How to keep your cat’s golden years golden
Q: At what age is a cat classified as a senior?
A: Keeping in mind that every cat is an individual, the “senior” status in cats has been described as cats 11-14 years of age (American Association of Feline Practitioners and American Animal Hospital Association in their Feline Life Stage Guidelines).
Cats aged 7-10 are called “mature” and those 14 and older, “geriatric.”
Since aging changes are frequently a progressive continuum, many veterinarians group all three together and call them “senior.”
Senior at Seven is an easily remembered phrase.
Q: What vaccinations, examinations, or procedures are necessary for older cats?
A: As health conditions can change rapidly in older cats, a thorough physical examination is best performed on all “healthy” senior cats twice yearly. That exam also should also include oral health and mobility assessments.
We will make preventive health recommendations according to a cat’s lifestyle and health status. Our recommendations may include:
- Twice yearly thorough physical exam, including oral health and mobility assessments.
- Intestinal parasite screening, at least once a year.
- Vaccines tailored to your pet’s lifestyle, health & environment. Decisions regarding which vaccinations are appropriate are dependent on a cat’s risk factors, including disease prevalence and indoor/outdoor status.
- Comprehensive parasite preventive (internal and external).
- Blood pressure screening and Senior laboratory assessment.
- Senior cat nutrition.
The senior wellness profile in our practice is consistent with the published AAFP-AAHA guidelines and includes a the following tests as a baseline:
- Complete blood cell count
- Chemistry profile
- Thyroid test
- Blood pressure
Establishing a baseline for a healthy senior kitty allows us to follow trends throughout their golden years. Other procedures may be indicated depending on the findings of the examination.
Q: How can owners be on the lookout for signs of common conditions in senior cats?
A: Knowing what a cat’s normal behavior has been and then reporting to us any changes in that behavior is crucial. Behavior patterns like appetite, elimination, activity and sleep patterns are the keys to early identification of underlying problem.
Besides the common conditions associated with aging cats, such as chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, periodontal and other oral disease, we are now recognizing much more arthritis in cats than ever before.
Q: How can veterinarians communicate to clients the importance of preventive care?
A: The adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure” is far better for your cat, your peace of mind, and even your wallet. We’d like to assist you in preventing parasites like roundworms, fleas, and heartworms in your cat; common infectious diseases like upper respiratory infection and feline leukemia virus; as well as other conditions like painful dental disease, arthritis, and diabetes.