It is very common for cat owners to seek professional grooming help for the first time when their cat becomes a senior. "My cat stopped grooming itself." This may be partially true, but as a cat owner, responsibility for grooming is a shared one.
Regular home grooming helps an owner monitor the health and condition of their beloved pet and immediately identify changes. It's heartbreaking that as seniors age, that they are often increasingly neglected and/or rejected because they smell bad, feel gross, or are cranky. These are the pets that actually need grooming more often. Why? Just like humans, our bodies betray us. They may seem less loveable, but they are still deserving of love and care. They need our help and assistance to stay clean, and feel better.
Here are some of the changes senior cats go through and why they seem to stop "self-grooming".
1. Arthritis. If your cat is not moving much, is particularly cranky being touched around its backside, or being picked up, it may be developing arthritis. A cat will curtail its grooming activity because it can't move the way it used to, and the activity is painful. It is best to have a veterinary do an assessment and make suggestions in relieving your cat's pain.
2. Weight problems. The days of kitty yoga are over, and half the real estate simply can't be reached. Often weight problems are tied with arthritis. Being overweight also contributes to a lack of wellness and can lead to depression.
3. Hidden medical issues. Cats are masters at disguising illness. Cats can go for years with diabetes, kidney or thyroid issues with owners completely unaware. It is particularly important for cats over 10 to see a veterinary annually for a check-up.
4. They sleep more. Healthy cats spend 50% of their awake time "self-grooming". If your senior spends more and more time sleeping, they amount of time spent on their hygiene decreases.
5. Their skin and fur changes. The skin becomes thinner and more delicate. Their muscle mass decreases. The fur changes in texture, density, and vitality as the ability to absorb and utilize nutrients and vitamins slows down.
6. Senility. Yes, elderly pets can suffer from dementia. They can forget about where the food bowl is, get lost within their own home, forget using the litter-box, and completely forget about their grooming schedule.
7. Not using the scratching post. This can be a combination of arthritis, overweight, depression or dementia. When a cat stops using it scratching post, take notice. The scratching post is a vital emotional outlet for cats plus it is the sole source of the cats ability to sheath its nails. If no sheathing occurs, the nail-bed continues to build-up until the nails grow around and into the pads. This is very painful and can cause infections. Check your elderly cat's nails at least monthly.
For all the reasons above, short or long-haired, mats will happen in senior cats. But mats are PREVENTABLE.
Mats are the bane of senior cats and they do not occur overnight. It takes time for the tiny knots to become an interwoven mushroom. Mats also will not dissolve or disappear on their own. and your cat will need help removing them. DON'T ever use scissors.
Prevention is the only cure for mats. That means a regular cleansing bath and comb schedule to keep the loose hair and dirt in check. A cat owner is responsible for grooming when the cat begins to slow down its habits and shows signs of a problem. Shaving is a risky final option because of the delicate skin, and the lack of ability of a senior cats to maintain their core body temperature with no hair. Shaving is not a long-term solution for seniors.
Love your cat, and take special care of your seniors.
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Janet Wormitt, CFMG CFCG
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