Elderly cats are often excellent companions, although they may be less sprightly and playful than they were in their younger days. Older cats do need special care, however, if they are to enjoy their twilight years, and are likely to develop certain health and dental problems. But the two of you will have been through a lot together, and you owe it to your elderly cat to look after it. You will need to watch over it just as carefully as you did in its kittenhood.
An older cat needs a lot more sleep than he did when he was young and frisky. The best thing you can do is to provide a warm, comfortable bed (or armchair) and leave him to it.
It’s not uncommon for an elderly cat to develop problems with its teeth – just like human beings – such as loose teeth, gum damage and inflammation of the tooth sockets. If you’ve looked after your cat’s dental health when it was young, however, this is a lot less likely. It’s a particularly good idea to clean an elderly cat’s teeth once or twice a week, though if you didn’t start this habit when your cat was younger, it may find it difficult in its old age to develop any tolerance of this particular indignity.
As cats get older, they change physically: their strength and stamina diminishes, their appetite often alters and they may lose a lot of weight. They tend to slow down, to become stiffer and less mobile, to be less tolerant of the cold and to sleep a lot more. A lot of the problems that a cat may suffer from as they grow older, such as a failing liver or kidneys, are difficult to diagnose in the absence of specific symptoms, so it’s a good idea to arrange regular check-ups with a vet every three to four months.
Old cats sometimes lose control of their bowels or bladder. Whatever the problem, ask your vet to see if he can find the cause and, having done that, ask if it is treatable.
Don’t just dismiss the problem as `old age’ and assume nothing can be done. Some cats suffer from involuntary ‘leaking’ caused by cystitis, for example, which can be treated, so it’s worth finding out.
HEARING AND EYESIGHT
Many elderly cats suffer from failing hearing and eyesight. If this befalls your cat, you will have to protect it from dangers that it can no longer hear or see. Try not to rearrange familiar furniture, always keep its feeding bowls in the same place, and be careful of dangers such as open fires.
- The average lifespan of the domestic cat is 15 years. Some survive beyond this, though very few cats get to 20 years of age.
- The record for the oldest domestic cat was a tabby called `Puss’ who died when he was 36 years and a day.
- The Manx has the reputation of being one of the longest-lived pedigree breeds. One, called Grand Champion Nila-Blite Pola, even won a best-in-show award at the age of 13 years.