Bonn / Hankensbüttel (dpa / tmn) – Cats age slowly: many animals are gradually becoming calmer and no longer roaming so much. “They sleep more, too,” says Leah Schmitz of the German Animal Welfare Association in Bonn. Cats often live about 15 years, sometimes up to 20 years. A cat is considered to be older from the age of about ten to twelve years.
Agility can decrease in older cats. For example, many animals no longer jump as high as they used to. “Sometimes the animals no longer clean themselves everywhere,” Schmitz says. This is evidenced by the fact that hard-to-reach areas easily become tangled – for example the fur at the base of the tail. “Hearing also often decreases, eyes become cloudy and vision decreases.”
It’s also typical for large cats to have less muscle mass and therefore more fatty tissue. So owners must adapt the food to their pets’ needs: being overweight puts stress on the animals and can lead to problems with the cat’s musculoskeletal system. It can also shorten life expectancy. Schmitz advises choosing high-quality, balanced and easily digestible feed. A vet who specializes in nutrition can help, too.
Much like humans, cats are more likely to develop certain diseases as they get older. So Schmitz recommends taking animals from the age of eleven to the vet for examination at least once a year, and even better twice.
Recognize diseases – before symptoms appear
“Ideally, a complete blood count, urine test and, if necessary, blood pressure are also taken,” says Leah Schmitz. This allows some diseases to be detected before symptoms appear. Owners should also discuss vaccination periods for older animals with their vet.
Schmitz also recommends checking your cat’s weight once a week. Owners should also pay attention to whether their cat is suddenly drinking or urinating more than usual. Owners should also watch for increased vomiting, breathing difficulties, changes in behavior, and the nature of stool. “If there are deviations here, you should contact your vet.”
Typical diseases that occur in cats as they age and whose early detection is important, for example, kidney disease, dental problems, tumors, heart disease, diseases of the joints, reproductive organs, thyroid gland or metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
Flat ears or dull fur as an indication of pain
“Unfortunately, it often happens that animal owners only realize it is too late to realize that their animals are in pain,” says Svenja Joswig, who works as a veterinarian in Gifhorn and specializes in pet geriatrics. When in pain, cats often flatten their ears, have a dull coat and lower their heads. “Often they divert and narrow or dramatically dilate the pupil,” Joswig says. “Many cats also jump less often, for example on a scratching post, window sill or sofa.”
Squatting can also indicate that the cat is unwell. Owners should also be on the alert if their pet is in an unfamiliar situation. “Cats love to lie on the sore side,” says the vet. Even an unusually aggressive cat may be in pain. Then some animals become restless, others shiver or withdraw.
“Fortunately, we have many options available for pain control,” the vet says. The treating vet, or pain specialist, if necessary, should always decide on the appropriate treatment.
Raised feeding area and night light for big cats
How the environment is designed also greatly affects the quality of life for big cats. “If your cat has problems with their joints, you should choose a litter box with a low entrance,” advises Joswig. If your dog is in pain, it also makes sense to offer food and water at a feeding height.
Older animals in particular should have a quiet, soft, and warm place to sleep and return to. “For some cats, it is also helpful to mark the direction if there is a small night light lit in the room,” says the vet. In addition, daily noises can give some cats a lot of safety as they get older. “That’s why I sometimes advise leaving the radio on at night.”
For many cats, being outside is part of their quality of life. But similar to humans, animals can go crazy in old age, and then have difficulties finding their way back home. “It’s always a question of whether animals should be left outside or kept inside,” Joswig says.
In many cases, it can help reduce the radius: If you have a garden, you can fence it off so the animal can’t leave if possible. If a cat escapes and is lost, despite all precautionary measures, a cut and registered animal can be quickly assigned to its owners if it is found.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220615-99-676949 / 2