With many cats routinely living well into their teens or even twenties, many owners and veterinarians wonder, when is a cat truly a senior citizen? The answer is that there is no specific age at which a cat becomes “senior.” Individual pets age at different rates. As a general guide, however, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has suggested the following age ranges to help you assess how the aging process may be affecting your cat’s health.
Mature to middle-aged: 7 to 10 years
Senior: 11 to 14 years
Geriatric: 15+ years
Knowing the general age range of your cat can help you monitor your pet for early signs of any problems. For example, as cats grow older, their bodies become less able to cope with physical or environmental stresses. Their immune systems become weaker, and they are more prone to developing certain diseases, including diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or cancer. That’s why a senior wellness visit with your veterinary can be so important for the long-term health of your cat.
Just as with people, it’s important for feline patients to see their doctors more frequently as they age. During a senior wellness exam, your veterinarian will screen your pet for a variety of age-related health concerns. A thorough senior wellness exam is designed to:
- Promote the longest and healthiest life possible
- Recognize and control known health risks for older cats
- Detect any signs of disease at their earliest state, when they are the most treatable.
Most experts agree that healthy senior cats should see their veterinarians every 6 months. Cats age much more rapidly than people do, and health problems can occur quickly. It’s also important to realize that cats are very good at hiding signs of illness. They may appear healthy for a long time only to become suddenly ill once their ability to compensate for an underlying disease is gone.
You can help your veterinarian by keeping a close eye on your cat between exams. Unexplained weight loss or gain is often one of the first indicators of underlying disease. Weight management itself can also be an issue: many mature cats are obsess, while senior or geriatric cats often have trouble maintaining their weight and can become too thin. Obesity itself can contribute to the development of diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other conditions.
Behavior problems also become more common as pets age. If you note any changes in your cat’s behavior (e.g., unusual cries) or regular routines, bring your cat in for a check up and inform your veterinarian.
At every visit, your veterinarian will ask you a list of questions designed to obtain a complete medical history for your cat and determine if there have been any changes in health status or behavior since the last visit. During the physical examination, your veterinarian will assess your cat’s overall appearance and body condition by listening to his or her heart, feeling for signs of pain, tumors or other unusual changes in the neck and abdomen; checking joints for signs of arthritis or muscle weakness; and examining the ears, eyes and mouth for signs of disease.
Finally a senior wellness exam will include a panel of laboratory tests to check your cat’s blood for signs of disease and to assess your cat’s kidney and liver function. We recommend this and other wellness testing be conducted at least once a year in cats that are 7–10 years old, and more frequently as the cat ages.
Along with paying more attention to your cat’s health as s/he ages, you should continue routine wellness care such as parasite prevention, prophylactic dental care, nutritional management, and appropriate vaccination. Maintaining proper routine care become even more important as your pet ages. Also take steps to ensure you cat’s comfort, such as making sure litter boxes and food bowls are easily accessible to your old friend, and that you give him/her plenty of attention and affection.
Contact us at 773.525.3353 to schedule an appointment for our discounted healthy pet Senior Wellness Package. This package includes:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- White blood cell analysis
- Red blood cell analysis
- Platelet count
- Blood chemistry profile (which evaluates the function of major organs – liver, kidneys, pancreas)
- Thyroid screening
- Radiographs of the chest and abdomen.
This is an opportunity to get a thorough exam, and baseline testing for your healthy furry friend to ensure his/her well being and overall health.