Listed are the primary centers to be observant about for changes in feline wellness:
- Appetite, Gums and Tooth Decay
- Deafness and Ear Infections
- Fur Irregularities and Skin Disorders
- Blindness and Eye Infections
- Urinary Problems, Kidney and Wetting Disorders
- Lack of Movement and Reduced Flexibility in the Back Hip and Legs
- Blood Sugar Disease - Diabetes
Appetite, Gums and Tooth Decay
This is a sore subject. For sure the best thing is to brush them, starting from early kitty care so they get used to it, but truth is I always thought baby cat breath was fresh and sweet smelling and I was resisting making my cats uncomfortable in any way. And it is a time-consuming little chore.
But teeth do require attention or they will go south same as in people. For home care use a thin washcloth or a baby size soft toothbrush, but do not use toothpaste! Rub or brush very gently so as not to injure the gums, and you will have to be patient as this is not a natural grooming procedure for your young kitty.
Your local pet clinic will be happy to schedule for regular cleanings and there they can also take away the plaque build-up which, if not removed, eventually will lead to sore and loose teeth as your cats gets older.
Dirty teeth with tartar on them will make the teeth tender, is a site for infections, and can produce red and bleeding gums, even before the actual tooth falls out. If your Senior cat is already there you must give it only soft and mushy food, stay away from dry kibbles as it only will increase thirst, and also change to only soft toys.
Deafness and Ear Infections
Signs that your senior cat may have become hard of hearing are when it does not turn its head when you come into a room or does not come when called. Your cat may not arrive as punctually when the food is dished out, with its inevitable sounds of cans being opened or dry pebbles hitting the bowl.
Nothing can really be done for this medically, but you can help out by being careful not to touch it without showing yourself first, and also make a special effort to go and pet it often during the day for assurance and to give some stimuli, remember that Seniors world is now comparatively dull without one of his senses.
Use caution, and at best supervision, for outside visits as there are dangers in the form of cars, other animals and even people and the early warning signal, hearing, is now on low.
Your cats ear is a prime area for disease, open to the world, but also warm and further inside disease can take root (otitis). Without seeing any outer changes to the ear such as brown film or discharge, you may notice behavioral changes like repeated scratching and licking of ears or not wanting to eat.
This is the time for a professional visit for a proper diagnosis and medicine. I have noticed that sometimes inner ear infections result in a less sure-footed cat with balance problems. This is when the distance from one place to another seems to be misjudged, or walking on a narrow ledge becomes swaying.
Fur Irregularities and Skin Disorders
I personally do not believe in special shine shampoos as they have chemicals and perfumes that may irritate the skin further and I prefer not to bathe my older cats that often. Look at a dull fur or skin with sores as a symptom, a signal for help sent out by the body, and as always see an expert if there is no improvement.
Older felines are not as good cleaning themselves as when they were younger, it takes a lot of energy and effort, so help your aging cat out by doing a daily comb-through. This will be a bonding experience for your cat and you can also check for pests and fleas, sores or dry skin, visit the ears, eyes teeth and toes to make sure all is well at the same time.
As a home remedy you can put a dab of olive oil in your hands and then apply it lightly to the fur. I have also found some of my old ones like to lick a little butter from my fingers every now and then, in moderation of course, and that may also help to give some moisture and lubrication back to their skin and fur.
Blindness and Eye Infections
A signal that Senior cannot see as well as it used to is if it acts startled by things or when you notice simply that it responds more to your voice and touch than the sight of you. If so, try to make your older friend as comfortable as possible by installing night lights, by not moving the furniture around or redecorating just now, and again, go to visit often and reassure with some soft talk and a petting. Again, be watchful if you decide to let your cat go outside with this impaired vision.
It could be a milky white spot in the eye, called cataracts, which does lower the ability to see clearly and can lead to blindness.
Sometimes the eyes are drippy and have clear or yellow discharge coming out of them. Some types (breeds) of cats are more prone to this than others, and you can do a lot by washing it away (always downward stroke) with a lukewarm cloth. There are also both store-bought or prescription creams you can apply according to the directions on the package.
Both with the running eyes and the onset of limited vision, if you can make a visit to a vet this is recommended, to determine if there is an illness and what treatment is possible.
Urinary Problems, Kidney and Wetting Disorders
Your older cat needs a change in the type of food you give it. Kittens need high protein, but aging seniors require a lower protein diet, preferably canned, as it is wetter and has a higher water content. There are many different brands to pick from all specially designed for older cats. Felines in the wild get much of their water in their kills, blood contains a lot of water, and dry kibbles actually make your cat even thirstier.
Often early signs of aging go along with a lowered kidney function. The kidneys job is to eliminate toxins from the blood and to get rid of them in the urine. An older kidney that cannot perform as well compensates by making more urine. If your cat then drinks more to get back some liquid this is all OK.
The problem is that with every urination there is also a loss of potassium. The kidney needs potassium to do its job, and when all the potassium is peed away the kidney does not work as well. So the body tries to get rid of the bad things in the blood by producing even more urine. Which lowers the potassium levels even further. A really twisted cycle as you can see. Ask your vet if you should give potassium as pills or powder sprinkled into the food.
This condition of lowered kidney function, and probably lowered potassium, makes your cat thirsty to drink more water, and it may also not always go to the litter in time when it needs to. This is called incontinence, and older humans also suffer from this, but we can and do wear plastic diapers specially designed for grownups. Now Senior Kitty has no such option and may not even realize that it wets outside the kitty litter or in bed.
So please be kind and understanding and refrain from punishment, this is not a sudden rebellious habit or a cry for attention, nor pure senility, but an actual physical function that your older cat cannot correct even if it knew it was wetting in all the wrong places.
Lack of Movement and Reduced Flexibility in the Back Hip and Legs
The older cat may not be as limber as it used to be or have a touch of arthritis. Senior may hesitate before jumping up onto the counter, or you may observe it following a butterfly with its eyes but make no effort to go after it. If you notice hesitation or difficulty getting up and down from its favorite chair or sleeping place, there are step stools or ramps that can be made or bought. Try pulling a lower stool closer to the windowsill, for example, if that is where your cat is used to sitting in the sun.
Sometimes a cat will altogether change out their favorite places as they now have different needs for comfort, support, or even temperature. Certainly the very small places that required kitty to coil up tightly are not a favorite anymore and you can experiment with beanbags or larger sleeping pads as well as kitty litter boxes that have lower sides and no flap doors.
The supplement Glucosamine and or Chondroitin works well to minimize the arthritis pains, so ask your pet clinic if this is an option.
Blood Sugar Disease; Diabetes
This is a complex disorder and for a medial explanation read about human diabetes as the function is the same for cats. Indications are a constant need to urinate, thirst, generalized weakness, and if left untreated your cat can go into a coma. I know that the symptoms are similar to a bunch of other diseases, so again, best to take kitty in for blood tests and let the veterinarian give recommendations. Often insulin will be helpful.
I have been repeating this, probably under every heading, but your vet or pet clinic are the experts here and your cat deserves a visit even if only to be told that there is no disease and only old age.
What you can do, though, is to show consideration and understanding with a good dose of love, and be observant of any changes that may be seniors only way to tell you it is hurting. And plan daily grooming sessions to help with hygiene and also to check everything out. Your cat already loves and depends on you, and private time cannot be beat.
Catmans blog is full of pointers and health advise collected from his long experience with his feline friends. Take a peek at How to Live with Older Cats in http://livingwitholdercats.blogspot.com