If cats could speak our language, they would be the first to tell us that we don’t “own” them.

Some of them might say they own us, but we’d hope they would take more of a middle ground and see us as their friends and caregivers.

This last role is particularly important for older cats, who, as they progress through the years, rely more on more on our ability to care for them and identify and react to their needs.

It’s our duty, then, to become familiar with the changes we can expect our cats to go through as they age. This will allow us to know what’s normal and what’s a sign of illness, and keep our cats happy, healthy, and by our side for many more years to come.

1. Behaviour

The first thing we notice as our cat gets older is changes in their behaviour. As well as not running off with your slippers and bringing you “presents” every morning, this can often include a reduction in their ability to handle stress and significant changes in their sleep-wake cycle

As the clearest sign that something may be amiss, it’s important to get to know your cat’s behaviour so you can identify when there may be a potential issue. Maybe they’re not climbing on your lap as often or they’re going to rest after just a few minutes of play. Or maybe they’re much more or less verbal or just generally seem down and under the weather.

Monitoring their behaviour is number one in senior cat care as it is the best way to identify problems early and prevent them from developing into major issues.

2. Appearance

Along with behaviour, keeping a good eye on changes in appearance is a great way to care for your ageing feline. Signs like brittle nails, thinning hair, loose, less-elastic skin, and the emergence of brown spots in the iris are some of the common age-related changes you can and should expect as your cat enters their later years.

Whereas the above are typically nothing to worry about, there are other changes which you may need to act to address. For example, if your cat is piling on the pounds, you may look to increase the level of activity in its life. Likewise, if they’re looking on the slim side, it may be time to change their diet to something more easily digestible or pay a visit to the vet.

3. Ability

The third and most important area to be aware of in senior cat care is ability. Ability encompasses everything from movement and vision to breathing and eating — basically a cat’s essential needs to survive.

It’s normal for older cats to experience a gradual deterioration in the above areas, so if your cat develops a bit of shortsightness and starts to occasionally forget where the food is, it’s generally nothing to worry about. However, it is important to keep an eye on just how quickly and considerably such changes occur. For example, as something like a gradual decrease in movement could suggest arthritis or more serious heart or circulatory problems.

As well as taking your elderly cat for regular visits to the vets — twice a year at least — and make sure they get blood and urine tests, it’s advisable to introduce specially designed pet supplements to their daily regime. Among many other benefits, cat health supplements are beneficial for maintaining good bone and digestive health.