Nature is all around us and provides for us, often without us realizing it -there are numerous plants that can be used to benefit our cats in their old age cats are wonderful companions, not only are they both beautiful and enigmatic but an absolute joy to watch, with their innate sense of balance and grace. Unfortunately, however carefully we look after them we cannot protect them from the advances of age and the impact it will ultimately have on their health.
Cats are like us and as they age, their organs, musculoskeletal system, immune response, and respiratory system will not be as effective as they were when they were younger.
Much as you may want to, you cannot turn back the hands of time but you can use natural products to help support and maintain healthy, supple joints, muscles, internal organs, digestion, immunity and overall health to ensure you provide the very best quality of life for your companion.
Some cats seem to stay ‘kitten like’ all their lives but even so, the passage of time will impact them all as they age. Herbal supplements can be used very effectively to support a good diet and help maintain optimum mobility, a healthy heart, good effective circulation, immunity, and digestion as well as healthy liver and kidney function in the older cat.
The commonest condition which afflicts older cats is a chronic renal disease, although during their lifetime both male and female cats may need help to maintain a healthy urinary system. Inappropriate urination and incontinence can be signs that your cat’s urinary system is not functioning properly and it’s important you seek advice from your vet to get this – and any other condition – correctly diagnosed.
Renal issues can be both painful and emotionally distressing conditions to an animal that is so particular about its hygiene. Herbs which are appropriate for use in these instances are Gold rod, which has anti-inflammatory properties, is particularly good for mucous membranes, and can help support the microcirculation of the kidneys; Couch grass and Yarrow herbs, with their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, together with Cleavers which provides lymphatic support and is rich in minerals such as potassium.
A healthy diet is an important factor in minimizing the effects of aging. Good quality food, reduction of stress and a more natural environment are intrinsically linked to good health in our companions. Some of our pets may spend the majority of their lives outside, whilst other ‘house cats’ may rarely, if ever, venture outside the confines of our homes. By keeping their diet as natural as possible and introducing ‘play behavior’ that mimics the hunting instincts your cat would employ if it was outside in the wide world, you can help keep your cat both physically and mentally fit and healthy.
To get the very best out of a fresh healthy diet or in fact any diet, it is vital your cat’s digestive system is working effectively and efficiently, literally from top to bottom! However, as cats age, digestive issues are common, even for the best look after pets.
Herbs which are very effective for supporting a balanced digestive system are Slippery Elm bark which contains high levels of mucilage, for inflammation or ulceration anywhere in the digestive tract; Licorice root with its mild laxative action, together with its mucilaginous and anti-inflammatory properties to help support the digestive tract; Yellow Dock root is gently laxative and Chamomile flowers have spasmolytic properties and help support bowel function. These herbs can be used for chronic conditions or just from time to time when your cat eats something which disagrees with it.
Our cats are part of our family and as such we want to be confident our home offers them a safe and relaxed environment in which to hunt, eat, groom and sleep as this is the natural cycle of life for every cat. Unfortunately, some of our pets have not had a good start in life and come to us after being abandoned or badly treated. Needless to say, these cats will have their own emotional problems and who can blame them if they appear fearful, anxious, aggressive or reluctant to trust us again?
Cats are natural hunters, you only have to see how young kittens chase after a ball of paper, ambush us from behind a cardboard box or pounce on a toy mouse to realize that it is hardwired in their DNA to chase insects, birds, leaves, feathers or a stuffed toy.
This fact is recognized by the pet industry and there are now literally thousands of commercially available toys that mimic the scampering and flitting movements of mice, birds or insects. To maintain both physical and mental health, it is vital for cats to follow their instincts and spend time each day ‘hunting’ even if this is playing with a toy mouse or chasing a ‘wand’ toy.
Regular play will ensure a cat’s mind is kept stimulated preventing boredom, relieving stress and keeping him/her fit and healthy.
Older cats can show signs of anxiety and stress or stereotypical behavior which may be due to diminished hearing, sight or simply age-related behavioral issues. On these occasions there are herbs which can be used, in conjunction if necessary with diffusers, to provide the right support.
Herbs such as Valerian root which is a natural ‘sedative’ and will help reduce anxiety; Lemon balm herb and Vervain both have anti-spasmodic properties, and Chamomile flowers will help with restlessness and irritability.
Marshmallow root which is calming to the digestive tract, which is often affected by anxiety, can be used in conjunction with these herbs.
As with all animals, mobility will also be influenced enormously by the aging process and herbs can be very helpful and can almost always be used in conjunction with veterinary products to help support optimum mobility in the older cat.
Herbs such as Wild Yam which has anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic properties can be used alongside Hawthorn which can help regulate blood pressure and heartbeat and is very specific for the older heart, being commonly known as ‘nurse of the old heart’. It is also a peripheral Vasodilator, especially of coronary arteries, and is commonly used for heart insufficiency especially due to advancing age. Useful additions to a mix for mobility are Cleavers and Dandelion root for their supporting role of the lymphatic system and their use in helping the processing and elimination of waste from the body.
If you have any worries regarding the health of your older cat it is important to first seek veterinary advice to ensure that any health issues are correctly diagnosed. In combination with good veterinary care and a good diet, herbal feed supplements are a useful tool in the ‘battle’ against aging. It’s important also to understand that not all feed supplements are born equal so make sure that the supplements you buy for your cat are from a reputable manufacturer. This ensures that your supplements will have been formulated from a stand-point of knowledge and that the raw ingredients are of the very best quality. Ensure that your supplement manufacturer can provide you, via a helpline, with advice on how these supplements should be used and that their packaging is totally transparent in terms of the ingredients in the supplement.