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Aging cats: What to look for, and how to care for, your senior cat

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Did you know that your cat is considered geriatric at just ten years of age? They're considered senior at eight. This means that your cat may start exhibiting the signs of aging far earlier than you'd expect, considering their average lifespan is roughly 14 years. So what should you look for, and how can you care for your aging cat?

First of all, it's important to remember that your cat won't suddenly start acting old and frail. She might not even get frail, like you might expect. Some cats think they're kittens their whole lives, running and playing and being as active as the day you brought them home.

However, most cats don't, and the biggest thing you can expect is some slowing down on her part, according to Dr. Janet Toblasson Crosby. Crosby says that you may notice that she doesn't jump up on the furniture as much, that she doesn't play for as long, and that she doesn't climb as much anymore. She might also gradually start sleeping a lot more. When you notice this, you should take her to the vet, just to rule out any treatable health issues.

She might also start to lose her hearing, which you'll notice by how easy it is to startle her. She may also develop a bluish cast to her pupils. According to Dr. Crosby, this is not a cataract, and doesn't appear to affect cats' vision. It's a normal effect of aging. However, if you see a whitish opaque film across your cat's pupil, that is a cataract, which will make her blind in the affected eye.

So how do you care for your aging cat? Petplace.com recommends taking her in for checkups every six months, instead of every year as you do for young and middle-aged cats. They also recommend that you keep close tabs on your cat's appetite, activity and energy levels, and more, so that your vet knows what to keep an eye on, and what conditions your cat might develop as she gets older.

The vets at Petplace also recommend brushing your aging cat's teeth frequently, not only to keep her teeth and gums healthy, but also so that you notice any sores or ulcers early, and so you notice changes in her breath. If her breath gets really bad, despite your efforts with her teeth, it might be a symptom of a developing health problem.

Also, keep playing with her, though the games you play might have to change. The more active she is, the more muscle tone she'll retain, and her heart and lungs and body may stay healthier for longer. But play gentle games as her age slows her down; don't expect her to want to run and jump after a laser or a wand as she used to.

Finally, make sure she's comfortable when she eats and sleeps. Keep her indoors more often if she's and indoor-outdoor cat, because she'll be more sensitive to the temperature, and the weather. A good bed inside can help her be comfortable as she sleeps. She's also less likely to forget her way home, and get lost.

Aging is just as natural for cats as it is for us, and it's just as important to know how to care for an aging cat as it is to know how to care for ourselves as we age. Her aging doesn't have to be a source of stress and fear for you; you can still have fun with her, and she's still your baby.

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