the cat no longer has any quality of life, you have to think about whether it is for your own sake or for the sake of the cat that you let it live," concludes Örjan.

How old is your cat?

An estimate has been made of how cats age compared to humans. See below table:

Cat's age:

Corresponding human age:

1

15

2

24

3

28

4

32

5

36

6

40

7

44

8

48

9

52

10

56

11

60

12

64

13

68

14

72

15

76

16

80

17

84

18

88

19

92

20

96

21

100

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