Caring for your Senior Pet Part II
Recently I posted about caring for the senior pet and talked mainly about my dog Casey, but today I am going to discuss caring for the senior cat.
This is also a dedication to my cat Virgil, who passed away yesterday while I was at work. Virgil was 19 years old.
Cats are very difficult at times when they age and become seniors. Cats over the age of 8 are considered senior pets just like dogs. If you were to look at an age chart for dogs and cats, we all know that dogs age at an average of 7 years for each 1 human year, for cats it is a little different.
Some charts don’t even plot out age of pets over the age of 15, and in my experience of owning pets and doing pet sitting if you have a pet that lives past 14 or 15 years of age, whether they are cats or dogs it is remarkable.
If your cat ages without any major illness such as renal failure or thyroid problems or even cancer you are very lucky and blessed. I have been very lucky to state that I have had senior cats that have had no illnesses other than “old age.”
There are a number of OTC medication you can give to you cat for various “aging” illnesses such as arthritis or digestive issues. These aging illnesses are common among cats as they age, besides the more serious ones such as renal failure.
One product you can buy OTC is called Hip Action. They are chewable treats you can give your cats for arthritis and stiffness in joints. I have clients that give this to their cats to help them with their mobility and it works really good and they do see an improvement with their cats taking this “treat” on a daily basis. Remember - Never give your cat an aspirin - this will cause sudden death!
If arthritis is a problem you are experiencing with your aging cat, than consider yourself lucky. Aging in cats can also bring with them problems with eating and chewing problems.
Eating problems in cats such as becoming more finicky do become more of an issue with older cats, at least in my experience. I personally contribute this to the fact that cats like to eat things that smell good so they are appetizing to them. And as they age, their olfactory senses begin to wear down and their food must have a strong odor for it to appear appetizing to them.
In the last month I noticed that Virgil was having problems eating and became pickier about what to eat. So I found myself going and buying all sorts of things to get him to eat; baby food, sardines, tuna fish, salmon and canned clams. I also started to cook him ground turkey, anything to make him eat.
I am sure you are saying, “Well did you take him to the vet?” Yes, Virgil had been to the vet a number of times over the past 4 to 6 months to discuss his health and his eating issues. Because of his age, I also made a decision that I wasn’t going to do anything extensive for him. By saying this I wasn’t going to put him through tests that may have proved nothing other than he is aging.
Just as in dogs, cats will begin to lose their hearing and eyesight. I was lucky that Virgil still could see but his hearing had really started to suffer, so he spent the last 6 months of his life living inside. Yes, my cats go in and out during all the times of year, but because Virgil couldn’t hear the car anymore I had to move him into the house for his own safety. More owners kill this own cats because they don’t check for them under the car or because the cat doesn’t move when they see a car because they can’t hear it.
The other habit your aging cat may begin to do is cry. Yes, crying. Meowing loud and repetitive at all times a day, especially at night can be alarming and also scary. Because it almost sounds like a cat howling and because it is a continuous meowing and you wonder if they are breathing. When talking to my vet about this, she explained to me that cats often do that because they wonder where their “human” is. So often when Virgil did this, I would pick him up and hold him to reassure him I was there with him.
Aging cats will also begin to stop using the litter box. This annoying unwanted habit can often be contributed to renal failure or even a urinary tract infection, which can be treated with antibiotics or other medication.
Cats will also lose weight and muscle mass as they age, becoming very frail. Just as an elderly person ages their skin will become thinner and they will stop grooming themselves so brushing and bathing them may become a regular activity with your aging cat.
Coming home yesterday and finding Virgil had passed while I was work was devastating and very upsetting. I knew his days were numbered when he had stopped eating and I attempted force feeding him the last 24 hours using a syringe and putting his food through a food processor. But I couldn’t get him to eat anything, no matter what combination of food I mixed up for him. There is no way to describe the helpless feeling you have when you can’t get your pet to eat.
Virgil has been with me through 4 moves and a divorce. He has been through fights and almost lost his one eye due to one fight. He was the alpha cat in my house until the end, still bossing the other cats around and my dogs were still afraid of him even though he only weighed 7 pounds. Virgil will be missed because I have had him the longest. He was one unique cat, and he also was a rescue. So rescue cats do live a lot longer than people may believe.
Hug your pet today; dog or cat. Tell them you love them and take care of them until the end. They depend upon you for the given right of life. You will never be sorry. Because what they bring you over the years can not be measured, counted or put into words.
Have a Happy Pet Day Everyone!