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Porky & Buddy’s Pet Health: Older Cats

Dear Porky and Buddy,

I have two cats, Matilda, age three, and Margo, age seven, and I just took in a nine year old cat whose family was being foreclosed and they had nowhere to go with a pet. Buddy, the new guy, is the oldest cat I have ever had living with me and I am wondering if there are different things should be doing with him because he is a little older.

Sean

Dear Sean,

Thanks so much for providing a home for a cat in need. It’s people like you, helping out their neighbors, who make our job so much easier. It is never easy to find a home for an older cat. Actually cats begin to show age-related changes at about seven to twelve years of age. As a cat ages, health issues may arise, including: deterioration of the skin and coat, loss of muscle mass, more frequent intestinal problems, arthritis, obesity, dental problems, and a decreased ability to fight off infection. Some of these are unavoidable. Others can be managed with diet.

So start your cat on a senior diet at about seven years of age. You want to maintain health and optimum body weight, and slow or prevent the development of chronic disease.

Older cats sometimes put on body fat in spite of consuming fewer calories. (Don’t we all?) This change in body composition is inevitable and may be aggravated by either reduced energy expenditure or a change in metabolic rate. Either way, it is important to feed a lower calorie diet to avoid weight gain, but with a normal protein level to help maintain muscle mass.

Talk to your veterinarian about increasing your senior cat’s vitamin E intake. Antibody response decreases as cats age. Increasing the intake of vitamin E in cats older than seven years of age can increase their antibody levels. Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene also help eliminate free radical particles that can damage body tissues and cause signs of aging. Senior diets for cats should contain higher levels of these antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants can also strengthen the immune system in older cats.

A consistent daily routine is especially important for older pets. Stressful situations and sudden changes in daily routines should be avoided. If a drastic change must be made to an older pet’s routine, (such as having to move to a new home), try to minimize stress as much as possible. For example, we assume that you knew to introduce Buddy to his new housemates very gradually. And don’t forget periodic veterinary examinations to assess the presence or progress of chronic disease and get early treatment. Annual checkups are important for all pets, but keep a close eye on your older pets for unusual signs and you vet may suggest more frequent check ups. We hope you all have a long and happy and healthy life!

Speaking of happy and healthy, Come Strut Your Mutt on Saturday, September 11th, our annual 5K Run or Walk and I Mile Family Walk at Fallbrook Recreation Center, 103 Thompson Road, Oswego. Dogs are welcome. Early entries will receive a long-sleeved shirt. Everyone gets lunch. There will be prizes and activities for kids and a fabulous silent auction. You can sign up as an individual or family online at www.oswegohumane.org. Day of event registration starts at nine am. Races start at 10:30.

And then to finish off the day, Do the Barn Cat Boogie, also at Fallbrook Recreation Center, starting at 6 pm. There will be a barbecue picnic dinner, cash bar, live entertainment, the completion of the silent auction, raffles. You can register online at www.oswegohumane.org and there is a $5 discount if you register for both events. What a great day!
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.