By Dave Stephenson
Photo credit: Holly Granken/MoonDragon Art & Photography
Kittens and younger cats get a lot of attention from their owners, which is just as it should be, since all pets thrive when they are loved and looked after. As cats grow towards adulthood they become more settled, and develop their own little routines and preferences. That said, felines are naturally independent animals and tend to choose to interact with humans precisely when it suits them. Older cats will need extra attention, though, and a few simple regular tasks will help owners keep an eye on their health and well-being.
With a regular practice of weekly grooming, it is easy to maintain the habit as a cat ages. While gently running the hands along the cat’s body, take the opportunity to note any body changes, particularly weight gain or loss, or the appearance of any lumps or bumps. A veterinarian should be asked to check out any lumps as soon as possible, while weight changes may be an indication of illness or the need for an adjustment to the cat’s diet.
At five or six years of age, cats are in middle age and dietary requirements will differ from when they were kittens. It is important that they have cat food containing protein and essential nutrients, including the amino acid taurine, which can be found in quality meaty selections from reputable brands. The amount of food a cat needs depends on their breed, size and levels of activity. It should be sufficient to satisfy their energy requirements, and it is advisable to use portion control to make sure overfeeding does not become a problem. Diets may have to be adjusted if a cat is recovering from illness or surgery, and fresh water from a clean bowl should always be available.
Regular teeth brushing is extremely important for cats, as oral diseases can cause halitosis and be extremely painful. Mouth infections can also spread and cause damage to the kidneys or heart. If a cat will not willingly succumb to brushing, a trip to the vet will be necessary so that cleaning to remove tartar, or deal with gingivitis, can be done under a general anesthetic. Soft tissues will also be checked and the teeth thoroughly scaled and polished. In the event of severe damage, teeth may need to be extracted and the veterinary surgeon will normally prescribe a course of antibiotics with appropriate pain relief medication.
Changes in behavior
Older cats are generally fairly predictable, so when behavioral changes occur owners should pay attention. For example, a cat that begins to urinate accidentally, outside the litter box, may have a medical problem and should receive a health check from the veterinarian. Unexpected aggression is a sign of stress, so some adjustment may be needed to the balance between the amount of playtime with humans and the amount of privacy the cat enjoys, and regular mealtimes should be introduced (if not already in place). Unwanted and damaging scratching can usually be addressed by introducing a scratching post.
Caring for a cat requires diligence and patience, but it is also enjoyable and rewarding, as any dedicated pet owner will confirm.
Dave Stephenson is a dedicated internet blogger that loves to write about lifestyle and the world, covering topics including family, health, and pets, all the way through to technology, media and travel.