When you bring home a kitten for the first time, you turn into a pet parent, checking and double-checking nutrition facts on pet-food labels, sampling shampoos, brushes, and break-away collars, reading about their behavior and psychology, and buying every toy you can get your hands on. But as they get older and you become more comfortable with their routine, you may allow your attention to detail to wane. However, as cats age, their needs change over time. They may have different dietary requirements and they will almost certainly become less active, so here are a few ways to keep up with your cat and ensure that they have a long, happy, and healthy life.
- Feed them appropriately. When your cats reach 1-2 years of age, you switch them from kitten to adult food. But did you know that you will have to change their food at least one more time during their life, when they become senior pets? Older animals have very different dietary needs than younger adults. They will need more of certain nutrients and while young adults usually require reduced caloric intake to avoid unhealthy weight gain, most senior cats don’t digest fats as easily and therefore may need a higher calorie count to avoid losing too much weight.
- Learn about possible health problems. As cats age, they may experience several difficulties including frailty, arthritis, injury, coat and digestive problems, and all the symptoms that generally come with any animal as it ages (vision and hearing loss, dental disease, decreased organ function, etc.). You can help them in many ways (provide dietary supplements, groom them regularly, and make your home safe for your aging pet), but the best thing you can do is be well informed to expect certain changes and know how to deal with them.
- Ask your veterinarian about supplements. Many older cats can benefit from nutritional supplements such as fatty acids (for a healthy heart and shiny coat), glucosamine (for joint stiffness/arthritis), probiotics (for smooth digestion), and antioxidants (to prevent many chronic disorders). Your mature cat may benefit from one or all of these supplements (or they may need others…or none at all), but you will need to consult with your veterinarian to find out which ones are right for your pet.
- Keep track of their habits. The best way to know if your cat needs additional care of any kind is to note changes in their habits or behavior. You are the one who sees them every day, not their vet, so you are best qualified to catch problems and address them early on (or possibly prevent them).
- Schedule regular check-ups. Even if your cat is behaving normally, they may be experiencing some problems you don’t know about (for example, fatty tumors are fairly common in older pets and they can cause problems over time if not found and dealt with). So make sure you take them in to see the vet regularly and schedule special visits if you notice anything out of the ordinary.