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Unread 01-03-2011   #1 (permalink)
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Default Unanswered: Older Cats - Your Advice Please!

My beautiful Ripley will be 7 this year. To her horror she has seen cats of this age classed as 'senior cats'. She has been with me since she was around 8 weeks old, her official birthday is in May so her actual date of birth is mid March. As Ripley is my first cat I have no experience of looking after cats as they grow older so we were both hoping that people here could give me some advice on what I need to be on the look out for healthwise and any tips you may have for keeping her in the best health possible.
She is an indoor cat, her diet is mainly wet food and she has no health issues. She is bright, sprightly, playful and inquisitive and I'd like her to stay that way so all advice will be gratefully received.
I'd also like to hear your thoughts on 'Senior' cat food. Ripley is very good at regulating her own food intake so her weight isn't an issue. Is it worth spending extra on a senior formula? Are there any supplements that are good for keeping her joints healthy?
As I said she currently has no health problems and she says she is in her prime but we both need to know how to make sure it stays this way!
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Unread 01-03-2011   #2 (permalink)
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Hi Helen! Tolly is 12, and he is my fifth senior cat, all except Sissy raised from kittens, like you and Ripley.

Baby and Sissy were 16 and 21 respectively and I lost them within a week of each other, to acute kidney failure (both) brought on by terrible stress which I won't go into now.

I lost my Bibbs when she was 14, she had a sinus cancer, brought on by an incompetent vet, won't tell the story here.

Ootay was 18 when she went to the Bridge, and I think you know about her already.

Here is my opinion on senior cats.

As long as you are feeding a high quality canned diet there is no need to switch to a "senior" food. Most foods labeled senior are "reduced calorie" because for some reason the pet food industry thinks that old cats get fat. That has not been my experience with old cats.

If at any time Ripley seems to be gaining weight, you first want to think about whether her activity level has dropped much. If it has, perhaps a sight cut back in quantity may be needed at that time.

When a cat starts to slow down, often it is because of some arthritis pain. Your vet can evaluate Ripley at every check up for arthritis. Mild arthritis pain can be controlled with the supplement cosequin for cats. It IS important to keep cats active, not only for weight control but to keep their joints and muscles limber and flexible. You said Ripley is very active, so that's good.

(The saying "if you don't use it you lose it" applies to animals and people alike.)

I recommend a senior blood panel done now, at her next check up I mean....so you have a base line for what is healthy for her. Unless the vet finds something wrong, I would say you don't need to have any more blood work until Ripley is 10, but after 10, I would have the blood work done every year. And after 14, blood work twice a year.

Cats' health can change very quickly once they get up past 11 or 12 years. Ootay, for instance had perfect blood work in June of her 15th year. Two months later she showed symptoms of a UTI. I brought her in, and my vet wanted to do blood work again. I was having it done every 6 months at that time, and it had only been 2 months, but I trust my vet, so said okay. And sure enough, Ootay's blood work showed early kidney failure. Because we caught it so early I was able to have almost 4 more happy years with her.

I do recommend check ups every six months. For all cats, regardless of age. For a couple of reasons.

1) the more often the vet sees the cat, the more familiar with the cat the vet will be and the more likely the vet will be to notice slight changes that may indicate a problem. The earlier something is detected, the better the prognosis.

2) the more often Ripley sees the vet, the more familiar it is to her, which can reduce the stress of vet visits. In fact, if it's not too far out of the way, you might want to bring her in periodically, just to get a weight or something, to keep it familiar to her.

But anyway, at 7, since she is lively, in good health, I would say no changes in the way you are caring for her are needed, except get a senior blood panel done.

You might want to start keeping a cat journal, just to make note of certain patterns or habits, (for both cats actually) then you will be more aware of any changes in those habits that might indicate a problem starting.

For instance keep track of how much each cat eats every day. And how often they poop, and what it looks like. How often they pee and how much. How frequently do hairballs come up. Stuff like that.

If I think of anything else, or if you have any questions on anything I've said here I'll add it in this thread.

