Thanks to advancements in veterinary care and more people treating their cats like family, cats are living a lot longer than they did even two decades ago. Their average lifespan is typically considered to be around 16 years, but so many of our feline friends are seeing their 20th birthdays and still feeling spry. As great as this news is, we can’t stop our beloved cats from aging. Whether we’re ready for it or not, they’ll eventually start to slow down. But instead of dreading that day, it’s best to be prepared. Knowing when your cat is considered a senior and what exactly that means will help ensure they live a healthy life.
How Old is a Senior Cat?
You’ve heard the phrase that age is only a number, and that’s true for cats as much as it is for humans. There are some cats that stay spunky and playful well into their teen years. At the same time, some felines show signs of aging a lot earlier. It’s all relative to the cat’s general health, living condition, and even their personality.
It’s hard to put an exact number on it, but most vets consider senior cats to be 11-14 years old. When they live past 14, they’re often considered super senior cats. If your cat is around 11 years old, it’s time to start looking out for signs of aging.
What Happens When A Cat Ages
Hearing and Vision Changes
You might notice your senior cat is not as responsive as they used to be. It could be that they’re choosing to ignore you, but it’s more likely they’re suffering from hearing and vision deterioration. These are completely normal signs of aging. For most cats, it happens gradually, and they learn to adapt.
Senior cats are often even pickier about their food than younger cats. Their appetites change, and they may experience a reduced ability to digest fat and protein. Try different types of food to stimulate their appetite. You should offer foods of different textures as well as flavors in case your cat isn’t eating because of dental issues related to age.
More Time Asleep
Aging is hard work, so don’t be worried if your senior cat sleeps more than they did in their younger years. They need to recharge their batteries, and that means more cat naps. If they’re doing the opposite and seem to be having trouble sleeping, they could be suffering from an age-related health issue.
VCA Hospitals reports that about 90% of cats over 10 years old have at least mild osteoarthritis in at least one joint. The cushioning between joints deteriorates with age, and this can cause anything from mild discomfort while moving to severe chronic pain. Senior cats typically show signs of joint pain by being slower going up and down stairs and not jumping as often.
Cats are typically good at keeping themselves clean, but this task is sometimes harder for senior cats. Arthritis and/or dental issues can make grooming uncomfortable or even impossible. Their fur might be unusually greasy or matted as a result. Their nails might also be longer due to reduced scratching. It’ll be up to you to help them stay beautiful and comfortable.
Take Good Care of Your Senior Cat
Becoming a senior cat is a type of privilege a lot of cats never get to achieve. If you’re lucky enough to live with a senior, it’s your responsibility to take good care of their health and well-being. Regular vet visits are a must, and you should always look out for symptoms of age-related diseases. Issues including kidney disease and cancer are more common in senior cats than their younger companions.
But that doesn’t mean your cat can’t live a long and comfortable life. Offer a healthy diet, prioritize exercise, give lots of cuddles, and stay in contact with a vet. If you do those things, your senior cat will enjoy their golden years by your side.