An aging cat doesn’t have wrinkles, his hair won’t turn white and his trouble with movement, if there is any, is usually masked by the fact that the owners don’t have the “clinical eye” to see it and by the fact that a cat might be of the eating and sleeping type, moving very little even earlier in life, there are after all cats lazy by default that, just like Garfield, think only about eating and sleeping from a young age.
Thus, the only way to judge that a cat is getting older (vets can figure it out by judging various factors that are usually out of reach for most people) is his/her age.
A cat may be considered aging when he is over 12 years old, which is about the same as a 65-year-old human, given that a cat may live well over 20 years.
How does an aging cat behave?
If we have taken care of our furry friend until he is about 12 years old, that means we have done right by him.
Reaching 12 years of age usually means, for a male, being spayed, because those who aren’t, hardly ever reach that age, mostly because of very common infectious diseases such as FIV and FeLV, which can lead to death.
Our behavior towards him should not change, he should not be shut in a glass bubble but should rather be allowed to live as he always did.
There are just a few rules that we have to be careful about, which are not as much about improving or avoiding the typical issues of old age, which will be present no matter what, rather make sure that those issues don’t degenerate in bigger threats to the cat’s life.
We’ll notice, as an example, that the cat will have the tendency to lose weight, since his metabolism is no longer optimal, just as we will notice that he will move less and less enthusiastically, usually taking his time to come to us when called, even to feed.
He will also begin to avoid company and keep to himself more and more.
How should we behave with an aging cat?
The rules to make him feel comfortable regardless of his age aren’t that hard to follow, it’s all about paying some attention to certain aspects of his life.
- Since the cat will have the tendency to lose weight because of his metabolism, we shouldn’t give him food that’s hard to eat and difficult to digest, such as biscuits, rather we should opt for wet, easily digestible food, even better if highly caloric to compensate the weight loss due to the age.
- Old cats, just like old people, have joint pains and have trouble, for example, taking jumps. If there is a place that he likes or if we are used to making him climb on some of the furniture, even the bed, we should help him by providing rudimentary staircases (a shoebox next to the bed will do great) to avoid unnecessary stress on his joints.
- We must tell kids to leave him alone, at most to pet him, since kids usually like cats but, while a kitten is usually willing to run and play, an aging cat might become upset and react harshly.
- Effort must be made in keeping the cat in shape and not letting him turn in a doorstop more each day: we should allocate some minutes each day for playtime, to keep him stimulated, always without stressing out nor overdoing it.
- Care must be taken in regard to the cat’s cleanliness. An aging animal will tend to clean himself less on his own accord and is also more susceptible to infections, even the simpler ones like those of the skin: it’s important to check that, even though his coat might be more opaque because of his age, the cat is still clean (we can help him, if need be) at least weekly, mostly in the places where dirt tends to build up. If present, any hair knots must be untangled.
These simple steps will help to promptly recognize anything out of order, so that the cat may be brought to the vet at the earliest (a visit is still mandatory every now and then, just to have a general check up done to stop early any kind of issue that might happen).
Aging cats are amazing, and please, the biggest single piece of advice is not to get rid of a cat just because he’s becoming “old”. He happily gave us his entire life, it would be good on our (and your) end not to treat him like a toy.