My two senior cats, Ricky and Teddy, are both about to have their 17th birthdays. They have been wonderful members of our family for such a long time but as they have aged we do notice changes in behavior that are common among elder felines. Teddy, who was a bit of a loner most of his life, has become much more clingy and now relishes snuggling and being pet. Ricky is vocalizing much more now and, at times, in a very loud voice.
It is important to understand that your cats are also likely to change as they age and you need to understand that this is part of the aging process and recognize these changes, be compassionate, and provide available treatments if appropriate. Cats often will develop Feline Cognitive Decline (FCD) during their senior years. 55% of all cats aged 11-15 and 80% of all cats aged 16-20 will develop FCD. Some of the symptoms of FCD are:
- Memory Issues – forgetting where litter box or food dish is located
- Confusion – wandering aimlessly and getting lost in familiar places
- Anxiety – restlessness
- Decreased Activity – grooming less
- Social Behavior Changes – needs constant contact and becomes clingy
- Sleep-Wake Changes – sleeps more during the day
If your cat displays any of these issues be sure to take her to the veterinarian as they are best equipped to recognize these changes and prescribe treatment. If your vet rules out medical problems then it is likely that your senior cat is experiencing a brain function issue caused by Feline Cognitive Decline. One of the best things you can do for your cat with this diagnosis is to be compassionate and try to keep her daily schedule consistent. There are medicines that may help and, if so, your veterinarian is likely to recommend this as a therapy.
All living beings change as they age and cats are not exempt from this so please keep your eyes and ears open for changes. Cats can live many quality years and continue to be loving members of your family during their senior years. Lots of love and compassion are the most important things you can provide during this stage of your cat’s life.