What To Expect With An Aging Cat
Recognizing changes in your cat's weight and activity level that may help diagnose painful arthritis.
"What? Huh? Who goes there?!"
Oh, I'm sorry about that. I was just taking a nice long nap to recharge my batteries a bit. The name is Simon, and I'm a 10 year old Siamese cat with, from what I am told, stunning blue eyes. It seems like I've been napping a lot more than usual lately, but I suppose I just need to let these weary bones rest. In fact, I've noticed in the past few months I've had a few changes, but I guess these are just signs of me getting a little older, and wiser too! To help all of my other older cat friends, I'm happy to describe some of these changes so you can be a well informed human for your own senior cat.
What Is Senior For Cats?
Although I certainly look like a young cat, and have the ability to live well into my 20s, technically I was considered a senior cat once I turned 7. Although this may seem incredibly young to some, this is about the point when I started to notice some small changes in my day to day activity and lifestyle. Once I turned 7, my human also started addressing some of these issues with my veterinarian so they could monitor these changes together and make sure they were not a sign of something more serious. Most of these changes were related to my behavior, so it is important to keep a close eye on your senior cat.
Limited Activity And Movement
As much as I hate to admit it, in the past few years I have slowed down quite a bit from the young whipper snapper I once was. Although I can still certainly move quickly when I need to, I just don't find myself zooming around as much anymore. I'm a little bit less interested in playing with toys, and although I love sitting at the top of my cat tree, it just seems like so much work to climb up to top, especially knowing that I'll have to jump back down again. I'd much rather take a relaxing nap in my comfortable cat bed these days.
My human has made some modifications around the house to help me. First, I got a nice upgrade to my litter box and now have a really big space to move and turn around. Plus, I have some small steps to help me get onto the couch so I can still sit next to my human and snuggle, on my own terms of course. And the best part is my food bowls are raised now so that I don't have to bend over as much every time I eat. I know these modifications might seem small, but they have made the world of difference for me, and have really helped soothe my aching bones.
Alright, I admit it. I have seen a change in my weight. I may be a little thicker around the middle compared to when I was a young cat. But, my human assures me that this is completely normal. Part of my weight change has been because I am less active. I don't burn as many calories throughout the day and so I don't need to take in as many calories. My human switched my food to a delicious senior cat food intended for old guys like me. It tastes great, and gives me some extra nutrients and minerals that can help me manage conditions related to my age a little better too.
I hear that some older cats will actually lose weight. I think this is probably connected with a reduced activity level too, although it could also be something more serious. The less cats jump, climb, and play, the less muscle mass they will have on their bodies. Older cats that lose weight usually show it the most on their back end, above their hind legs. Although cat weight gain or cat weight loss is common in older cats, it is something both me and my human watch closely to make sure it isn't a sign of something else.
Unfortunately, one of the more common issues that impacts senior cats is arthritis. This may be a reason for my weight gain and my reluctance to jump and move around the house like I used to. It's just that jumping and playing makes my joints hurt so badly that it isn't worth it anymore. My veterinarian said that arthritis could be the culprit and is common as cats get older.
You see, arthritis is a disease where the joints are inflamed. In a young, healthy cat there is a cartilage layer that helps protect the joints, allowing them to move smoothly. Cartilage is found in my elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles. Over time though, this layer of cartilage breaks down, and my body has a hard time rebuilding this material. As a result, it becomes painful for me to absorb the impact when I jump, making me less inclined to do so. And, I hear that without intervention, this disease is only going to get worse as I become older. That is why my human is taking steps to help protect me now in order to keep me comfortable. And let's face it, what cat doesn't like comfort?
How To Help
Although there isn't a cure for my arthritis, there are ways that my human helps me. First, my human gives me supplements that help to ease the pain in my joints. I swallow a special pill that my human calls glucosamine. It also contains chondroitin which can help the glucosamine work a little better. I understand too that if I'm having difficulty taking pills by mouth my veterinarian can also inject this supplement in one simple and small pinch. It seems worth it in order to feel better.
My human also keeps a close eye on my weight. If I am a little heavier than I should be this can put a great deal of extra stress on my already aching joints. My limited activity makes it hard to burn unnecessary calories, so now more than ever I should be an ideal weight. While switching food certainly helped, she also makes sure that my food contains plenty of fatty acids that can help lubricate sore joints. These fatty acids are in the form of omega-3s which are perfect for an adult cat like myself.
My human says I am a master at many things. I'm a master hunter, a master at sneaking up on my toys, and a master sleeper. Unfortunately, myself and other cats included are also masters at hiding our pain. I think this goes back to an evolutionary advantage, but nonetheless, I don't really show it when I'm hurting. That is why it is so important for my human to pick up on subtle changes with my mood and behavior which could indicate that something bigger is wrong. In fact, many veterinarians refer to arthritis as the silent epidemic in senior cats because we are so good at suffering in silence. In studies performed on older cats, it was estimated that as many as 90% of seniors have some form of arthritis.
If you suspect that your feline companion may be suffering due to a change in activity be sure to get him or her to the veterinarian. Arthritis can be diagnosed in older cats with a quick examination and diagnostic tests to examine the joints. Help your cat not suffer in silence and help get him or her the supplements, diet change, and environment modifications to allow him to live pain free. Being an older cat doesn't have to be difficult as long as your human is prepared for the changes us seniors experience.