The traditional belief that one human year equals seven cat years is not a very accurate measure of cat age. A twelve-year old cat is similar in age to a sixty-one-year old human and a fifteen-year-old cat equates with a seventy-three-year-old human.
Just like humans, cats are living longer, the number of cats living beyond the age of six has doubled in the last ten years, and as cats age, they experience many of the same difficulties that an ageing human does.
It is very important to monitor the health of your ageing cat closely, ideally you should weigh them once a month and keep a record of any variations. Many cats suffer from arthritis as they grow older and the pain they are experiencing may result in a loss of appetite. The pain can be eased by medication and you should consult your vet if you notice that your cat has difficulty moving.
Eight out of ten cats over the age of three suffer from dental disease which can ultimately lead to heart and kidney disease. Warning signs are bad breath and a loss of appetite. You can help reduce the risk of dental disease by brushing your cat’s teeth but be sure that you always use specialist cat toothpaste.
Loss of appetite may be an indication of an illness, such as hyperthyroidism, a tumour in the thyroid gland. Happily, most of the time the tumour is benign and can be easily removed by a simple operation.
It’s possible that as your cat ages it begins to eat more, simply because it is inactive, bored and the food is there. According to the PDSA more than five million UK cats are overweight and obesity in cats is as much of a concern as sudden weight loss. Consult your vet to ensure that you are providing your cat with the right nutritionally balanced diet and make sure that your cat is getting sufficient mental stimulation.
Cats can suffer from age related dementia just like humans so as your cat become less active try and find ways to keep their brains and bodies moving. Puzzle feeding is a technique which requires your cat to work out how to extract food from a specially designed toy. The puzzle can be either easy or hard, but the principle is that the cat is prevented from gorging and engages in mental and physical stimulation.
Cats experience more health problems as they grow older and they are more easily unsettled or frightened, which might also have the effect of putting them off their food. Regular visits to the vet are the best way of ensuring that your cat has a healthy and happy old age and because of the increased likelihood of illness and dietary problems it makes sense to protect yourself from unplanned expense by taking out pet insurance for your cat. The average pet insurance claim is £750 but you can insure an elderly cat from around £90 per year.