Tips for Exercising An Aging Cat

Tips for Exercising An Aging Cat

Just like humans, cats need exercise to remain healthy. And while exercising does get difficult the older your cat gets, it’s still essential (if not even more important) for them to remain active in their senior years.

Exercising an older cat presents a little bit of a problem for some people because they are not going to have as much energy or be capable of as much movement as they once were, which will likely prevent them from getting exercise in the way they have been for most of their life.

Cat towers or trees for climbing, for example, might require too much exertion for a senior cat. If you own one of these, your strategy for keeping them active may have to change. 

It can be stressful watching your pet’s body start to deteriorate, so you should familiarize yourself on what to expect. Read on for a few tips on how you can exercise your aging cat:

Get Specific Toys

When it comes to the toys, you should find some that require less energy but still ensure that your cat gets some exercise while playing with them.

Stuffed toys are always a good choice. A cat can smack around a stuffed toy if they’re in a hunting mood, and they’re not as hard on the body as a track toy. Similarly, you could get a peek and play toy box, which is very similar to those whack-a-mole games you find in arcades. Things pop out that your cat will try to grab. This gets them active while also allowing them to stay in the same place and not put too much strain on their joints.

There are also some great toys out there that will help keep a cat’s mind active too, which brings me to my next point:

Don’t Forget Brain Training

Your cat is going to age mentally as well as physically. This is easier to forget about because it’s not as visible of a process. You can watch your cat try and fail to get up to the top of their tower, but you can’t really see them losing their sharpness or sense of their surroundings.

If a cat isn’t reacting as quickly to things or is less coordinated than they once were, they can become anxious and scared. They’re essentially losing track of their senses, which is a frightening thing to deal with. 

Unfortunately, some degree of it is inevitable, and you have to deal with that, too (take a look at this article from Dogviously). Cats’ and dogs’ brains are more similar than you might think, and a lot of the methods from the article will work on cats, too.

As far as the brain training itself goes, try to make it enjoyable. Some of the best cat toys out there right now are puzzle-based. They’re designed to hide a treat that gets released when the cat solves a small puzzle. The puzzles are simple, of course, as cats aren’t scientists, but are enough to stimulate the cat’s mind. If the cat does something to stimulate their mind every day, it will definitely help to keep them sharp.

Encourage Light Climbing

Serious climbing might not be an activity that your cat is capable of in their twilight years, but if possible, you should try to get them to do a little bit of it. They don’t have to be climbing towers anymore, but you could introduce some smaller objectives.

For example, try putting their food or water bowl on a low shelf so that they have to climb up if they want to eat. Of course, if it does become impossible for them to make this small jump then you should move their food back to the ground. You don’t want to keep them from eating, rather, just give them a little bit of exercise.

You could also move some furniture around or get some lower furniture. If you have a cat who liked to climb up on the couch but can’t do so anymore, consider getting an ottoman or a small armchair that they can jump on instead. Otherwise, they will probably just resign themselves to staying on the floor, which will cause their agility to decrease even more over time. 

If they also like to sleep on your bed with you, make sure that they can still get up. Maybe place a short step next to the bed that they can climb up on to maneuver their way onto the bed. For as long as they are capable of some light climbing, encourage it.

The important thing is to remain positive with your pet. Don’t get down because they’re not as spritely as they used to be and try not to get frustrated when trying to keep them active. They need you now more than ever, and there are plenty of ways to get them up and exercising.

Crazy Cat Lady’s Guide on How to Keep a Cat

Crazy Cat Lady’s Guide on How to Keep a Cat

I am a crazy cat lady.  Okay, okay I only have two cats, but I am obsessed with their care and behavior.  I’ve been a veterinary technician for 10 years and it has only increased my love for kitties.  Cats are complex little critters.  Some people think of them as small dogs and some people think of them as aloof and unaffectionate.  But really, they are their own little, independent spirits. Not everyone immediately understands all of their behaviors and what to do about them if they are undesirable. Let’s go over a couple of the most common reasons that keeping your cat may not work out.  Maybe we can find some solutions on how to keep a cat in your home where you want her to be.

How to Keep a Cat Step 1: Potty Training Your Cat

One of the most common reasons people get rid of their cats is inappropriate urination, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship with your little kitty friend.  After ruling out a medical reason, such as a urinary tract infection, it might be time to look at your cat’s litterbox a little more closely.

Although cats like enclosed spaces, a litter box with a lid trap in bad odors.  Use an open litter box with unscented litter.  What smells good to us, doesn’t necessarily smell good to your feline friend.  Speaking of scooping, it should be done at least once a day to keep your cat happy and using that box.  You should keep one litter box per cat plus one extra in the house.  This gives your cat plenty of places that they can go without competing for space with another cat.  Even if you only have one cat you should have two litter boxes. It will keep each litter box a little cleaner between scooping.

how to keep a cat | The Pet Vet

What if you use all your litterbox tricks still aren’t working?  Then it is time to retrain your cat to use the litter box.  This takes some time, but it really can be effective and can be one of the most important steps to keep your cat.

