Dr. Johnson has been part of the Adobe team since 1985 – first as a tech, and then as a vet. She has a degree in chemistry from Princeton, and a degree in Veterinary Medicine from UC Davis.
Many thanks to Dr. Johnson for these answers to our questions...
Cats, especially indoor cats, can live over 20 years. They are considered "senior" starting at about 13 or 14 years old.
2. As pet owners, what should we watch for as our cats age?
The main things to watch for are changes – in appetite, drinking, weight, activity level, appearance, elimination habits, breathing – or the appearance of any symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea.
3. Are there differences in well care as our cats become older – for example, the frequency or type of vet visits?
In the older cat, we usually recommend coming in every 6 months instead of yearly, and we often will do blood tests, radiographs or other diagnostic procedures, especially if any of the above symptoms are present.
4. Dental issues are always a concern in senior cats...what kind of tooth and gum care do senior cats need?
Dental care should start at a young age, ideally with brushing the cat's teeth at least a few times weekly. In any case, the teeth and gums should be evaluated at each veterinary visit, and they should definitely be checked if you notice redness, bleeding, bad breath or masses in the mouth. Often times, the teeth need to be cleaned to eliminate plaque and the bacteria that can cause problems in the entire body. We do not recommend the anesthesia-free teeth cleaning, as these procedures do not address any decay or infection that may be occurring under the gums, and they can often lead to broken teeth and retained, infected roots.
5. What should we be alert about as our cats age? Are there changes that are okay, vs. changes we should be concerned about?
As in #2 above, most of the changes that you see in your older cat should at least be evaluated to make sure that they are part of natural aging, rather than part of a disease process. In older cats, probably the number one indication for seeing your vet would be the cat starting to drink more water – as cats age, they are prone to developing kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes, and drinking extra water can be the first symptom of these problems.
Shelters are looking urgently to find temporary or permanent homes for mature and senior cats. These loving animals are often overlooked for kittens – even when they are perfect for the adoptee. Adopting a mature or senior cat from the local shelter can be a heart- and home-warming experience. These cats can provide amazing companionship, friendship, and love. A perfect example of a wonderful senior kitty is Hamilton who is 8 years young. He has been waiting patiently at the San Jose Animal Care Center while many kittens have been adopted. This confident love muffin is waiting for you to come and adopt him. Seniors rule!