Senior Cat Care – Senior Cat Golden Years. Over 75% of our cats have passed middle age and are entering their “golden years”. To call a cat old, one mustn’t consider chronological age, but rather physiological condition. Biological and chronological aging are not inexorably linked. Aging begins when the body’s systems start to slow down – when cells deteriorate faster than the body can repair them. We think of it as a progressive decline in mental and physical functioning and appearance which is accompanied by an increase in susceptibility to chronic diseases. This is caused primarily by three factors: Genetic inheritance, declining hormone levels and oxidative stress.
Though the aging process is different for every animal, it generally begins at maturity, somewhere between eight and ten months old in cats.
As with humans, actual chronological age, in other words, the year in which the pet was born, is often less important than biological age, which is determined by how a pet eats, moves and feels. Age related changes in body composition, organ function, mental alertness and endurance vary with each individual.
Advances in veterinary science over the past ten years have made it possible to delay, retard and reverse many of the common phenomena which collectively comprise aging. Reducing oxidative stress along with proper nutrition are paramount to proper health.
CAT AGE AND SIZE
Six-month old kittens are similar in age to ten-year old children. Twelve-month old cats are the equivalent of 15 human years. After that, cats age four years for every year thereafter.
CAT OXIDATIVE STRESS
The natural metabolic processes of our bodies as well as the toxins in our environment subject us to the damaging effects of harmful compounds called free radicals, which increase as a cat ages. These highly toxic molecules damage your cat’s DNA (genetic material) and proteins and make them more susceptible to cancer, corrode their arteries and increase their risk of heart disease. In effect, they cause your cat’s body to “rust” just like oxygen does to iron.
Antioxidants are the body’s natural defense against free radicals. In addition to fending off free radicals, they also help protect cell membranes and DNA. Antioxidants, include Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E; minerals like Selenium and Zinc; and other nutrients like Co-Enzyme Q10. They decrease the level of oxidative stress and can be prescribed in specific formulas for cats as needed.
Essential fatty acids including Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids help cats maintain a proper fatty balance as the body’s fatty acid synthesis naturally decreases with age. These compounds which are found in natural vegetable and fish oils promote a healthy skin and hair coat and add a great shine. They also help to “prepare” some cats to better tolerate skin sensitivities.
When and how your cat responds has a lot to do with genetics and environment. What a cat eats also alters hormone levels and oxidative stress. Although proper feeding is vital as a cat ages, it’s just as essential throughout a lifetime. The longer and more consistently you provide an optimally balanced diet, proper nutritional supplementation and exercise, the greater your cat’s chances are of living a long healthy life.
By Dr. Carol Osborne