  1. Get yourself a large dog kennel with only enough room to keep a litterbox, a bed, and food and water bowls.
  2. Keep your cat in the kennel for several days to a week, making sure to clean that litterbox at least once a day.
  3. Upgrade your kitty quarters to a bathroom or any other small tiled room. Keep your cat in that room for several days to a week.
  4. Then you can move your cat to a bedroom sized room. Carpet is okay for this step.
  5. If all has gone well and your cat continues to use the litter box reliably through this process, you can let your feline friend free.

It is important to clean the area that your kitty has been urinating on.  If it smells like urine, it will be harder to keep your cat from falling into old habits.  Use an enzymatic cleaner for getting that urine smell out.

How to Keep a Cat Step 2: Solving the Scratching Problem

Another common reason to find another home for your cat is scratching up your carpet and furniture.  Some people’s first reaction is to go get their kitty declawed.  Let me urge you to stop and think about that first response.

how to keep a cat | The Pet Vet

First, let’s discuss what declawing actually is.  The procedure removes the third phalanx, also known as the toe bone.  There are three main techniques using sterilized nail trimmers (guillotine method), a scalpel blade, or a laser to remove the toe and the nail.  No matter the procedure used, it is still a surgical procedure with the risk of complications.

The most common complications are bleeding, claw regrowth, and the surgical site opening before it is fully healed.  This can cause lameness and a slow healing process.  The larger your cat is the more likely there will be complications.  Think about it this way: the more weight on your cat’s feet, the more pressure there is and therefore it is more likely to have excessive bleeding and a higher chance that the surgical site will reopen.

There are other alternatives to declawing.  Keep the nails short by trimming them regularly.  Another option is nail caps.  You simply trim your cat’s nails, apply glue to the inside of the nail cap, and place on the nail.  They can last for about a month.  You could also train your cat not to scratch by following the following steps.

  1. Start by redirecting your cat’s attention every time she tries to scratch inappropriately. Use a toy to catch her attention.
  2. Make the scratching post a desirable object. Start by using treats every time you see your kitty using the post.  If your cat responds well to catnip, you could try sprinkling a little bit of dried catnip onto the post to avoid giving too many treats.  There are also pheromone sprays and wall plug-ins to encourage the use of the scratching post.
  3. Place tinfoil or tape on the items that are being scratched inappropriately to deter the behavior.
  4. Use a scratching post made of sisal or cardboard. You don’t want to have a similar material as your couch.  Some cats prefer something to scratch on vertically, while others prefer scratching horizontally.  Provide both types of scratching surfaces until you know what your kitty prefers.

how to keep a cat | The Pet Vet

A combination of all three approaches usually is the most effective.  You can use the nail caps while you are teaching your cat the scratching post is the place to be.

When is it appropriate to declaw?  If it will prevent the cat from being euthanized, becoming an outdoor cat or having to be rehomed, sometimes it is the right decision.  It may be worth the risk of surgery to save a cat’s life.

There are some challenges to being a cat companion but hopefully, I have given you some ideas on how to keep a cat and make those challenges a little easier.  Cats are great additions to a home and a family.  If you are like me, then you think a home is not a home without a cat.

How to Fight the Bite: Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs and Cats

flea and tick prevention for dogs and cats

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that most pet owners will have encountered at least once in their pets’ lives. Itching is the most common problem that is noted with these parasites but they can cause hair loss, skin infections, reduce your pet’s activity level and even transmit diseases. Knowledge of these common parasites and proper prevention techniques can ensure that your pet is healthy and happy. This blog covers some best practices for flea and tick prevention for dogs and cats.

how to fight the bite

Flea and Tick Prevention is a Year-Round Battle

Fleas and ticks are everywhere from the lake to parks and even your own home. As a pet owner, you have to constantly be on guard when it comes to protecting your furry friend. There are many ways to prevent flea and tick infestations. The most important step is keeping your pet on monthly preventative. Year-round prevention is imperative to reduce the risk of infestation of both fleas and ticks. It is a common misconception that fleas and ticks are dormant in the winter months. The southern region of the US has a warm climate that is hospitable for these pests throughout the year. There are a lot of preventatives on the market today. It is important to discuss with your veterinarian what medication is the best for your pet. Nexgard and Revolution are offered at all Pet Vet clinics. These are both great options for flea and tick prevention. It is important to note that flea and tick preventatives are specific to dogs or cats. Make sure to read the label carefully before applying any preventative to your pet.

There are also some ways that you can try to control these pests in your yard. Fleas and ticks prefer to live in areas with lots of vegetation. Mowing the lawn regularly and removing any brush, weeds or leaf litter are great ways to keep external parasites from your lawn. Fencing your lawn to keep wildlife, such as deer and rodents, out can also be helpful as they are common carriers of external parasites. There are sprays available to treat outside areas. If you live near wooded areas or large pastures, this might be necessary to keep your parasite population under control. Make sure that all products used are safe for animals.

