It is that time of year when we celebrate our senior furry friends! Just like us, our senior cats require different kinds of care than our kitten and adult cats. A cat that is 8 years old is the equivalent of a human of 48 years old. Once cats hit their late teens, they are the equivalent of a human in their eighties and nineties! These special kitties have an assortment of medical issues such as diabetes, joint, kidney and cognitive problems. Although many of these issues require medication, they can also be managed, or even prevented, with the right diet.
As cats grow older they usually slow down and have a lot less physical activity than they do as kittens and young adults. This usually results in weight gain. Leaving their diet unchanged can cause obesity. Overweight cats are at risk of obesity-related illnesses just like we are. This can include diabetes and degenerative joint disease (arthritis). These risks increase as your cat ages. Many mature and senior diets are lower in fat and calories. If your cat is diagnosed with one of these diseases, there are also specific diets to help manage these conditions. For diabetes, there are diets that are low in carbohydrates and high in protein. Selecting a diet that your cat enjoys eating is also critical with diabetic cats, as a regular feeding schedule is vital for insulin administration. Degenerative joint disease is far more common in senior cats. Studies have shown that most cats 9 years or older have some arthritis while 100% of cats 15 years or older have some form of arthritis. Much advancement has been made in diets that help these conditions. These “joint” diets include ingredients like omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Some diets have green lipped mussel powder. This is a revolutionary product that reduces inflammation, stiffness and pain associated with arthritis.
Many older cats suffer from chronic kidney disease. Making sure that your cat with kidney problems is adequately hydrated is essential. Canned food may play an important role. Choosing a diet that is low in phosphorus, provides extra potassium, and contains high quality protein is very important. Omega 3 fatty acids can help with kidney problems as well.
Just like people, our cats may lose some cognitive ability when they age. The signs of this are similar to senile dementia in humans. Choosing a diet that is high in Vitamin E and antioxidants can help prevent or control cognitive dysfunction. Some mature diets also add phosphatidylserine, which facilitates communication between cells and is used to reduce the risk of dementia in humans and animals.
The most important part of helping your cat live a long and healthy life is to have regular visits to your veterinarian. Many diseases are best detected via blood work and urinalysis. Early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment and even remission!