How to Take Care of a Cat

older cat looking at camera

A cat's potential lifetime is mostly dependent on three factors: regular veterinarian treatment, a wholesome, age-appropriate food, and competent at-home care. A strong relationship with your cat must be maintained if you want to provide them with the best level of comfort during their whole life.

Basic Cat Stages of Life

While it was once understood that cats go through three basic stages of age, it's now believed they develop through six stages.

  • Kittenhood: The growth period, which for most cats, lasts from birth until about six months. This is when cats are most vulnerable to disease but are also at their most trainable.
  • Junior: (6 months to 2 years) Though year-old cats may appear to be adults physically, they are still developing mentally and emotionally. Think of them as juveniles.
  • Prime: (3 years to 6 years) This is young adulthood when cats are at their most virile.
  • Mature: (7 to 10 years) During these years, the first indications of chronic disease can show up, such as , , or .
  • Senior: (11 to 14 years) This age in cat years corresponds to a human age of 60 or older.
  • Geriatric: (15 years and older) The final stage in a cat's life.

Preparing to Care for An Aging Cat

Cats' care requirements change as they go from one stage of life to the next. The senior and geriatric periods of your cat's life may be some of their greatest, even if they may begin to operate more slowly. The likelihood that your cat will flourish later in life improves with routine veterinarian treatment. Working closely with your doctor, being aware of the telltale indications of a healthy cat, and getting quick veterinary treatment when necessary may all help to extend the possible lifespan of your cat.

What You Need

As your cat transitions into older age, here are some key essentials to remember when caring for an elderly feline pet:

  • Proper nutrition: The nutritional needs of healthy senior cats are not much different from those of younger adult cats. But older cats with diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease will require special dietary changes. Check with your vet to see what type of diet is suggested for your cats' unique needs.
  • Plenty of water: It's important for aging cats to drink lots of clean, fresh water to help improve kidney function and prevent dehydration. Older cats may sometimes forget to drink, so consider either adding wet food to your cat's diet or switching to wet food for all meals to help ensure she gets plenty of fluids. You can also take your cat to their water bowl on occasion to encourage more drinking.
  • Exercise: Despite their tendency to slow down as they age, all cats benefit from regular exercise—especially cats who may be suffering from arthritis or other joint issues. Just a few minutes with a ribbon or toy mouse can go a long way.
  • Comfortable resting spaces: Cats are sleepy creatures, and they especially need rest as they age. Make sure your cat's favorite spots are cleaned and comfortable. Try offering new pillows or create a cozy nook or cave to help your cat feel extra safe.
  • Gentle grooming tools: As cats age, it can be more difficult for them to keep their coats clean. Extra grooming with a very soft brush is a nice way to keep your cat's fur in order. It's also another way for them to receive some loving attention from you.

Preventing Problems With Your Cat During Aging

While veterinary care and a nutritious diet are essential parts of responsible cat care, the following will help prevent many of the problems cats encounter as they age:

  • Disease Screening: All cats 10 years or older should be seen at least twice a year for well-check and should be tested for chronic diseases common to older cats. If they do have one of these conditions, your veterinarian will need to see them on a more regular basis.
  • Dental care: Although dental care is important through all life stages, it is increasingly important during cats' . Dental diseases and infections can endanger your cat's overall health if they're not treated. Take your aging cat for regular dental checkups and cleanings.
  • Movement and comfort: Offering massages and doing therapeutic exercises with your cat will increase comfort during later years.

General Cat Care

Although genetics may have the biggest effect on how cats age, there are many things we can do to maximize our cats' life potential, starting when they first come into care as a kitten.

  1. Bring kittens in for their initial checkup at the vet. They will receive their initial vaccinations as well as worm and flea tests. As soon as a kitten receives a vaccination, keep it apart from other household cats until it has recovered from any contagious illnesses.

    Kittens should then be seen by their vet three or four times during the first year, for follow-up vaccines, and to be spayed or neutered.

  2. All acquired cats with uncertain ancestry should be evaluated as soon as possible, including kittens. (feline leukemia), FIV (the feline form of HIV), and perhaps FIP should all be tested for in the cat (feline infectious peritonitis).

  3. Take your cat to the veterinarian once a year, starting at age one, for well-checks and booster vaccines. Senior cats may require more frequent vet visits depending on their overall health.

  4. neuter and spay cats. This improves the cat's general health, inhibits its mate-seeking behavior, and lowers the population of feral and stray cats.

  5. Retain cats indoors. In addition to assisting with the stray problem, keeping your cat indoors will shield it from numerous contagious illnesses. Additionally, cats kept indoors are not injured by wild animals or hit by automobiles.

  6. Don't declaw your cat. There's no health reason for declawing a cat and it can do irreparable damage to a cat's foot. It's also extremely painful for the animal.

  7. Know the warning signs of health issues or behavioral issues, and when to take your cat to the doctor for suspected illnesses and urgent care.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.