Aging cats have the same problems as aging humans. Joints start hurting, almost everything leads to weight gain and risk of illness increases. Although your fluffy friend may slow down a bit, getting her regular checkups at the vet and feeding her a premium diet can keep her healthy.
In the early 1990s, cats were only living to be about 4 to 6 years old, explains Dr. Dawn Ruben, a research and teaching veterinarian with Johns Hopkins University. As of 2012, cats live much longer, although living conditions play a big role. When kept indoors, your purring pal can live up to 18 years or possibly longer. However, outdoor kitties have a much shorter life expectancy of four or five years. Outdoor felines are more likely to get sick, become injured from fights with other animals and suffer trauma from getting hit by a car.
One common aging problem among felines is joint pain and arthritis. Degenerative joint issues develop over time and might make it difficult for your lovable companion to move around. Getting in and out of the litter box suddenly becomes more difficult, but you can help her out by getting her a pan with low sides or cutting an inlet into one of the sides. If you have stairs in your home, put a litter box on each floor, as well as food and water dishes. This gives her access to what she needs so she doesn't have to struggle up and down the stairs.
Obesity in felines is common as they grow older. Carrying around extra weight adds even more stress to your cat's joints and also increases her risk of chronic diseases. Your furry companion may be consuming more calories than she needs, since she isn't quite as active as she used to be. Your veterinarian will probably put her on a weight-control or senior diet to keep her weight in check. Follow the feeding instructions on the bag carefully. Even a low-calorie food can lead to weight gain if you overfeed her.
Kitties of any age can develop diabetes, but it is most common among cats over 6 years old, reports the Winn Feline Foundation. Diabetes in felines is similar to diabetes in humans. Your cuddly companion may not have enough insulin in her body; or the insulin she does have may not be working properly. The result is higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, which can be fatal if left untreated. Increased appetite followed by weight loss, increased urination and constant drinking may be early warning signs of diabetes. Your vet needs to run several tests to diagnose diabetes, but if your kitty does have a positive diagnosis, you can manage her disease at home. She'll most likely need insulin injections to keep her blood sugar under control.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.