February 1, 2015

Environmental Changes

Elderly cats should have easy access to a warm and comfortable sleeping area, situated where they can sleep safely without fear of disturbance. In some cases, it may be necessary to add a ramp or stairs to help them navigate safely to their favorite resting spot.

“We offer ramps as an accessory for our litter boxes, which helps the cat get in the litter box more easily,” said Jason Hart, director of marketing for PetSafe. “This is a great benefit for senior pets who may be more challenged.”

In homes with wood or tile floors, owners should also consider adding rugs to help their older pets walk more comfortably.

“FLOR’s custom rugs and runners are made up of individual carpet design squares, which make them the perfect floor covering for pet owners of all kinds, including those with senior cats,” said Rick Kilmer, president of FLOR. “The modular squares not only create a comfortable place to lie on but are easily replaceable when accidents happen. So instead of cleaning or switching out an entire rug, a simple square replacement will do the trick.”

Encouraging Movement

Many senior pets are affected by osteoarthritis, which often contributes to decreased activity. The lack of activity then worsens the symptoms by reducing muscle tone and increasing depression. There are ways that owners can help encourage activity in aging animals.

“Senior cats often need more encouragement to become active,” said Ellen Tsuyuki, president of Nekochan Enterprises, Inc. “The new Birbug toy can inspire even the most inactive cat to play because it’s realistic prey movement in flight or on ground triggers their primal hunting response. The Birbug lure resembles an actual bug, complete with dangly and shimmering pieces that attract a cat’s attention with realistic colors and movement, thereby encouraging play.”

For cats that are losing their eyesight, encouraging activity through sound may help.

“SuperCat crinkly plush toys encourage play and activity to fight obesity in senior cats by keeping them playing, stimulated and moving,” said Cristen Underwood, director of marketing for Quaker Pet Group.

In addition to play, it’s important to offer surfaces that encourage scratching and general exercise.

“In the wild, cats satisfy their instinctual need to scratch by sinking their claws into rough tree bark,” said Kristie Hamilton, director of sales for Imperial Cat. “For the domestic cat, corrugated cardboard scratching posts are the best solution for destructive scratching behaviors.”

Diet, Supplements and Hydration

Older cats often experience degenerative changes in the liver, kidneys and endocrine system. This often decreases their desire to drink water, causing them to become more easily dehydrated.

“Hydration is critical to cats no matter what their age and they can be picky about water sources,” said Hart. “For that reason, we offer our line of Drinkwell fountains, which include charcoal filters to remove bad taste and odors. The free-falling water encourages cats to drink more, which helps keep cats hydrated and healthy.”
Feeding a high-quality diet that is easily digestible and high in fiber and moisture can also help stave off digestive issues.

“Canned foods have a higher moisture content and are superior for senior cats to promote hydration,” said Holly Sher, president and owner of Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company. “Also it is important to seek out a canned diet choice that is much higher in fiber content, such as Against the Grain Chicken and Pumpkin Samba or Evanger’s Organic

Turkey with Butternut Squash, which is diluted with Evanger’s 100% Sweet Potato.”

Pet food labels can be difficult to interpret and different labeling requirements for supplements make them doubly so.

“The labeling between pet food and supplements is very different, which often leads to confusion,” said Amy Paris, founder and CEO of LICKS Pill-Free Solutions. “Pet foods list their additives in ratios like this: 500 mg/kg; whereas, supplements are labeled per serving like this: 500 mg. A senior pet requires a minimum of 500 mg of absorbable glucosamine per day.”

Preventing Dental Disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is common in seniors and may contribute to a poor appetite and corresponding weight loss. Fortunately, the industry has added some clever methods of caring for their teeth without stressing them with frequent cleanings.

“Natural Chemistry Cat Dental Cleanse has no artificial colors, chlorine, dyes or sweeteners,” said Jeff Fowler, national sales manager at Natural Chemistry. “The product is odorless and tasteless, thus close to 100 percent acceptance cats. The product is made in the U.S.A. and helps reduce the buildup of plaque and tarter as well as freshens breath.”

“Dental Fresh for Cats, when used regularly, promotes fresh breath and improves oral health by strengthening gums and teeth,” said Carlos Zamora, marketing coordinator for SynergyLabs. “It also removes plaque, tartar, and unwanted bacteria from teeth.

Aging cats have different needs and it’s important for retailers to be well-versed on this topic. Thanks to better veterinary care, increased levels of commitment by families and superb nutrition, we can count on the senior population of pets to continue increasing in upcoming years.

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