Why senior cats need special handling

“A retrospective study revealed that 22 percent of cats over 1 year old and 90 percent of cats over 12 years old had radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease.”

This is why I use plenty of towels when I groom a senior cat.  They rest on soft surfaces. If they’re not heavy, I even support their body while bathing them. The little things count.

 

Cats and Hip Dysplasia

Brushing, combing and washing the hip area —> discomfort/pain, or fear of discomfort/pain, expressed by moving away, hissing, swatting or biting.

Methods for grooming with minimal discomfort –> brush/comb haunches in very brief spurts of activity, pausing when cat expresses discomfort. Avoid pressing/pulling rear legs and don’t exert pressure on haunches/hips. Use blow-dryer + extremely light-touch brushing to blow out excess fur instead of dematting with a comb. Trim mats with ball-tip scissors (comb inserted between scissors and skin) instead of dematting with a comb. Heat may decrease soreness. Warm room, warm to almost hot water, warm to almost hot blow dryer. Wrap cat in large towel to prevent flailing of legs or twisting of hips. Rub ears and cheeks to soothe anxiety. Work fast.

Maine Coons are more likely than other breeds to have hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia –> discomfort when bending rear legs –> may increase likelihood of urinating outside litter box.

Arthritis in older cats & grooming matted seniors

Imagine what it would be like if a hairdresser pulled on your grandmother’s arms and legs while doing her hair.  Would your grandmother be happy or upset?  Would you feel good about the situation, or would you feel worried?

Grooming the older, matted cat poses challenges which are distinct from the challenges involved in grooming a young or middle-aged cat. Cats whose fur is matted require either de-matting with a comb/brush, or shaving/trimming the fur, in addition to bathing. Bathing relieves the skin of excess oil, dandruff and dirt.  Trimming the claws is part of the health care process, since elderly cats can develop ingrown claws which penetrate the paw pad.

A younger cat may object to being groomed, but as long as the groomer is careful, discomfort can be avoided.

With an older, matted cat, discomfort may be unavoidable due to arthritis.

“In one study published in 2002, 90% of cats over 12 years of age had evidence of degenerative joint disease. This included cats with so-called ‘spondylosis’ of the spine (a form of degenerative joint disease). However, even when these cases were excluded, around ⅔ of the cats still had radiographic signs of arthritis affecting the limb joints. More recent studies have shown radiographic evidence of arthritis in the limb joints affecting between 60% and more than 90% of cats. All these studies show that arthritis is actually very common in cats, that it is much more common (and more severe) in older cats, and that the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees (stifles) and ankles (tarsi) are the most commonly affected joints.”

(Published in International Cat Care, “Arthritis and degenerative joint disease in cats.”)

I prefer to groom senior cats on a two to four week schedule, so that mats don’t get the chance to form.  When shaving matted underarms and groins, it is difficult to avoid holding the elderly cat in a position that will put stress on their joints, since the skin must be stretched taut to avoid nicking their fragile skin.

The best option is frequent brushing and combing sessions with a cat groomer, so that the stresses of shaving can be avoided. Letting the cat live with mats is not an option.  Mats pull at the skin, prevent air circulation, and create fertile ground for infection.

It is far easier to gently brush fur and comb fur than it is to complete a full body shave.  Think of your grandmother (the nice one, not the mean one) . . . now call the cat groomer.

Cinnamon, I miss you!