PS...thought of a question: do you brush their teeth?
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Unread 01-04-2011   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks for this Gail.
I'd not even thought about getting a blood panel done. I've emailed my vet surgery today asking for a guide to how much this will cost so I can budget for it when I take Ripley for a check up in April. I don't know much about the procedure so would appreciate it if you could tell me what it involves and what the vet will be checking for.
I forgot to mention that both Ripley and Newt have 'lifetime' insurance with a company called Petplan. It is their premium policy which pays out for any medical conditions for life rather than for a limited period of time or up to a certain value. It's not a cheap policy but well worth the peace of mind. A few years ago one of my mother-in-law's dogs developed diabetes in the later stages of his life and she found her insurance only paid out up to a certain amount per condition resulting in her having to meet most of the costs herself as he lived to a ripe old age. Luckily she was in a position financially to be able to do this. I didn't want the worry of one of them getting sick and not being able to pay for their medication so I got the best insurance I could find.
In answer to your question I don't brush their teeth.
I do like your idea about a cat journal. My husband laughs at me as I always examine what I scoop out of the litter tray and I can usually tell whose cat poop it is! As they are both indoor cats I can easily track their litter habits but a diary recording their behaviour would help in identifying what is normal for them.
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Unread 01-04-2011   #4 (permalink)
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Hi Helen, my Tippy and Ben lived to 17 and 19.5 respectively, and luckily I had no real health problems with them until months (Tippy) and a year or two (Ben) before I lost them, certainly not at the spritely age of 7.

However, I also didn't clean their teeth. Ben had a lot of trouble with his teeth and gums in his last couple of years (in addition to kidney trouble and the loss of sight in one eye), he had gingivitis and had to have a lot of work done.

So I would definitely keep an eye on both Ripley's and Newt's teeth and get them cleaned regularly at the vets to keep the dreaded plaque at bay.

And with regard to senior food, it wasn't regularly available until my two were very old and they never suffered from normal wet food
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Originally Posted by supersmithy View Post
Hi Helen, my Tippy and Ben lived to 17 and 19.5 respectively, and luckily I had no real health problems with them until months (Tippy) and a year or two (Ben) before I lost them, certainly not at the spritely age of 7.
I do find it odd considering that due to better diets and vet care cats are living longer yet they are still considered 'senior' at seven. Ripley still tears around the place like a kitten. Perhaps I'm being over cautious but I just want her to have the best chance of many more healthy years. I can still clearly remember the day I got her, a gorgeous little ginger ball of fluff - it certainly doesn't seem like almost seven years ago.
Thanks for the advice about their teeth, I'll make sure the vet checks them.
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Unread 01-04-2011   #6 (permalink)
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Hi Helen ..

Hopefully, Ripley won't believe her ears when she hears of cats only 7 years old being classified as "senior". She's got a lot of livin' left to do, though at 7 years old, she's way too young to be classified as a "senior cat".

Indoor cats historically have a long longer life than inside/outside cats or outside cats. No cars to dodge, no dogs to chase them, no cats who want to fight, no weird things lying around to eat, etc. etc.

I've had cats all my life. Three of them (all "only children") lived many long, healthy and wonderful years. They were all inside cats. I did get Maui Boy when Bailey was 16, but Bailey was an "only child" 16 of those 17 years.

Ting Ting (Siamese, who didn't know he was a Siamese), was almost 18 years old.

Lei Lei (Part Siamese, part Maui feral cat) was 16.

Bailey Cat (orange tabby) was almost 17 years. (Off to The Rainbow Bridge the end of July, 2010). Maui Boy (now 18 mo.) and I miss Bailey so much. Bailey was a champ right to the end. He developed bone cancer/blood in urine.

All were in optimum health until shortly before they had to go onward.

Ripley doesn't need senior cat food. If you are feeding her regular cat food (good, reliable brands) that food should have all the nutrients, vitamins already in it.

That's good that Ripley monitors her own food intake. All of my cats have always done that, too. I leave dry food out for them always. Actually, Maui totally refuses any kind of wet food, any "people food" (which is not real good for them, anyway) or cat treats. He LOVES his dry kitten food. Because he's tiny and small boned (only 7-1/2 lbs at 18 mo. old), he has really little, tiny teeth and has a problem chewing reg. dry cat food. I've tried many times to get him interested in "wet food". He'll have no part of it. I alternate between two brands of kitten chow. He doesn't get bored with it, amazingly. We do make a game out of filling up his bowl!!

Bailey Cat was HUGE ... sleek and handsome. Until he got sick (at 16-1/2 years old) he weighed 17-1/2 pounds and not an ounce of fat on him. He was just BIG. He always monitored his own food intake and never overate .. never was overweight. He also drank plenty of water. (I got him as a 5 week old kitten .. same as Maui Boy .. who also arrived here at 5 weeks old).

Check Ripley's teeth to make sure she has them all! In latter years Bailey was missing his back molars .. his chewing teeth. He preferred Maui's kitten chow/and wet food...both easy for him to eat.

I've never, ever brushed the teeth of any cat I've owned. I can't even imagine any of them allowing me to do that. If you can give Riley dry food (along with her wet food), crunching that up will keep her teeth pretty clean.