What to Do If Your Pet Already Has Fleas

If your pet becomes infested with fleas, it is important to bath them and apply flea prevention when dry. Cleaning all areas that your infested pet has inhabited is also important. Fleas actually jump off your pet to lay eggs in the surrounding environment, such as bedding, carpets and even the spaces between wood flooring. This means that all bedding must be washed. Carpets need to be shampooed. Any

surfaces or furniture that cannot be washed should be steam cleaned. There are also room sprays that can help kill fleas. If you elect to use these sprays, make sure the room is well ventilated and that humans or animals do not inhabit the room until the fumes of the spray have dissipated. The flea life cycle is 21 days so these areas may need to be cleaned again in a month to ensure that your pet is safe from re-infestation. This long lifecycle is another important reason to continue monthly preventatives if your pet has recently been diagnosed with fleas as re-infestation is very common if this medication is not given when due.

What to Do If Your Pet Already Has Ticks

Ticks are concerning not only because they bother your pet and consume their blood. They also can transmit diseases that can be life-threatening to your pet. If you find a tick, it is important to remove it as soon as possible. This can be done by grabbing the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible with tweezers and pulling straight out quickly. If you have any hesitation or concern about removing a tick, bring your dog or cat to The Pet Vet and we can remove it safely. After the tick is removed, keep the tick in a securely closed container and bring it to a veterinarian for identification. This can be helpful if your pet happens to get ill after a tick bite as specific ticks carry specific diseases. Knowing the tick means that we know the diseases that could potentially be causing your pet’s illness. A month after any tick exposure, a simple blood test should be performed to ensure your pet has not become positive for some of the most common tick-borne diseases. It is important to wait a full month as doing it any earlier can result in a false negative. This test can be performed at any Pet Vet Clinic and results are completed in 10 minutes.

Just a few simple steps of maintaining your yard and giving monthly preventative can greatly reduce your pet’s chance of becoming infested with uncomfortable and potentially deadly parasites. Fleas and ticks are everywhere but they should never be on your pets. The Pet Vet can help ensure that your furry friend is healthy and free of any these uncomfortable pests.

Senior Pet Care Tips from our Veterinarians:
How to Care for Your Pet During Their Golden Years

Dr. Kaitlin Agel, DVM, MPH

All pet parents want their fur babies to live long and happy, healthy lives.  As veterinary care expands and improvements in preventive medicine are developed, more and more pets are living well into their senior years.  This is excellent news!  Senior pets are amazing!  They have been deeply integrated into their owner’s lives over many years, through all kinds of life experiences.  The bond that an owner shares with a senior pet is truly something special.  As veterinarians, we want to preserve that bond, and keep the owner informed and well-prepared for changes that senior pets might experience.  Most of these animals have been seeing a veterinarian at least once a year throughout their adult lives for wellness care and vaccinations.  Just as in human medicine, normal aging changes require more intensive health screenings and additional testing should be performed.  Yearly bloodwork should be performed throughout the life of a pet, and after the age of 7 a urinalysis and thyroid scan should be included as well.  Auditory and ophthalmologic testing should be performed to address any possible hearing or vision changes.  Blood pressure and electrical activity of the heart (EKG) should be assessed.  Depending on the size, breed, or sex of the pet; performing x-rays of the hips, chest, or other area may be warranted.  These tests should be performed annually, and your veterinarian may recommend more frequent screenings for some pets. Your veterinarian may also recommend other testing based on location, history, or lifestyle.  All of these screenings are designed to catch health issues early so that treatment or management can begin as soon as possible.

One aspect of senior pet care that some owners struggle with is the fear of diagnosis.  As pets age, owners begin to notice changes in mobility or energy and may avoid going to the veterinarian.  Many people do not even consciously realize this avoidance is happening, so it is important that you make an effort to address any changes noted with your veterinarian.  There are a multitude of therapies available to ease the aging process and make life easier for senior pets and their owners.  Additionally, do not fear judgement from your veterinarian.  We are here to help you and your pet enjoy the best quality of life possible for as long as possible, by using our own medical knowledge and resources.  Think of your veterinarian as a tool you can use to make your own well-informed decision on how to best manage your senior pet’s daily life.

One part of senior pet living that most people are unaware of is the number of senior pets available for adoption.  When most people think of adopting a new pet, they consider all the responsibilities and time involved in training and caring for a new puppy.  Long nights with little sleep, vaccination appointments, play time every day, and so many trips outside for potty training! This is a big job and can deter some people from adopting a new pet, even if they want one!  Luckily, there is a viable alternative to a new puppy or kitten, and November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month!  Many of these animals ended up in adoption services due to owner health issues or living arrangement changes that force owners to surrender the pet.  These dogs and cats can have many years left and could be an amazing addition to a household.  Often these pets are already trained and they like to live life at a slower pace.  These are the golden years of leisurely walks, gentle play times, and lots of lounging around.  Consider adopting a senior pet next time you are looking for a new family member, and you might meet your perfect match!