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How old is my cat anyway? (Senior stage)

After a few years of relatively lower maintenance adult hood, we are now moving into the more mature stages of cat life. Preventative care for aging cats involves more preventative screening than care of younger cats did. We are approaching the age where regular blood work is a boon to monitor for trends in the blood count and in enzymes from the kidneys and liver that can be early markers of degenerative disease.

A good reference for the care of more senior cats can be found here at the AAFP page.

Mature: Care in the mature stage is actually quite similar to the prime stage. When cats are 7 to 10 years old they are getting to be middle aged. At this stage healthy weight maintenance and regular yearly wellness exams are crucial. If your cat is very active, this is also the age where you should consider adding a joint supplement before any problems with the joints emerge. Even relatively inactive indoor cats are elite athletes when you think about how many body lengths they jump up and down on a daily basis. Because of the wear and tear thus causes on joints, this is a good time to chose a gentle joint supplement that your cat will eat on a daily basis.

Feeding a joint supplement regularly (like the Dasuquin we carry here) will not be a problem if your cat is already accustomed to eating raw or carbohydrate free canned food. Supplements like Dasuquin don’t have a strong flavor and can be easily mixed into a small amount of moist food to give to your cat. Also, it cannot be overemphasized that feeding an appropriate diet will greatly help weight management and help prevent diabetes.

In this age range we start to look critically at vaccine recommendations and attempt to introduce the fewest number of only the most necessary reactive substances into your cat’s life. Depending on the patient, we may also start to recommend yearly senior preventative blood screenings at this point. We generally continue our deworming recommendations and combo test recommendations as in the Prime stage.

Senior: Congratulations! On their tenth birthday your cat officially enters their golden years. Cats between 10 and 14 are considered senior pets. Weight management is, of course, still of paramount importance. At this age we often start to fight weight loss from loss of muscle mass. Remember, though, that weight loss is not normal (unless you’re dieting your cat). If your senior or geriatric cat is losing weight, it’s time for a visit! I highly recommend adding a joint supplement to your cat’s routine starting at this age if you didn’t already do this in the mature stage.

This is the age when we for sure recommend doing senior preventative blood screening on a yearly basis. The recommendation for wellness exams also becomes more frequent. Because of how quickly the aging process can proceed in some cats, we recommend having your cat seen every six months at this age so that we can track any subtle changes in weight, heart rate, or other parameters before we start to lose ground on potential problems.

At this age your cat has likely had very many vaccines, and for an exclusively indoor cat in this age range, we may recommend stopping vaccines altogether, or may simply recommend titer testing based on risk assessment. We continue to recommend deworming in well cats, and cats with outdoor access still need their yearly combo testing.

Remember those food recommendations? Feeding moist food is crucial at this age since many cats develop kidney problems as they age. Feeding moist food helps to keep them hydrated even as the kidneys potentially lose their ability to concentrate urine and conserve water as well as they used to.

Geriatric: The geriatric stage lasts from about age 15 until the end of your cat’s life. The recommendations from the senior life stage all apply the same here. The only difference is that as your cat continues to age we may, on a case by case basis, start recommending even more frequent wellness exams, weight check ins, or preventative blood screenings depending on your cat’s personal history.

We want your kitty to be with you a long time and have many enjoyable years. Preventative care is an important part of making this happen.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your cat, please call us!

– Dr. Erika Raines, DVM, CVA, CVSMT

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