Dear Mom and Dad,
Thanks for throwing me an amazing cat-ceñara party. I may have turned up my nose at the fish-flavored cake and pouted about having to wear a dress, but secretly I had a great time celebrating my 15th birthday. I hate to admit it, but I am no spring chicken—rather, cat—anymore. Technically, I was a senior catizen when I turned 10, and some have considered me geriatric—the nerve of them—since I was 14, but I had been feeling pretty spry until recently. I know you love me dearly, and I love you too, so I thought I would offer some advice on helping your heart-cat—yup, that’s me—age gracefully.
Take me to the vet twice a year
I don’t want to make you feel bad, but since I became a senior catizen, I should have been visiting my friends at Homestead Animal Hospital twice a year for a wellness exam. They are really good at detecting age-related dental, joint, eye, ear, skin, and nutrition problems, and are always full of good advice about my care. Plus, I still need my vaccinations and parasite preventives and, of course, my snuggles from the whole veterinary team. During these visits my veterinarians will check me over from whiskers to tail, and do some bloodwork to ensure my insides are working right. I know I may seem fine to you, but sometimes this exam and testing can reveal hidden problems. For example, my friend Sylvester was feeling purrfectly normal, but during his senior wellness visit, his veterinarian discovered an overactive thyroid and early kidney disease. Now he is on thyroid medication and a special delicious kidney-support food, and his veterinarians and owners know to pay special attention to his kidneys and thyroid going forward.
Ease my aching bones
Sadly, my days of streaking through the house like a fuzzy blur in the wee hours of the morning are behind me. The older I get, the more stiff, sore, and creaky I become. Climbing up the stairs to get to my litter box is becoming more and more difficult, so if you could have one on every floor of the house, that would be great. Oh, and could you get one that has really low sides for easy climbing in and out, and big enough for me to use comfortably, without having to scrunch up?
Also, I know you want to keep my dumb doggie brother out of my food and water, but having to jump up on the laundry room counter to eat or drink is getting really painful. Maybe you can put my dishes on each floor of the house where I can get to them more easily, but he can’t? I would love a ramp or steps up to my favorite perching places, and a soft bed up there where I can lie, and continue to keep an eye on my kingdom. The view from the floor is pretty boring, but climbing the cat tree or jumping to the windowsill isn’t worth the pain some days.
With love and head-boops,
Francesca has already offered some good senior pet care tips for her needs, but keep these ideas in mind as well for senior or geriatric pets who say “woof” or “meow:”
- Shed some light on the subject — Aging pets benefit from nightlights placed at strategic locations, such as the food and water dish, stairs, or the litter box. This allows pets with poor eyesight to still find what they need, and to stay safe.
- Nurture with good nutrition — Select a food specifically designed to meet the unique needs of senior or geriatric pets. Ensure they are eating the correct amount so they do not gain weight and exacerbate orthopedic, breathing, or organ issues. Also ensure they do not not undereat, which can contribute to loss of muscle mass and body condition.
- Become a creature of habit — Many older pets thrive on routine, especially as their sight, hearing, and cognitive function decline. Try to keep the furniture arranged the same way and stick to a daily routine for walks, potty breaks, playtime, and mealtimes.
- Use assistive devices — Arthritic pets may benefit from traction enhancers such as toe grips or yoga mats on slippery floors. A harness may help a large dog rise from sitting or lying down, and joint supplements, pain medications, or alternative medicine techniques may greatly improve your pet’s comfort level.
- Don’t succumb to puppy- or kitten-fever — You may be tempted to get a puppy or kitten to spice up an older pet’s life, but many elderly pets do not enjoy a youngster suddenly wanting to play with them or bugging them all the time. Also, a large, exuberant puppy can injure a frail, older pet. If you decide to add a furry family member, consider a middle-aged pet, or ensure that your aging pet has safe places to escape from the new puppy or kitten.
After reading her letter, Francesca’s owners called Homestead Animal Hospital to set up a senior wellness visit, and ordered some larger, low-sided litter boxes as her belated birthday presents. Your pet may not write you a letter, but you should heed these suggestions. Contact our veterinary team to take advantage of our wealth of knowledge, so your senior or geriatric pet can live their best life for as long as possible.