The senior years. Time to kick back, relax, enjoy life a little, right? Well, maybe not so much for your cat. As we age, our bodies start to break down in different ways. We are more prone to illnesses, we take more time to heal from injuries, and our joints start to creak and hurt. The same goes for your cat. Once your cat starts to hit 7 and over, that is when we start to see older age illnesses start to kick in. While old age is not a disease, it does make your cat more prone to diseases. While there are things that you can do to slow down these older age diseases, and in some cases even cure them, there will always be something else around the corner. Just like us, cats do not live forever however much we might want them to.
Once your cat starts to slow down a little, don't just automatically attribute it to aging. Instead think to yourself, is there a disease process causing this that I might be able to do something about? The first thing you should do when your cat starts to slow down is to bring them into the vet. An exam is great, many things will be found on that, but you may also need to consider doing some additional tests such as blood work, blood pressure, urinalysis, etc. since those tests can yield a lot of information about improving your cat's quality of life. Even if your cat is just starting to develop arthritis, you can do something about it. You can't reverse arthritis, but you can slow it down with glucosamine. You can also minimize pain from arthritis with anti-inflammatory pain medications. If your cat is starting to show signs of kidney disease, you can slow it down with diet changes and medications. If your cat is developing high blood pressure, you can control it with medication and prevent further organ damage. There are a lot of things that you can do to increase your cat's length and quality of life as they age, but you have to find what the issues are first.
However, at some stage in your cat's life you will reach a point where there is not much more that you can do. The arthritis is terrible, your cat's kidneys are failing, your cat has become incontinent, and you will have to make a decision as to when to keep going and when to stop. If your cat still has some degree of quality of life, and you are willing to do anything and everything to keep them with you as long as possible regardless of how much extra care you need to do for them, then you are looking at hospice care for your cat. But, even then, you will reach a point where their quality of life starts to fail, and there is absolutely nothing left you can do to restore it. At that point you will have to make a decision as to whether or not to euthanize, and when to do it. Once you make the final decision to end your cat's suffering, you will have to make that final trip to the vets for the euthanasia. And afterwards - returning home without your cat, can be excruciating. You will grieve for their loss. But you have to comfort yourself knowing that you made the right decision, that you helped to end their suffering even though yours has just begun. But, you will heal and maybe even share your life with another cat. Not the same one, there will never be one like the one you lost, but sometimes a new friend can help to heal the hole in your heart.