A number of factors contribute to a cat’s health and longevity, including its genes, environment and the care it receives. While genetics are predetermined before birth, there is still a great deal that can be done to ensure that a cat has a long and happy life.
While one year in a dog’s life is said to be the equivalent of seven years in a human’s life, the formula is different with cats. The average cat lives to be 16-18 years of age, which is the equivalent of a 75-85 year old human. The lifespan of cats is longer than ever before, which may can be attributed to any number of factors including better diet, more frequent medical care and living in a safer environment.
Any given grocery or pet store has dozens of varieties of cat food, so selecting the right brand can be difficult. An older cat needs a food that is made of high-quality ingredients and contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. While high-quality foods may be more expensive, their ingredients provide better nutrition, which can extend the health and longevity of a cat.
Elderly cats may develop dental problems, so it is important to select a brand that is easy for a cat to consume. Canned foods are high in moisture, which can reduce the prevalence of hairballs and digestive problems, and the soft consistency makes it easy for an older cat to eat. Warmed canned food will also help to increase the aroma of food, which can make it more appealing to a picky eater.
On the other hand, dry cat food also has its benefits, particularly because its texture helps to safely decrease the amount of plaque on a cat’s teeth. A diet that consists mainly of dry food, which is generally not as fattening, will also help reduce a cat’s chances of becoming obese. If a cat is lacking a certain nutrient, such as fiber or protein, there are specific types of food that can be chosen. Veterinarians will be able to make dietary recommendations as necessary.
Obesity in older cats can have a big impact on quality of life, along with duration of life. Even a small weight gain can put undue stress on a cat’s body. Organs and bones naturally become weaker as a cat ages and extra weight can increase the pressure put on an already fragile body.
In addition to choosing the right food, exercise will also help reduce a cat’s chances of become obese. Cats can be sedentary in nature, and even more so as they age, but continuing to evoke its playful side will help promote an active lifestyle. If a cat no longer shows interest in playing with its toys, consider investing in new items that may pique its curiosity. Cat towers are another viable option, as they are not only a place to climb and scratch, they also provide additional spots for an older cat to curl up and sleep.
While kittens and adult cats have an active and playful side, they also spend a great deal of time resting. The amount of time a cat spends sleeping generally increases with age, so it is important to ensure that an elderly cat has comfortable spots in which to do so. A cat bed, a comfortable chair or a soft blanket are some examples of places a cat may enjoy sleeping. Having several choices available will help provide an elderly cat with the comfort and rest it needs to have occasional bursts of energy and activity.
As is the case with humans, aging can sometimes be a painful process, as arthritis and sore muscles can make simple activities difficult. If an older cat spends much of its time in an inactive state, it may be due to the discomfort it experiences while up and moving. To promote good health in an aging cat, it is important to keep food and water in an easily accessible location. Older cats are at a greater risk of dehydration and malnutrition, so keeping multiple bowls of food and water around the home will provide a cat with additional opportunities to eat and drink. An arthritic cat that has to jump or bend in an uncomfortable position may not be getting proper nutrition.
Due to decreased mobility, an older cat may lose its ability to properly groom itself. In this case, it is important to regularly brush its coat and bathe the cat as needed to promote cleanliness. A litter box with high edges may not be easily accessible to a cat with stiff joints, which may cause it to go to the bathroom in inappropriate places, so a litter box with easy entry and exit may be necessary.
Elderly cats are at a greater risk of developing serious health problems, as their older and weaker bodies make them more susceptible to diseases such as cancer, diabetes and kidney failure. Veterinary care will help determine the best course of action. Providing an elderly cat with tender care and a comfortable place to live will help it enjoy the remainder of its life.
Article by Jean Anne Booth
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