Only Time and Patience can create an Old Friend and a Garden. Our feline friends are maturing and ageing even more gracefully than they used to. Good food, good owners and timely veterinary intervention are ensuring that cats are regularly getting to 15 and even 21 years old! Here are a few ‘how to’s’ that will make these later years comfortable as well as prolonged. Dr Kim is regularly helping owners to manage their venerable feline friends age gracefully into their teen years. A cat who has lived 13 calendar years is metabolically the same as a 70 year old person! By 19, a cat equates to a human over 90 years old! And as with humans, some get there on their own, but more are making the longer journey with the help of medications, lifestyle improvements and good nutrition.
The BIG THREE issues for Senior cats are Arthritis, Dental Health and Kidney Function.
We used to think that cats did not get Arthritis, and that slowing down was just a function of growing old. Now we know that 90% of cats over the age of 10 years have arthritis, and we all appreciate that chronic pain is debilitating. The good news is that there are now some great ways to alleviate that pain, and your oldie will even start playing again! If you feline friend (of any age) is not able to jump up on your kitchen bench easily (or over the garden fence!), then think about addressing their pain.
A great way to improve the wellbeing of your pet cat is to apply Aquapuncture. This is like Acupuncture except it involves injections into your cat’s joints. This is incredibly effective and Dr. Kim has videos and case studies led by Dr. Barry Nielsen BVs on the use of feline aquapuncture on her Feline Friendly Site.
Dental deterioration is the next chronic problem our feline friends have – basically because they don’t brush their teeth, fluoride does not help them, and only catching and eating mice is preventative (truly – ask Dr Kim next time). Because those germs in the mouth affect a cat’s whole body, it puts pressure on the immune system and the kidneys in particular, plus bad teeth are sore. Major dental work involves removing those teeth before the root abscesses cause bigger problems. Removing all the back teeth (the canines or long front teeth remain for face shape and defence) results in longer kidney life, reduced pain and much better breath! Human periodontists have proved that taking out all the teeth of homeless people – whose dental hygiene is probably about the same as cat’s – results in a lot fewer trips to hospital, and much better heart health (the human weak point). Cats are just as keen to stay away from hospital, and a caudal clearance helps them to do that. There is no proven benefit to just polishing cat’s teeth – and even if you brush them, they are just not designed to last. And even cats with no back teeth can still CATch rats and mice – they just can’t peel them!
Kidneys are a cats weak point. 50% of cats die of kidney failure, and the other half from cancer (with a few from heart problems). Now that there is so much more we can do to help keep feline kidneys functioning for longer, the cats just keep on going! Dr Kim likes to regularly check kidney function with urine tests and blood pressure measurements (yes, Dr Kim measures BP with paediatric cuffs and a special doppler machine!). The procedures are painless – the cats think it is strange but they rarely object. They must know it is for their own good! Managing blood pressure with drugs, and changing the diet to help the kidneys function better, has resulted in many venerable souls living a very high quality of life for many extra years! The use of the prescription renal diets, plus the supplement Ipakatine (for the ‘non-renal’ meals) means cats can have their favourite food AND stabilise their kidney’s workload! For the chronic kidney and bladder infection that are common in the elderly of all species, there is the long-acting antibiotic injection (Convenia) is a godsend for felines – pretty effective and only a trip to the vet – not daily pills! With a combination of these things, plus controlling Blood Pressure (with the same medications as people take! ), kidney function can be extended to nearly match that of a Kidney Transplant. Now THAT’S something!