It's also super important that cats drink plenty of water. Maui Boy (as he learned from his brother, Bailey Cat) and I play a game when I replentish his water bowl. I ask him, "Maui, do you want water"? He runs to his water bowl and gives out a mewp. We go into the bathroom together and I fill a cup with water. Then we go to his water bowl (he actually runs back to the bowl!) .. and I say "water, water, water" while I dribble the water out of the cup, little by little in a steady stream, holding the cup a couple feet above the water bowl. Maui bats at the stream of water going into his bowl. His whiskers stand out and he does his little "mewp" noises. (His nickname is Sweet Piglet, because some of the sounds he makes sound like a baby pig!) If you pour the water slowly you can make a game last longer. Then Maui licks the water off his paw. When the bowl is full, he goes and drinks a good big amount of water. It's all a very fun game for him. This way, too, he drinks plenty of water. Bailey did the same thing and actually taught Maui some of his tricks.

Really important is to keep Ripley not only physically healthy, but mentally healthy, as well. Talk to her A LOT .. with enthusiasm!! Play with her .. A LOT. Cuddle her A LOT.

The more time you spend with her in interaction games, the better. "DaBird" is Maui's all time favorite (get at amazon.com or other Internet sites). Maui knows exactly where the bird lives (in a closet in my office) and goes right there when I ask him" "Hey, Maui! Do you want to play with DaBird? Let's do it"!!!

It's also good for you to bop around with Da Bird and your kitty. Move and jump DaBird around VIGOROUSLY. I talk to Maui the whole time we're playing. "Get DaBird", "Go get him". I make sure he catches DaBird fairly frequently... and then I praise him. "Oh, Maui, YOU GOT DA BIRD"!!! He always looks so pleased with himself when he catches DaBird!

Make it a FUN experience .. 2-3-4 times/day (maybe 5-7 min.sessions). Watch for your kitty starting to pant (that's how they perspire). That's when you, Da Bird, and your kitty need to take a rest. This is great exercise for YOU, too!!! If you're just into sitting on the couch and dangling DaBird, forget it!!! You gotta get right into it ... WITH ENTHUSIASM!!!

Maui gets so into play with DaBird ... he jumps 4-5 feet in the air, onto the couch, onto the chair, around and around the kitchen island counter, across living room, on and off the bed, twirls around, etc. etc. ... like 90 mph. It's fun play which keeps him in good physical shape .. strong and agile .. and it tires him out so after our play he's content just to curl up and relax. Then he takes a nice nap!

There are other Interactive toys for kitties, too. Google "internet toys for cats". "Underground Mouse" is another fun toy Maui loves. It's not interactive, but keeps him mentally on top of things and is great exercise for him .. chasing the "undercover mouse".

Yearly check ups with the vet is a good plan. Great that you have cat insurance, though it is expensive. When Bailey got the bone cancer/blood in urine, the vet bills were plenty costly.

It sounds like you're doing everything right for Ripley. Keep up the good work!!!

Give Riley a meow from Maui Boy and me. Here's to many more fun and healthy years in store for Riley!!!

With Aloha .. Nancy On Maui (and Maui Boy)

Copy and paste to see Tribute to Bailey (lots of photos of Bailey & Maui)

How To Train Your Cat With Love
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Unread 01-04-2011   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
If you can give Riley dry food (along with her wet food), crunching that up will keep her teeth pretty clean.
This is actually a fallacy. Cats don't have chewing teeth for one thing. Most cats swallow kibble whole, or at the most one "crunch". And kibble cleaning teeth would be like you cleaning your teeth by eating a crouton.

In addition when a cat does crunch a kibble, it breaks into crumbs and the crumbs are more likely to stick to teeth and get under the gum line, as opposed to wet food which will just wash away with saliva.

The best way to keep a cat's teeth healthy is to feed a high quality canned food diet and brush their teeth every day with c.e.t. toothpaste. C.e.t. is an enzymatic paste, which means it breaks down bacteria. Most of the pastes you see in pet stores are useless, you need to use an enzymatic paste, and that is c.e.t.

Just getting the c.e.t. paste into the cat's mouth is beneficial, but of course contact with tooth and gum is better.

I can post my method for training cats to having their teeth brushed if anyone wants.

PS I do give my cats kibble, for snacks only. But after they have their bed time kibble snack is when I brush their teeth.
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Unread 01-04-2011   #8 (permalink)
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P.S. Oops! Sorry for the typo .. I know it's Ripley .. not Riley!!!

Aloha .. Nancy On Maui
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Great advice. The bloodwork is very important. Dental disease can cause alot of problems especially if it gets bad..Kidney issues..etc. It might not even be a bad idea to have a baseline xray just in case she has an issue down the road and now something to compare it to but the bloodwork is important. My almost 8yr old cat runs around like a kitten still..I dont classsify him as a senior even though he technically is one. Sometimes I classify him as a spawn of trouble though.....
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