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by Stacey Brecher
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, the last three life stages for cats are classified as mature (7-10 years old), senior (11-14 years) and geriatric (15 years and older). Once your cat reaches these stages, it is necessary to make certain changes to your pet's diet and lifestyle.
Beyond your cat's calendar age, there are other signs that it is aging.
"You can observe changes in behavior, appetite, activity level and litter box habits," says Dr. Jane Brunt, veterinarian, founder of Cat Hospital at Towson and executive director of CATalyst Council.
Older cats are prone to specific diseases that can present somewhat similar symptoms. "Kidney disease is very common, and one sign is increased urination, which is also a sign of diabetes and thyroid disease," says Brunt. "Knowing what's normal for cats -- and for your cat in particular -- will clue you in to problems associated with aging cats when any change is noticed."
Older cats can benefit from foods that are specially formulated for seniors. "Make sure your cat is eating the right food for its age, lifestyle and health status," says Brunt. "Water and a balanced protein, vitamin, mineral and carbohydrate ratio in your cat's diet are best for problems your cat may have, even if the signs aren't readily apparent. With any diet change, it is important to check with your veterinarian."
Lastly, don't forget your cat's teeth. "Aging cats can develop periodontal disease, which can lead to serious health problems like pain and infection that can spread to other parts of the body," says Brunt. "Preventing oral disease or treating it in early stages will help keep them healthier and pain-free."
If your senior cat doesn't have any serious health conditions, twice-yearly visits to the veterinarian are recommended for a thorough physical examination. This will allow your cat to be in the best health as it celebrates its senior years.
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Pets | Cats: How to Help Keep an Aging Cat Healthy