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Optimizing Your Senior Cat's Health and Well-Being

Lesson 2 of The Golden Years: Care of Your Senior Cat

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Although cats are subject to many of the age-related diseases and conditions which afflict humans, they can't tell us what hurts, so it is up to us to be aware of the possibilities and to monitor their health constantly. In addition, there are many precautions we can take with younger cats to forestall problems as they age.

With careful management in partnership with your veterinarian, you can help your cat enjoy his golden years to the maximum.

Age-Related Conditions in Cats

In cats, just as in humans, body parts start to wear out after a certain age. Arthritis rears its ugly head; eyes may not see quite as well, hearing deteriorates, and teeth that have not been properly cared for begin to deteriorate, causing painful mouth conditions.

Some of these conditions can be forestalled, through diet and diligent maintenance, and others can be helped through veterinary intervention.

Osteoarthritis

Senior cats that exhibit the symptoms of aching joints may be afflicted with Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease. Excess weight may be a contributing factor, and weight control (including exercise) is an important part of any treatment program for Osteoarthritis.

Safe Weight Management

This article is a review from Lesson 1, since weight control plays a part in both overall health, and in relief from arthritis. If you feel comfortable with what you learned, you can skip it. Otherwise, read it again.

As cats age and become more sedentary, they often tend to gain weight if continued on their normal diet. Although this normally happens between the ages of six and eight, sometimes older cats become obese. Even younger cats, if allowed to eat excess amounts of high-calorie foods, may gain weight excessively.

Excess weight can be contributary to a number of conditions, including not only arthritis, but also diabetes and heart disease.

Dental Care for Senior Cats

It is never too late to start a dental care program for your cat. Your first step should be a complete oral examination by your veterinarian. Older cats are susceptible not only to tooth loss, but also to painful oral lesions. Once the immediate problems are resolved, a commitment to dental care will protect those valuable teeth for life.

Other Dental Resources:


Hearing Loss

Cats can compensate for early degrees of hearing loss, so sometimes their human companions are unaware of the problem until complete deafness occurs. While hearing loss in senior cats may be irreversible, there are ways you can make life easier and less stressful for them in a silent world.

Reduced Vision and Blindness

Seeing a treasured cat go blind, either gradually or suddenly, can be a devastating experience, because we tend to equate vision loss in cats with human blindness. We need to remember, though, that cats are terrifically resilient. Cats don't need seeing eye dogs to find their way around, nor do they need to learn braile in order to communicate.

Try not to despair if your cat should lose his vision, but learn the things you can do to help him find his way around and lead a normal life.

Assignment and Preview of Lesson 3

Your assignment today is, if your cat is 10 or older, to make an appointment for a checkup if it's been more than six months since his last vet appointment. Otherwise, practice your observation skills; watch for symptoms, and start that dental program if you've neglected it in the past.

In Lesson 3, we'll talk about some more serious diseases that target senior cats. In the meantime, don't forget to take your questions to the Cats Forum, and have a great day with your cat!

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