First off, how do you know when your cat reaches "senior status"? You might see a sprinkling of gray on her chin; a small cloud forming over once-clear eyes. Perhaps there's a touch of stiffness in what was once a frisky gait. Any of these can be tell-tale signs that your fuzzy feline friend is entering her "golden" years.
The old saying that one year in a cat's life is equal to seven "human" years isn't entirely accurate. Pets mature quickly during the first two years of life, level out for their middle years, and then begin to age more rapidly once more during the final third of their life span.
Technically, a cat qualifies as a senior once she's achieved 7 years of age or more. Factors that have an impact on how individual cats age include body weight, nutrition, environment, and overall health.
Thanks to advances in veterinary care and improved nutrition, cats are living longer than ever, giving those of us who love them many more years of their affection and warm companionship. This longevity, however, means that senior cats, just like their aging human companions, become more vulnerable to a variety of health issues and ailments: weight gain and decreased mobility; heart, kidney, and liver diseases; diabetes; dental problems and periodontal disease; behavioral problems and cancer.
Though advances in animal care, better nourishment and better educated owners have helped improve the quantity and quality of these years, studies have shown that senior cats continue to fight with weight as the result of reduced activity levels and a steady decline in senses, nutrient absorption and the ability to digest fat.
"One of the most important goals when feeding senior cats is maintaining an ideal weight and keeping that weight stable," says Dr. Arnold Plotnick, who pioneered a senior wellness program specifically intended to address the unique needs of aging cats at his veterinary hospital, Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York City.
As cats age, there is a steady decline in their body's capacity to heal itself, maintain standard bodily functions and adjust to tensions in their environment. Illness and weight changes are common during the senior years. Cats are at risk of weight gain in their adult years due to the decline in activity levels and the slowing of their metabolism.
But by the time they reach 11 years of age, weight loss becomes an even bigger concern. The 11-plus years are especially difficult for cats because their sense of smell and taste tend to diminish at this time, which in turn has an adverse affect on their interest in food. The power to absorb key nutritional elements and digest fat begins to declines, making eating itself less efficient.
The unwelcome result is that more food goes straight to becoming waste product, and less is utilized for energy, causing a drop in lean muscle mass and subcutaneous fat, leading to an often dangerous reduction in weight. As well as providing a healthy and well balanced diet, owners of senior cats should closely monitor their cats' activity levels, weight, food intake, grooming and elimination habits and report anything new or unusual to their veterinarian.
The good news is that owners of senior cats can do a lot to aid their aging felines in the maintenance of an ideal body weight throughout their senior years by feeding them a diet that addresses their unique nutritional needs. For example, holistic cat food, nutrition from all natural products and processes, is one excellent option for boosting the flagging energy of any cat, but especially a senior. Switching to a raw cat food diet as early as possible in your cat's life will help to keep her golden years much more vibrant and healthy. When it comes the health of your cat, senior food doesn't have to be any different from the food she's been eating all along, as long as it was the best and most natural food to begin with.
Though many of the changes in your cat are standard to the aging process we all go through, others may appear that can indicate a much more critical issue. Scheduling veterinary visits at least twice yearly is good practice for older cats as many potentially serious conditions are treatable if detected early. Fortunately, if you started your kitty off from the beginning by giving her the best quality holistic cat food, nutrition alone will have played a significant part in helping her maintain glowing health when she enters her senior years.
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