3 Ways To Improve Your Aging Cat's Quality Of Life

If you are the owner of a senior cat, you may have noticed certain changes in your feline friend's behavior or health. As a cat ages, it may become more difficult to use the litter box or climb stairs, and a decreased appetite may be a sign as well. As a concerned pet owner, you can help your aging cat have a better quality of life by following a few guidelines. Bringing your cat to the veterinarian or animal hospital for a wellness examination every six months is one thing you can do, and there are several other measures that may help your senior cat through the aging process. Here are golden rules to follow when caring for an elderly feline:

1. Schedule Routine Wellness Examinations at the Animal Hospital or Vet's Office

Your elderly cat's immune system may not be as strong as it was in its younger years. This could make an aging cat more prone to developing medical conditions such as feline diabetes or kidney problems. The right way to ensure the best health for your senior cat is to have the vet perform a wellness examination on a semi-annual basis.

Older cats are often more affected by stress, so keep your feline friend calm by securing him or her in a cat carrier during transport to the veterinarian. Cover the carrier with a lightweight cloth so your cat doesn't become startled by strange sights. For a less stressful visit, you might want to ask for an early morning appointment when the office or clinic is generally more quiet and not as busy.

During the wellness exam (which may be done at a private vet's office or at a larger animal hospital) you can expect screenings to be performed to detect medical conditions that elderly cats are more prone to. Among other things, your vet may perform an electrocardiogram to check for heart-related issues, blood test and urinalysis, as well as a thyroid screening. If a disease is noted, your veterinarian may subscribe medications to control the condition or another course of therapy. In addition, the vet may recommend a healthy diet suitable for an aging cat.

You can also help your veterinarian by doing your part in between routine exams. As a general rule, you might want to keep a pet journal at home. Basically, this will allow you to document changes in your cat's health or behavior. Bring this journal with you on your next trip to the vet so he or she may help hone in on specific issues that have arisen since the last exam.

2. Make Kitty More Comfortable

As your cat ages, you might want to make a few changes to its environment or offer a few accommodations to meet its needs. For instance, if your cat has difficulty climbing in and out of a typical litter box, you might want to use one that has low sides. Also, consider buying a ramp or climbing steps that makes it easier for the cat to climb onto furniture or the bed, if you allow it to do so.

If your senior cat has mobility issues or arthritis, place feeding dishes and water bowls in a easily accessible spot such as downstairs to avoid unnecessary climbing. You might want to use raised dishes that may eliminate the strain of scrunching down. To help ease the discomfort of arthritic joints in an older cat, provide a cozy cat bed placed in a draft-free location. Look for a bed made with therapeutic memory foam that may reduce stress on your cat's joints.

3. Assist Your Cat With Grooming

An aging cat might be less apt to groom itself regularly as it becomes less agile or flexible, and this is where you can help. Through gentle daily brushing, you may help dislodge clumps of fur that your cat might otherwise ingest, thus reducing the risk of hairballs. Regular grooming is especially important for a long-haired cat. During daily grooming, don't forget to gently wipe the area around your cat's eyes or nose if you notice discharge. To do so, use a cotton ball dampened in warm water.

If your elderly cat shows signs of distress, such as crying out in its sleep or refusing to eat or drink, don't wait until the next scheduled exam to consult the vet. Most animal hospitals offer emergency hours for such cases. Ensuring a good quality of life for your aging cat also means seeking urgent care as needed.