One of my cats is 16 now, and the other two are 12. As such, I have been researching the topic of senior cat care quite a bit in recent years. I love my cats like family, and I want to do everything in my power to keep them healthy and happy for many more years. Though there may be some things outside of my control, there are steps I can take now and in the future that will positively impact the longevity of my beloved fur babies. I’ll cover some of them briefly in this post.
When Does a Cat Reach “Senior” Age?
The funny thing about this question is that the answer depends upon who you ask. Some cat experts put the senior age as low at 7, while others say it’s more like 10 or 11. There is no “absolute” age that classifies a cat as senior. This is due in part because, like humans, some cats age faster than others. If your cat is 10 years or older – about the equivalent of a 56-60 year old human – you can safely assume they are a senior.
As a cat ages, health issues are bound to arise. The best way to help ensure longevity is to catch problems as early as possible. Early detection of age-related conditions and illnesses will enable you and your veterinarian treat them more successfully. Many health issues can be delayed and/or managed provided they are caught in the beginning stages. Since cats are quite good at hiding illness and may not appear unwell to you even when there is an underlying issue, a wellness check every six months is recommended. For a senior cat, six months is about the same as you seeing your doctor every two years, which is certainly long enough for health changes to occur.
Today’s technology allows for new advances in many areas of our lives. Manufacturers often develop innovative products that make everyday tasks easier and more efficient for us. As responsible pet owners, we have to be aware of changes in cleaning products to make sure they are safe for use around our animals.
Laundry pods are small, single-use detergent packets in round or rectangle shapes. Shortly after pods hit the market, warnings were issued to keep them away from young children because the pods looked like candy and kids were putting them in their mouth. Since 2012, poison control centers have received thousands of pod-related reports regarding young children. But what about our pets? Do laundry pods pose a danger to our furry friends as well? Yes, they can. In 2013, detergent pods were on the ASPCA’s top ten toxin list.
Most pet owners know that certain household cleaners can be toxic to their dog or cat and take precautions to store these items where their pet can’t find them. Landry detergents, however, are more often stored in a convenient, unsecured place by the washer, or in a laundry basket or bag if you have to go to a laundromat. This makes it easier for pets to find them.
Fleas are more than just an annoyance for our dogs and cats. They can cause health problems that go beyond mere itching and bites. They can also spread to everyone else in the house. These insects may be tiny, but they can cause a world of discomfort.
What is a Flea?
A flea is a parasite that sucks blood from its victims. Their bodies are made for jumping and running, so they move easily from animal to animal, including the human members of the household. They can populate quickly if left unchecked. The female feeds on the blood of the dog or cat and then leaves droppings that are a source of nutrition for the larvae they produce. If you see specks that look like dirt on the skin or in the fur of your dog or cat, you are looking at a food source for the female flea’s offspring.
You can wait to see if your dog gets fleas, but sometimes a proactive treatment to prevent them is a better option, particularly if you live in a region that is prone to the growth of flea populations. They are drawn to warmth and humidity, and they like low altitudes. Check with your vet or pet store to get an appropriate medication to help prevent the fleas from getting a hold to populate on your pet’s skin.
Just the mention of ticks causes a tingling on the back of your neck. An afternoon hike in the woods can end with a thorough search through your dog’s coat and your hair to make sure none of those bloodsuckers hitched a ride. Some years are worse than others, and weather plays a big role in how bad a tick outbreak might be and when tick season begins.
Ticks are found everywhere in the United States, and which species you encounter depends on where you live. There are four stages in the life cycle of ticks: egg, larvae (smaller than a period), nymph (size of a pinhead), and adult. It takes two years for them to develop into adults, and except for the egg stage, each stage requires a blood meal before it can molt into the next one. Females can lay around 3,000 eggs.
Ticks do not die off during the winter months. To survive the cold and snow, most ticks find shelter in leaf litter and are dormant until spring. However, adult deer ticks (black-legged ticks) remain active year round. You or your pet could pick up a hitchhiker anytime the air temperature is close to freezing or above and the ground isn’t frozen or snow covered. In freezing weather, deer ticks hunker down under the snow in leaf litter, on firewood or a tree trunk, and come out during warm spells. If you find a tick inside during the winter, it probably hitched a ride on firewood.
Accounts of elderly cats suffering seizures have been reported by cat owners worldwide for years. What triggered the seizures was unknown until a study was finally launched to discover the answer. Researchers nicknamed the condition “Tom and Jerry Syndrome” after Tom the cartoon cat, because of his surprised reactions to loud sounds that caused his body to jerk involuntary. (The sounds were usually produced by Jerry the mouse, to foil Tom’s attempts to catch him). The name of the syndrome may be humorous, but the condition can be scary for a cat and her owner dealing with this type of seizure which is triggered by certain household sounds.
Feline audiogenic reflex seizures (FARS) is a new type of epilepsy in cats recently discovered after a United Kingdom charity, Cat Care International, contacted veterinary specialists. The condition has mystified cat owners for a long time, but until the pet charity raised an alarm very little was known about the condition by vets and there was no data to explain this strange phenomenon. Owners and vets were puzzled why some cats suddenly began to jerk involuntarily, foam at the mouth, lose consciousness or become confused after hearing a high-pitched noise. Reactions to sounds varied from cat to cat. Some cats experience seizures several times a day, which is extremely distressing for both cat and owner – especially when the cause is unknown.
Living in any hot weather climate with your dog or cat means taking extra precautions during the worst of the heat, but living in the desert brings additional concerns for their safety. Here are a few tips to help keep your pets safer in that type of climate and terrain.
Wildlife and Vegetation
The desert has wildlife and vegetation that can be dangerous to a curious pet. Some stay away from roaming creatures and the tough prickly vegetation native to the desert, but simple curiosity in desert terrain means exposure to these possible dangers. Pets do not necessarily know what is or isn’t dangerous for them, particularly if the desert is not something your dog or cat has been exposed to.
The sharp thorns of a cactus or succulent can cut or pierce the skin, paws or mouths of an overly curious pet. Creatures such as poisonous snakes or crawling scorpions are among the natural desert inhabitants that can make your dog or cat very ill or even kill them. If possible, keep a safe area enclosed in your yard for your dog and cat. If you can’t do that, or are out walking or playing with your pets, keep a sharp eye out for what they are getting into or examining. Eventually they will learn some of what is dangerous or painful, but you don’t want to chance it by not paying attention to the possible hazards.
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