Health Issues in Older Cats: ArthritisWhen a cat reaches 11 years of age they are classed as elderly, and it is around this age that they can start to suffer with the various conditions that are associated with older cats. The effects of ageing can be seen through physical changes as well as behavioural changes, and there are certain home care routines that can help improve your cat’s quality of life. Regular checks with your vet are important to identify early disease processes, but what can you do at home to provide that extra bit of comfort?
Arthritis – This is a common condition seen in older felines and can result in chronic pain, often owners will notice that their cat is less reluctant to jump or looks a little stiff when they walk. Most of the time owners just associate this with their pet getting older and do not actually act on it. It is important to remember that when you see your cat is looking stiff or struggling this means that they are in pain. There are pain relief and joint care medications that the vet can prescribe to make your cat more comfortable.
There are also things you can do at home to make your cat more comfortable:
- Ensure that your cat’s resources (food, water and litter trays) are close by and easily accessible, and provide multiple resources around the house.
- Make sure that the resources and safe places are on ground level to prevent your cat having to jump. You could provide steps up to the resources, beds or cat flap.
- Make sure that litter trays have low sides for easy climbing in and out and provide a litter that is soft on the feet pads. Even if your cat usually goes outside to the toilet it is a good idea to provide litter trays in the house for times when they do not feel up to going out. It is important to monitor faecal and urine output and consistency to identify underlying disease processes.
- Pay close attention to your cats claws. We advise that you check these weekly as elderly cats are less able to retract their claws, this often results in them getting stuck on soft furnishings. They are also at risk of them overgrowing and cutting into their pads as they will be less active.
- Carpet and mats can provide more comfort for elderly cats walking around, wooden and laminate flooring can be slippery for elderly cats that are less stable on their legs.
- Cat flaps – If your cat usually uses a cat flap to access outdoors ensure that they can get up to the cat flap ok, providing steps may aid them climbing in and out.
- Scratching posts – If your cat is suffering from arthritis they may be reluctant to use a vertical scratching post as stretching up high may cause them pain. Horizontal scratching posts can be more comfortable for them.
Caroline Stevens BSc (Hons), RVN, Dip AVN, Dip He CVN, SQP, ISFM Dip FM - Caroline has been in practice since 2007, qualified in 2011. She have completed her Advanced Nursing Diploma in Clinical Veterinary Nursing and has recently completed her Diploma in Feline Nursing through ISFM. Her main interests are in feline medicine and behaviour, limiting stress in the hospital environment is also very important to her.