Senior Cat Catering
As a cat veterinarian, most of my ill patients are also older cats. Things that are sometimes not as well understood about cats become more important because of their more fragile nature. This also goes against the natural independence of cats and their owners. Cats begin to show their age at variable points, just like people. But Father Time always wins, just like people. This applies to some cats by the age of 10 or even a year or two earlier. But it is mostly about those 15 and up where these rules always apply. By the way, I live with Lilly, a 18 yo and Delilah, a 19 yo! They taught me all of this…
These kitties should not be made to jump up on the counter for their meals. They must also have a litter box on each floor of the home, since arthritis is more prevalent than most assume. Feeding is one of the biggest problems I see with these older cats. I advocate smorgasbord feeding with multiple options and also multiple feeding locations. If possible, chose these new feeding locations based on where the cats nap. This is obviously a spot where they feel comfortable. Especially if, consistently, no paw pads are touching the ground as they rest in these locations. Cats that will not sleep off their feet are often sick cats! I found out several years ago that cats do not like their water offered right next to their food. This fact becomes much more important for these older cats. They should also have multiple places to drink, and never in direct proximity to their diet choices (multiple remember!). And the last thing on diet is that their preference will change. So be ready to adapt and keep them eating well every day.
This group of changes can come hard for the independent cat and owner. Remember that taking the cat to the food is no substitution for taking the food to the cat. I also tell owners when monitoring that “only consumption counts”. I always hear about owners telling me how their sick cat is “on the verge of eating” but cannot. That is an inappetant or anorexic cat that needs to see a doctor! Cats should eat appreciable volume every day, multiple times during the day. Licking just the juice is also not a good sign. If it happens with multiple diets, we should address the problem, which is often nausea. Even if nausea was not the reason they stopped eating, the act of not eating will create nausea. I can close by saying that the point of this is to emphasize how detrimental not eating can be in this species. We see adverse changes within the first 24 hours that can create a negative cycle of illness. And that is where Feline Docs need to come into the picture. But before you call us, slide some yummy canned food to them, wherever they are!